Friday, December 18, 2015

Muslim Focus Groups Speak Out Against Demonization

The recent PBS special 'The Brain', featuring neuroscientist David Eagleman, was excellent because it not only touched on brain dynamics but on how our brains can become debased and their potential thwarted by hate speech and propaganda. Eagleman - showing actual data (e.g. from positive emission tomography) - revealed how genocides through history can be traced to a severe "reduction" in social connections - emerging from how we see others. In the case of genocides the thread that uniformly runs through them is the demonization of an entire human group, whether based on race, religion or some other cultural difference.

It was a sobering look, also, at how propaganda and hate speech can actually deform brains and cause those similarly reduced to aggregate individuals, thereby to persecute the "target group of the moment". This information is especially apropos now as we behold Muslims being singled out for demonization and lumped together despite the fact they come from 77 different countries and speak over 100 different languages.

How is it possible to do such indiscriminate lumping? Well it's possible because our brains, if we don't care for their health and what goes in, are susceptible to "social reduction". They are also subject to having the fear centers based in the amygdala triggered and then ramped up by irresponsible rhetoric.

Hence, it was interesting to hear one Muslim mother advise others in a focus group on CBS (convened by Frank Luntz) that they should not watch the Republican Debate because it would be too full of hate speech. As she put it to Luntz:

"I knew that subjecting our children to the hateful stereotyping and the lumping of Muslims with terrorism is actually something that psychologically impacts them. I do not want my children to be subjected to the vilification of their faith. I will not allow Donald Trump to tell my kids how they should feel about being Muslim".

Another young Muslim woman told Luntz:

"This is my faith and it is part of who I am. And it is painful to see how it has been so demonized."

Another Muslim lawyer observed:

"We can't hide behind the fact that non-Muslim Americans right now do feel afraid. Not because of the fact of safety being a concern but because somebody looks different"

Another pointed out:

""Why are we being picked on? We're not out there chanting 'death to America!'.  We don't have any bombs in our hands! We're just being ourselves and this is a narrative that's missing right now".

Indeed, but the last guy misses the point of the mass commission by fearful Americans of the fallacy of composition.  This is extending attributes to an entire group only actually demonstrated by a subset. Thus, because a small set of twisted radicals acts out then all Muslims are seen as having the same potential. It would be as if we atheists expressed monumental fear of right wing Christians because one of them acted out and shot up a Planned Parenthood Clinic.

Incredibly, some inept thinkers actually believe the resistance to committing the fallacy of composition vis-à-vis Muslims actually represents some kind of "reverse psychology" to try and protect Muslims. It is nothing of the sort, but rather trying to point out a major logical error to avoid trashing reason and critical thinking amidst hysterical yelping.

To make the further point of hysteria, another member of a focus group held by Scott Pelley referred to "idiotic questions" being "manufactured out of thin air" put up on rightist websites which have no basis in fact or reality. Many of the questions, according to the respondent, "were so vicious and absurd they didn't merit being dignified by any kind of answers."

Another college student made a totally apt point to Pelley that:

"The Qu'ran was written in Arabic which is a deeply metaphorical language where one word has hundreds of meanings. So, if you want to define some passage in a violent sense you're going to be able to so define it because of the wide breadth of interpretations. In the same way one can define it in a peaceful sense which over a billion people now do".

Hmmm....sounds remarkably similar to the dangers my old Loyola University Exegesis prof used to belabor as regards biblical passages translated from Greek and Aramaic. There is too vast a disconnection with modern English to be able to take those passages literally.

Another Muslim college student told Pelley:

"I don't understand logically how it makes sense to say that ISIS represents all Muslims when they're killing the very people that they claim they represent."

The point she misses is that when brains are attacked and then colonized by propaganda (the most serious form of consciousness reduction according to David Eagleman) then logic and rational thought go out the widow. All one is left with is emotional hysteria and unreason, as well as hate.

This gets back to the point made by an expert from the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London , that most U.S. security specialists and the Pentagon take very seriously:

"ISIS thrives on polarization. They want people to say they hate Muslims. This is the foundation of their success"

This is not coming from any "libo" or "libtard" but from a serious geopolitical organization cited in The Wall Street Journal  ('Islamic State Tries To Forge Divide in the West', Dec. 11, p. A9):

And why it should be so hard to grasp that every bit of political bombast directed at Muslims, or hurling of the epithet "raghead" on a blog or FB post, or  mention of selective screening is another promotion for ISIS' agenda is mystifying. But perhaps explained by the brains of the sources of hostility being taken over by propaganda - as Eagleman noted.

This is why it is extremely dangerous to express vitriol or mass rejection of Muslims here in the U.S. because it plays directly into the ISIS narrative that all Muslims are unwelcome here - so why not join them.

We can't afford this kind of propaganda acceptance which truly undermines our free speech as well as national security as it sows fear.

See also:


Whether it's fear of same-sex couples getting married, fear of the government taking away the people's guns or fear of Black men, they've always understood that fear works to motivate their white base.

Fear works because it appeals to our basic animal instinct to stay safe, and it makes the simplest, inane and most downright evil solutions sound smart.....Terrorism is a problem; no one denies that. But Republicans and their enablers in the media are blowing it way out of proportion. There's no reason Americans should be as scared about it as they are

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