The nature of things tells us that people can be easily swayed, heartened by a word or a phrase, incited by an action or reaction. More importantly, they are emboldened by an election promise, a referendum upshot, or a president’s inclination or course.
Empowered, supporters align themselves with the same notions that he who is empowering them possesses. Soon afterwards, perceiving the words or actions provided as a green light, a right of way, these supporters indulge themselves; they free themselves of any inhibition and do and say things they wouldn’t have dared to otherwise. Whether these actions are justified or fair is a non-issue.
Here are a few examples.
Migration was arguably the defining factor in Britain’s referendum to leave the EU with the Leave supporters leading a divisive campaign that demonized immigrants.
Sayeeda Warsi, the former chair of the Conservative party, after she refused to continue supporting the Leave Campaign, said, “ “… day after day what are we hearing? The refugees are coming, the rapists are coming, the Turks are coming.” “This kind of nudge-nudge, wink-wink xenophobic racist campaign may be politically savvy or useful in the short term but it causes long-term damage to communities.”
While inciting racial hatred and supporting Brexit, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, UKIP, devised a poster that said, “We must break free of the EU and take back control.” The photo in the poster shows hundreds of refugees heading his way implying that they are heading to Britain.
Repercussions from the nationalistic Brexit rhetoric came immediately after the vote to quit the European Union occurred. According to the British National Police Chiefs’ Council, hate crimes rose 57 percent with 3,886 such crimes logged in July 2015 but rising to 5,468 in July this year.
The aftermath included a spike in racist or religious abuse incidents. According to the chief executive of Stop Hate UK, Rose Simkins, “…people who have never been targeted before … are now experiencing nasty abuse.”
Signs that say “Refugees not welcome,” or “No more Polish vermin” surfaced. One Muslim Schoolgirl was cornered and told, ““Get out, we voted leave.” A survey by the Guardian found that European embassies in Britain have logged dozens of incidents of suspected hate crime and abuse against their citizens since the referendum, mostly involving citizens from eastern European countries in particular Poland.
The US Presidential Race
Spurring hatred and polarization, Donald Trump’s warped campaign rhetoric misled some Americans into believing they are better than both other Americans and non-Americans. He harnessed the discontent of such Americans and funnelled it towards his own strength calling Mexican immigrants rapists and killers and calling for a ban on Muslims entering the US.
Once the election results were announced, a surge in attacks took place. Angry discourse fed the “whites-only” crowd pursuing Trump’s call to purge the US of minorities. Racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-semitic hate crimes followed. One Trump supporter punched a woman in her face after an argument about the election. One Ethiopian taxi driver was assaulted in Grand Rivers by a man yelling, “Trump, Trump.”
The Southern Poverty Law Centre, the SPLC, reported over 400 incidents of hateful intimidation and harassment by far more than those reported in the wake of September 11 with most of them aimed at Muslims.
Mark Potok, a leading expert in extremism and senior fellow with the SPLC, "We've seen a dramatic upsurge in both hate crimes and then lesser hate incidents, things like Muslim kids being bullied, Muslim women having their hijabs torn off their faces," Potok said.
Muslims bore the brunt of attacks, with anti-Islam incidents soaring in the five days after Trump announced his controversial Muslim ban. Potok also said that after Muslims, the "primary and secondary targets" of the recent wave of hate crimes were “blacks, Latinos and LGBT people” And once the elections results came out “… we’ve seen a big uptick in incidents of vandalism, threats, intimidation spurred by the rhetoric surrounding Mr. Trump’s election.” The incidents are endless as the white supremacists out there celebrate Trumps victory and many are "feeling their oats.”
And President-elect Donald Trump, confirming the attacks, asked his followers to halt the surge in harassment and hate crimes. "I am so saddened to hear that," Trump said. "And I say, 'Stop it.' If it — if it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: 'Stop it.’
Would the mob-like mentality have soared had Trump not demonized immigrants, ethnic groups, and those who didn’t look like him?
President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood
Though Ex-President Mohammed Morsi vowed to represent all Egyptians, Muslim Brotherhood members realized what the Muslim Brotherhood candidate presidential win meant. With cutthroat speed, Morsi’s clan dominated Egypt realizing their dream; his supporters deemed Egypt theirs, which allowed them to attack Copts leaving some homeless, dead, imprisoned, evicted, detained in juvenile establishments, and much more.
But it wasn’t only Copts that suffered; hatred was directed at anyone who wasn’t one of them or corroborated their ideas. Their leaders had instilled in them the notion that the Muslim Brotherhood have no equal. In one year, the MB not only gained political dominance but also moulded a new course for Egypt altering education, constitution, ideology, culture, and governance to their liking.
At MB and non-MB schools, bearded teachers and veiled students adorned textbook covers. The MB Minister of Education deleted the photo of a woman’s right pioneer from a textbook because she wasn’t wearing the hijab. New and altered textbooks promoted prominent Islamists from Hamas and other militant groups. Soon, all schools would have focused on jihad and the caliphate to come.
We must blame politicians for steering their followers one way or another. The puppeteer manipulates the puppets. These proponents are not to blame; they merely pursue the same line of rhetoric that their chosen leader calls for.