Everybody Needs an Enemy

Uncle Sam and bear

Having an enemy helps a government stay in business. A good enemy can provide a focal point, a distraction, a source of fear (always useful for keeping the population in line) or, if we are feeling cynical today, a way to transfer tax revenue into the hands of the military-industrial complex. The first thing necessary is to get the public to believe in the enemy. If there is no real enemy at hand, simply make one up.

This is easier and more common than one might think. In Giordano’s opera *Andrea Chénier* (1896), we have:

Nemico della Patria?!
È vecchia fiaba che beatamente
ancor la beve il popolo.

In our own era, we have two feature films, *Wag the Dog* and *Canadian Bacon* that deal with exactly this sort of political inventiveness.

Very often, a suitable “enemy” can be found already lying around disused in the political closet. Take Russia, for example. From the murder of the Czar’s family onwards, through the Stalinist era, through the Cold War, Russia has been a practically unique candidate. Who better to blame for trying to “influence” the 2016 USA elections? Never mind that, apart from possibly hacking into Democratic National Committee computers, no one has yet been able to say precisely what use may have been made of any information harvested in such hacking or what else the Russians may have done to interfere with or influence our electoral process or anything else. They’re *Russians*, for Pete’s sake (whoever Pete was anyway – or was he Pyotr?), they surely must have done something!!!

Curious, that, because, if the Russians were ill disposed toward us, it would seem more to their own advantage to secure the election of Mrs. Clinton, who never could have handled President Putin. The Only President We’ve Got could, on the other hand, end up becoming good friends with his Russian counterpart (limited perhaps only by Putin’s apparent lack of interest in golf and Trump’s apparent lack of interest in fishing or wrestling bears naked in the woods) and resolving any real differences privately and rationally, as friends may do.

Still more curious that the presence of real enemies (ISIS and, if his latest threat is to be believed, the Exquisite Leader of North Korea) has done nothing to dilute the fervor of those wishing to prove a Trump-Russia connection that is somehow bad for all the rest of us in the US of A. You see, our Congress and the general public also need an enemy and, once sufficient momentum is built up in the direction of a particular target, it’s not easily given up.

Full disclosure-wise, although I do not support or condone all of Trump’s actions, Tweets and other foamings at the mouth, I see in him at least some redeeming social value and am a very long way away from calling for his impeachment. Also, I had a Russian uncle, whose father, as Surgeon General of the Czar’s army, thought it prudent to leave his homeland 1917-ish. Apart from having an accent you could cut with a knife and working for an American insurance company (oh, how I hate insurance companies!), said uncle was never, to the best of my knowledge, in any way opposed to our democratic process or in any way un-American. Also also, I quite like a great deal of Russian music and literature.

BUT if anyone can tell me what the Russians have done against us to occasion the current witch hunt (provable facts only, please), I’d be delighted to learn whether they are indeed Public Enemy # 1 or may safely be bypassed for a closer look at those others mentioned above.

15 thoughts on “Everybody Needs an Enemy”

  1. Few parties have imploded quite so profoundly as the Democrats have in the past 8 years. In January 2009 they seemed unstoppable. Today, they are in the weakest position in almost a century. In fact, their collapse has been so precipitous that rebuilding will be a challenge. Most parties in their position would have had a change of leadership and taken time to thoroughly clean house. The Democrats are pressing on with the same agenda that was so thoroughly rejected by voters and are led by the same leadership that precipitated their collapse. Russia is merely a distraction from their travails. Were Trump not quite so adept at sticking his feet in his mouth in such a spectacular fashion, they’d be on the way from the ICU to the political morgue at this point. In those rural and outer suburban regions where Democrats at least have to secure an appreciable minority to hold Senate and House seats, their message is just as repulsive even if Trump proves to be a disappointment. Better an awkward disappointment than a motley collection of repulsive failures.

    In Trump’s defence… There is one issue above all others that is vital for virtually everyone. That issue is jobs. Trump, whatever his failures, has been focused — by all appearances sincerely — in trying to secure full employment for as many people as possible. People in suburban Salt Lake City, North Dakota, south-eastern Oklahoma or suburban Atlanta couldn’t give a toss about gender queer issues, they can’t be arsed to think once about SF-LA-NYC-style “social justice”. They’re worried about bills and making sure that their children can grow up in a country that’s recognisable. Trump at least tries to deliver on his promises to secure that.

  2. Cog, I am curious. How do you come to have a Russian uncle but not a Russian parent? Or am I just misunderstanding?

  3. Exact so. Uncle Vladimir (he went by “Bill”) was married to my mother’s sister. No need for the Eff Bee Eye to investigate me for having a Russian connection because he was thoroughly Americanized – except for his thick accent. He fought his way through the Pacific (on our side!) in WW II and attained high enough rank to end up standing on the deck of the battleship *Missouri*, witnessing the signing of Japan’s formal surrender.

    Funny things, accents. My uncle never lost his but his sister, only a year different in age, ended up sounding exactly like the other residents of Saranac Lake, NY, where she lived. Careful listeners can still detect traces of a Noo Yawk accent in me, despite the number of years it’s been since I left there. On the other side of the coin, I’m told that, the longer I’m married to a British person, the more British I sound.

