Be Afraid, be Very Afraid—of Authoritarians who Stir-up Fear and Hatred


Mayor Sam Abed’s opinion piece in the Times Advocate  has so many fallacies—it’s hard to know what to object to the most.  I will start with his comparison of the current immigration situation in this country with the situation in Lebanon forty years ago. Lebanon, under French colonialism from 1920 to 1943, had a government that favored the Christian minority, and the parliamentary structure in place was largely run by the elitist Maronite Christians. After the establishment of Israel in 1948 there was a massive migration of Palestinians into Lebanon, followed by another massive migration in 1967, tilting the demographic balance into one that was heavily Muslim.  During the Cold War, the Maronites were on the side of the West, and the leftist and pan-Arab groups sided with Arab countries aligned with the USSR.  The controversy ignited into a civil war in 1975. To compare our situation in Escondido with war-torn Lebanon is an outrageously false comparison—“…the cause of this anarchy and loss of overall sense of public safety is due solely to the passage of SB54…” Abed claims. Really? I certainly do not sense anarchy or feel unsafe in Escondido.

Like Attorney General Jeff Sessions before him, Abed claims that “SB 54 forbids the sharing of information or offering any level of cooperation between state and local law enforcement officials and federal immigration agents.” As pointed out by Politifact, this is another lie. An undocumented immigrant convicted a serious misdemeanor or felony—some 800 listed in SB 54, can be reported to ICE.  

Abed accuses the California Legislature of being “more concerned with making a political statement against President Trump than they are with the safety of those living in California and the rest of the U.S. They have been blinded by emotion and cannot force themselves to see the chaos that they have created on the streets of California’s cities.” Chaos on our streets? Where? When?

Abed is using a typical tool of those who would like to see an authoritarian state that seems to be his preference and that of other Republicans in their support for a president who insists he is able to pardon himself–an attribute of a dictator. That tool is fear.

In a study completed before the 2016 election, political scientist Matthew MacWilliams conducted a poll of 1,800 registered voters. He found that the way people answered four questions about childrearing was the best indication of whether or not someone would favor President Trump. “Specifically, he asked whether it is more important to raise a child to be (1) respectful or independent; (2) obedient or self-reliant; (3) well-behaved or considerate; and (4) well-mannered or curious.” These are questions that previous research has shown to predict how authoritarian a person’s outlook is. People who choose the first choice in each question, respectful, obedient, well-behaved and well-mannered tend to be highly authoritarian. They tend to be didactic—things are either black or white. They have no patience with ambiguity, subtlety, or anyone who disagrees with their view of what is right or wrong. They tended to favor Trump.

Other research has shown that fear can bring out latent authoritarian tendencies in people.   So, it is no surprise that President Trump, and Abed sound the alarm of fear. Fear from terrorist Muslim immigrants, criminal Latino immigrants—false dangers, but believable to authoritarian types who dislike change. Poor, poorly-educated whites who see the dominant place of pale-faces in society slipping away, are particularly susceptible to the drum-beat of fear sounded by Abed and Trump.

Evangelicals tend to have an authoritarian outlook, which may help explain what appears to be their illogical support for a twice divorced, admitted fornicator and constant liar. A man whose behavior makes Bill Clinton look like a choir boy. But when you consider the history of evangelism in this country, it is not as contradictory as it first appears. Since the eighteenth century, evangelicalism often embraces anti-intellectualism, considering it only necessary to read the Bible or, as the nineteenth century preacher Dwight L. Moody said “I do not read any book, unless it will help me to understand the book.”

For those of us who wish children to be independent, self-reliant, considerate, and curious, this is a fearful time—not from any outside threat, or lack of cooperation with ICE, but from our own citizens, who seem so ignorant of how fascism arose in the past. Those who are familiar with the rise of fascism in 1930’s Europe, can see many parallels in this country today. That is the true threat to our country, not SB 54.




5 thoughts on “Be Afraid, be Very Afraid—of Authoritarians who Stir-up Fear and Hatred

  1. Lael Montgomery

    Margaret, you are so right! I encourage anyone who’s interested in learning more about how decent men became Nazi’s to read the book, “They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933-1945” by Milton Mayer.


  2. karen nelson

    Your column is right on the mark. I absolutely hate what Abed and company have done to Escondido. My family arrived in 1920 and everyone tried to get along and be helpful. We were taught that by our parents. Everyone needs to get out and vote for a decent mayor.


  3. Pingback: Bogus Threats brought to you by Threatened Pols | A Blue View for Escondido

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