Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Two cities, one (perverse) spirit: Cui bono?

During the earliest phases of desegregation efforts in 1957, Elizabeth Eckford walked to her first day of classes at Little Rock (Arkansas) Central High School. For this, she was threatened, maligned and taunted — not only on this most public of days, but, more privately and intimately, every day in class and all over campus and around the city, wherever she went thereafter — so mercilessly that she later attempted suicide, not once but several times.

Elizabeth Eckford heckled by bigots, Little Rock, 1957

Hate past: Elizabeth Eckford heckled by bigots, Little Rock, 1957.
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How much have things changed in 54 years?

Muslims heckled by bigots, Yorba Linda, 2011

Hate present: Muslims heckled by bigots, Yorba Linda, 2011.
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If this scene from early March, 2011, in Yorba Linda, California, is any guide, it would seem that the actors have changed, but they’re still moved by the same spirit: fear, hate and contempt toward all that differs from themselves. To be sure, in both cases, this unconscionable motive was hidden behind fictitious rationales, but for anyone not deranged by sanguinary bigotry, there is no mistaking the fundamental identity of the two demonstrations.

Max Blumenthal has made a valuable observation in this article, by linking the two seemingly disparate events; for this I commend him. But he hasn’t yet taken the next step: asking who underwrites such bigotry, and who gains from it. In short: cui bono?: to whose good?

Wickliffe Draper

Behind the hate: Wickliffe Draper, leader of the anti-integration Wall Street Gang.
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One example: In 1963, New York tycoon Wickliffe Draper, a segregationist, eugenicist and Nazi sympathizer, led the Wall Street Gang, donating over $250,000 to efforts to preserve segregation in the South through the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. Draper and friends, of course, were not alone: Many rich and powerful men in the 1950s and ’60s made similar, if usually less visible, contributions to the cause of whipping up white resistance to the civil rights movement; unfortunately, I can’t possibly address them all here.

Charles and David Koch

Things go bitter with (Charles and David) Koch.
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Today, as half a century ago, there is no shortage of tycoons willing to disburse vast amounts of money (the brothers Charles and David Koch, above, have spent over $100 million) to support “conservative” causes and organizations, including the Tea Party and numerous “astroturf” front organizations. Similarly, Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch (below) has used the resources of his News Corporation to give free promotion to right-wing, anti-Muslim politicians as well as hate site operator Pamela Geller, who was among the principal organizers of the Yorba Linda demonstration. As we have seen, such organizations serve, among other functions, to divide middle- and working-class Americans and pit them against one another.

Rupert Murdoch

Keeping hate on the air: Rupert Murdoch, media kingpin.
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Why such oligarchs as Draper, Murdoch and the Kochs have historically promoted organized bigotry is not hard to understand: It’s the age-old tactic, divide et impera: Divide and rule. The ruling elite has long feared one thing: that the lower classes will join forces, setting aside the artificial differences of race and creed, and make an end of their pathocracy. To prevent such an end is all their care.

But the Kochs have one thing to fear that Draper and his congeners never did: Thanks to the internet, WikiLeaks and the revival of independent, investigative journalism, they can no longer hide their hands. What they do is known, and gradually Americans are learning something essential: It is not black people, Muslims or any other scapegoat that we need fear. Our real enemy is what it always has been: the aristocracy that would keep us divided and distracted while it steals our treasure and eviscerates our republic.

Originally published as a review of a Naomi Klein article on bigotry past and present.

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