  4. Cog, I knew a Brit who wed an Austrian and ended up with an Austrian accent thicker than hers! It’s all about empathy, eh?

  5. Janus: “Empathy?” Crikeys, don’t let the missus hear that!

    Unknown others: I’ve received a surprising number of “likes” via e-mail, even from people whose names I don’t recognize as those of regular Charioteers. Thanks to all.

    Anyone who knows and cares: I’m stumped. After having taken far too much of my dwindling time figuring out how to apply formatting (italics, block indentation, etc.) to an original post, I felt brave enough to attempt using a picture at the top of what I wrote. I succeeded to the extent that it shows up just fine, exactly what I intended, in WordPress but the picture is omitted when I look at things through the Chariot’s eyes. What am I doing wrong?

  6. Very Orwellian concept, Cog, an external enemy is necessary to keep our dear leaders in office, and keep the sheep afraid and in line. It matters not who it is, and frankly you can just keep switching them around for the sake of credibility.

    If things are especially dire, domestically, then perhaps more than one enemy is required.

  7. G’day Cog – Yup, you’d put the piccie in the wrong place!! 🙂 I’ve corrected it for you.

  8. Prasutagus: Many thanks. I trust you saw instantly why I thought that picture particularly apt. Now, for Pyotr’s sake, pleasepleaseplease tell me what is the *right* place and how to get to it. I’ve read your general instructions on dealing with images but can see no “Media Library” in the left margin of either the Chariot or the WordPress pages. I’m more computer literate than the average Gummi bear but this is the worst frustration I’ve encountered since mouse clicks started doing crazy things on me. (Eventually resolved easily enough by replacing the old mouse – the first one I’ve ever had go bad on me in my too many years.)
    One suggestion, if I may: a “Contact Us” button at the top of the main Chariot page might facilitate resolving such issues more directly, rather than inserting them into a general-interest thread or (shock, horror!) starting a new thread, “My Tech Problem,” or somesuch. It’s at least a Good Thing that you take the trouble to read through all these words, spot and act upon petty issues such as mine. Thanks again!

    Apologies to all for interrupting the flow of this current thread with my tech issue.

    Araminta: It’s an increasingly Orwellian world in which we live, isn’t it?

  9. Sorry an’ all that, Cog, but there is little that can be done because this type of WordPress site does not allow us to access or insert code, and because the dear lads in the WordPress techo basement keep “improving” the facilities.

    Before I retired I was, amongst other things, a vastly experienced propeller-head who could knock together an entire Air Defence (Defense) suite before breakfast, but even I get befuddled by some of the changes they make. Or perhaps my aged brain has lost processing power . . . ?

    Just keep trying, and I’ll help out where I can. All the help pages are way out of date, too. Abject apologies.

    Big, big Smiley.

  10. The ‘ruling elite’ have created external foes (or internal enemies) to create ‘unity’ among the political classes on which they base their power since societies began.

    And you are right, if the propoganda was excellent (as it was with the anti-Russian invective) then it will take time to change the focus of the truly brain-washed to move to another direction. Hopefully, those who finally see the light will be a little more careful in rushing to condemn the latest ‘enemy’.

    Although, to be honest I can’t quite see N Korea in terms of a ‘kind, cuddly, bear’ who is being maligned by Pres Trump…

    On my recent trip to the UK, I found myself defending your President against many, many people. If nothing else, he has shown that the established political parties can no longer expect the sort of ‘traditional’ support that they have callously relied upon to retain power.

    As Christopher notes, the Democrats seem to be pursuing the same policies that lost them the election. How dumb can they be?

    We live in exceedingly interesting times – heaven help us!

  11. Boadicea: The root of this rot can be found in the 1970s. Since 1972 the Democrats have embraced urban radicals to the exclusion of their former rural and Southern base of support. Since the 1990s, the Democrats have been utterly reliant on securing their position by winning overwhelmingly in a few urban centres. Take a look, for example, at Nevada, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State. Looking at maps of which party won the most counties, the Republicans “should” have carried those states, too. However, Democrats do so well in Las Vegas, Denver, Portland-Eugene-Salem and Seattle-Tacoma respectively that they win at very least the plurality of the vote, thus securing that state’s electoral college votes. The same applies to gubernatorial and senatorial elections. They absolutely have to control urban centres and have a high turnout. The problem is that politics have become so polarised that to secure their base, they have to tack very far to the left –relative to the USA’s political centre. The problem for them is that they, in shoring up their base, have no choice but to alienate the suburbs, outer suburbs and rural regions.

    This shows both the strength — and weakness — of the American political system. A personally popular president who espouses many politically controversial positions such as Obama can be elected and re-elected with one or two houses of the American legislature controlled by the opposition. He is thus effectively neutralised. If only a few urban centres support a candidate, however overwhelmingly, the rest of the country can still prevent an election. This happened to Hillary Clinton. Should a presidential ego get too big, wings can be clipped within two years as Obama found out. The House controls the purse-strings and it is up for re-election in its entirety every two years.

  12. Although, to be true(p) I can’t quite assure N Korea in terms of a ‘variety, cuddly, bear’ who is being maligned by Pres Trump…
    On my late(a) slip to the UK, I found myself defending your President against many, many people. .

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