Scapegoating, Violence, and Bernie’s Campaign

goatOur primary problem is “the system” — that is, our institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals, all of which reinforce one another. That system, rooted in inequality, is fueled by efforts to climb the social ladder and legitimized by the notion that everyone deserves what they get. No one controls the system. Blaming “enemies,” scapegoating, nurtures counter-productive rage.

Tapping anger, as Bernie has done, can mobilize people. But it can quickly unleash mob violence, both physical and verbal.

One example is the chaos at the recent Democratic Party convention in Nevada. Bernie’s campaign has legitimate complaints about how the Party has operated. It rightly plans to push for structural reforms to make the Party more democratic.

Throwing chairs* and Issuing personal threats, however, hurt the cause. Other instances of verbal violence directed at Hillary have also been problematic.

Unfortunately, Bernie has not acknowledged that his own supporters engaged in violence and criticized them for it, though he did state, “I condemn any and all forms of violence.” And in general he has not faulted his supporters for resorting to verbal violence. During one live interview last week, in response to footage of incendiary personal attacks on Hillary by his supporters, he merely objected to physical violence and defended their right to “free speech.”

Early in the campaign, Bernie did not launch personal attacks directed at Hillary. If he had maintained that policy, the tone of the campaign might be much different. Ad hominem arguments are unnecessary.

If Bernie begins to demonstrate and encourage nonviolent communication, his effort to reform the Democratic Party can be a productive “struggle” focused on winnable demands, rather than a divisive “fight” that contributes to Donald Trump’s election.

  • Subsequent reports indicate that chairs probably were not “thrown.” They may have been “flipped” or “tripped over. ” One man who held one in the air was restrained. Regardless, scapegoating ideology and abusive rhetoric are dangerous.
  • Fortunately on May 22 on ABC Bernie criticized his supporters at the Nevada convention for “booing,” being “rude,” and being “boorish.” He said, “That’s not good.”

 

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