Brain Poison (How To Respond?)

obama with kids.JPGAccusing Obama of trying to indoctrinate school children? That is rich. The Obama haters are on a war footing, and their target is the American mind. They want to create a climate of fear and paranoia in order to crowd out any possibility of rational dialogue. 

It is time to wake up to the potential consequences of their indoctrination.

Glenn Beck has said that Obama has "a deep seated hatred for white people," and that the U.S. "is going to come out a fascist state."

Rush Limbaugh has said, "It's the most dangerous time in my life for freedom and liberty in this country...This is statism, totalitarianism versus freedom."

What are the consequences for over-the-top statements like these? Is it just ratings and elections and policies and taxes? Or does it go further? 

Two weeks ago, a candidate for Idaho Governor, Rex Rammell, was speaking at a town hall, criticizing the sitting governor for not being more aggressive with wolf hunting tags. As reported on Talking Points Memo, someone in the audience yelled out a comment about "Obama tags" -- licenses to hunt Obama. Rammell responded: "Obama tags? We'd buy some of those."

So, to recap: America is under grave threat from its leadership. Our very liberty is at stake. Our black president hates white people. His government is full of Communists (and Fascists). He's not even really American. He wants to kill old people in order to save money and finance government waste. He needs to be stopped at any cost. Any ideas?

These are not political statements. These are statements of fear and hatred. 

Among others, Joe Klein is terrified:

The intensity of this [is] getting pretty scary...and dangerous? We are heading toward a cliff and the usual brakes of civil discourse are not working. Indeed, the Republicans have the pedal to the metal...I'm usually not one to panic or be overly worried about the state of our country...but I have a sinking feeling about where we're headed now. I hope I'm wrong.

We need to find a way out of this. We need to address the hate head-on. Tom Friedman's reasonable suggestion is "For people to stand up and say, 'That's flat-out stupid.'" But I think we should aim instead at the tone. I know this will sound naive, but how about something as simple as this: whenever we hear statements like the above, we refuse to take the bait. We simply respond: "Turn down the temperature. Talk about ideas, not about fears."

* Rammel's defense of the joke may be worse than the joke itself. On Twitter, he wrote: "Obama hunting tags was just a joke! Everyone knows Idaho has no jurisdiction to issue tags in Washington D.C." Rammel seems to not understand the seriousness of publicly indicating his sympathy with the idea of shooting the President of the United States.

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David Shenk is a writer on genetics, talent and intelligence. He is the author of Data Smog, The Forgetting, and most recently, The Genius In All of Us. More

David Shenk is the author of six books, including Data Smog ("indispensable"—The New York Times), The Immortal Game ("superb"—The Wall Street Journal), and the bestselling The Forgetting ("a remarkable addition to the literature of the science of the mind."—The Los Angeles Times ). He has contributed to National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, Gourmet, Harper's, The New Yorker, The American Scholar, and National Public Radio. Shenk's work inspired the Emmy-award winning PBS documentary The Forgetting and was featured in the Oscar-nominated feature Away From Her. His latest book, The Genius In All Of Us, was published in March 2010. Shenk has advised the President's Council on Bioethics and is a popular speaker. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

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