The recent political travesty committed by the Trump administration that is on everyone’s mind, especially mine, is the Executive Order limiting immigration and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries. As a national from one of the countries on this list, I’m personally affected by the ban. As an American citizen and human being, I’m rendered absolutely livid by its intent and implications.
Understanding how the Executive Order came to fruition requires that we take a journey down memory lane and take a long hard look at the impact of sensationalism and fear-mongering in American culture. The Executive Order traces its roots to the year 1947, when the Cold War began. The United States entered a period of history where it become necessary to paint the enemy, Communists, as the epitome of evil in whichever way possible. It was in this era that fear-mongering and sensationalism become solidified in American culture. It wound its way through music, imagery, cinema, television, books — until fear become the dominant narrative of the era. The fear and propaganda were needed to mobilize the public against the “invisible” force of Communism.
As the Cold War ended and America entered the information age, the propaganda naturally transitioned to the digital universe. It’s rampant now with the surge of disinformation bots, fake news, and extremist propaganda. This digital fear-mongering specifically targeted Islam as the “invisible” force the American public must fight against. Between 9/11 and today, the dominant narrative across American politics, however implicit, was the destruction of Muslim people.
Which brings us to the Executive Order. Let’s make one thing clear. This Executive Order is not about the security of the nation. The Executive Order is about setting a precedent for the kinds of discrimination that will occur in the Trump administration. The Executive Order is a propaganda tool, not a national security tool. The seven countries that are listed on the ban list — Iran, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, and Syria — are carefully chosen to maximize their rhetorical effect. Each of these countries has a history of aggressive media misrepresentation in the United States. For the most part, they are representations of the threat, not the actual threat itself.
And to a certain extent, America has been fighting the representation of the threat of terrorism not the threat of terrorism itself over the past two decades. We can see evidence for this in the complete disregard for justice or punishment towards predominantly white and Christian domestic terrorists. The American public has been trained to mobilize against a particular representation of terrorism that is generally uncommon, and left completely clueless with regard to domestic terrorism.
This kind of scapegoat propaganda is rampant in American culture and oftentimes it has racial undertones. Whether it’s foreign-born, Muslim terrorists scapegoated instead of American-born, white, Christian terrorists or Black youth scapegoated for low-level drug offenses instead off middle-upper class white youth, the propaganda is designed as a racial red herring from the real issue at hand.
So in reality, what we need to address is not the issue of the immigration ban, or the next racially-motivated piece of policy (and calling it policy is an overstatement), but the underlying racial propaganda. Fixing this might seem like a grand undertaking, it would essentially involved undoing sixty some years of racially-toned propaganda, but anything is possible with strong intent.
Our society will need to undertake the following steps in order to remove the harm of racially-toned propaganda.
- Increase the diversity in American film and television.
- Address issues of racial and cultural misrepresentation in video games.
- Address the lack of cultural and racial studies in primary schooling.
These actions serve as a bandaid on the wound of American racism and have the tangential affect of reducing racial propaganda in America. I would say that considerable strides have been made in improving diversity in film and television, the later two points have yet to be successfully addressed in my opinion.
In summary, we can only address the racist policies off the future by tackling the racist infrastructure that makes them possible in the first place.