When there are problems in a society or tribe, it is politically expedient to focus attention on a threatening external enemy. As Shakespeare’s Henry IV advised his son:
- Be it thy course to busy giddy minds
- With foreign quarrels
In a recent Foreign Policy article, Harvard Professor Stephen Walt pointed out,
- When the wolf is at the door, domestic quarrels are put aside in order to deal with the more immediate danger.
Here's an interesting illustration from almost a century ago of the resurging tendency to blame problems on foreigners:
- “Physically, the bodies of recent immigrants are sounder than those of the average American stock,” Harry H. Laughlin, appointed “expert eugenics agent” to the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, noted in 1922 testimony. “But with this sound body we have recently admitted inferior mental and social qualities of a constitutional nature which neither education nor better environment can be expected to raise above, or even to approximate, the average of the American descended from older immigrants.”
- - Eduardo Porter, Can Immigration Hurt the Economy? An Old Prejudice Returns, NYT, FEB. 14, 2017 (A version of this article appeared in print on Feb. 15th (p. B1) with the headline Immigrants Sap Productivity: An Ugly Trope Returns.
- By the standards of Western advertising, Coca-Cola’s billboard campaign in Hungary was pretty tame.
- Three couples are shown enjoying a soda, smiling and seemingly in love. One picture shows a man, a woman and a Coke; another two women and a Coke; and a third shows two men and a Coke.
- “Love is Love,” is the campaign slogan. But in the current climate in Eastern and Central Europe, where “L.G.B.T. ideology” has taken the place of migrants as public enemy number one for many nationalist leaders, love is not love.
- It is a threat.
- Soon after the Coke ads appeared, a pro-government internet news site ran a banner headline: “The Homosexual Lobby Has Now Besieged Budapest — They Won’t Give You A Chance to Avoid It.” ...
- The vitriol in Hungary, Poland and other countries bears striking similarities to the region’s vehement reaction against the wave of migration into Europe that peaked in 2015, as people fled war and deprivation in the Middle East and Africa. ...
- Then the flow of migrants slowed dramatically, and few settled in Eastern Europe. The issue lost much of its potency, but the campaign against gay rights offered a new group of people to paint as a threat. ...
- Ikea, which first arrived in Poland in 1991 as the country made the transition from Communist rule, has also been drawn into the fight after it fired an employee for posting Bible verses condemning gay people on the company’s internal website.
- “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination,” the employee wrote, quoting Leviticus. “They shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
- Members of the governing party publicly discussed the prospect of a boycott of the world’s largest furniture retailer and called for an investigation.
- - Marc Santora, Coke Ad Riles Hungary Conservatives, Part of Larger Gay Rights Battle, NYT, Aug. 9, 2019
- If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you.
- - Lyndon Johnson, quoted in Bill Moyers, WHAT A REAL PRESIDENT WAS LIKE, Washington Post, November 13, 1988