Propaganda for All

by William Skink

People outside the bubble of Missoula County are starting to make their opinions known about Missoula’s intention to accept 100 Syrian refugees a year. Ravalli County Commissioners will be taking up this issue today:

The Ravalli County Commission on Thursday will offer people a chance to voice their opinions on whether Syrian refugees should be allowed to settle in the Bitterroot Valley.

Commissioner Jeff Burrows said he expects the meeting to be “pretty heated and pretty polarized.” It will begin at 1:30 p.m.

The commission has released a proposed letter to the U.S. State Department that expresses opposition to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Ravalli County or its neighboring counties.

The letter expresses safety concerns due to the federal government’s inability to fully investigate potential Syrian refugees to ensure they don’t belong to a terrorist organization.

“The Board of Ravalli County Commissioners opposes the resettling of refugees without an analysis of the impacts and a vetting process that can adequately identify threats to our local communities, state and nation,” according to the letter.

That Ravalli County Commissioners have taken this position is surprising to no one. Similarly, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that supporters of bringing Syrian refugees to Missoula would like to depict anyone who opposes their efforts as bedwetting bigots.

Commissioners say the majority of emails they have received have been against accepting refugees. Here is a typical response:

In an email, Rick Paris of Florence called the idea “sickening,” saying he learned all he needed to know about Muslims on 9/11.

“They don’t want to be here, they are terrorists, and they support terrorism and honor killing and what about there (sic) treatment of woman?” the New York City native wrote. “Wake the hell up, no Moslems (sic)!”

Depicting Muslims as terrorists is not the sole prerogative of bedwetting bigots. The Democrat running for Senate District 40 in Helena, Josh Manning, has a post up at Cowgirl where he tries to get inside the minds of terrorist. Here is an example of the shallow treatment Manning uses to explain to the mooing partisans why suicide bombers blow themselves up. This part of the post is a reflection after a suicide bomber blew himself up:

Later the photos arrived from the scene: the engine block in one piece after having been thrown hundreds of feet, the blackened shell of the sedan, and the head of a man found near the explosion, cut off from the neck but otherwise undamaged. For the purposes here, we will just say he was not from Iraq. I wondered how he arrived here, what his parents would do when (or if) they heard about his ultimate fate, and what road he had taken to get to our little base outside Baqubah, Iraq. I envisioned this small child in a small village who somehow had grown into an adult who would find it totally sane to blow himself up thousands of miles away and outside an American base in a land so far from his home. What happens to make you do something like that?

These were questions we and so many others who replaced us year after year would ask as Iraq went from what was then a slow violent boil in the summer of 2004 to the bloody carnage arriving with a vengeance the next years. We could see the darkening skies on the horizon back then, when we saw that foreign face and knew there were many more like him beyond those high blast walls.

I spent a lot of that deployment reading books that probably put me on a watchlist, but my job was to learn the ways of the enemy. In the following years, as suicide bombings became the norm, we learned more and more about how the indoctrination and propaganda of terrorist groups had created this effective means of killing massive numbers of people. While we aimed for the “hearts and minds” of thousands, the other side only needed ten or so people a month to carry out these attacks with truly devastating and splintering results.

Josh Manning isn’t really trying to understand what happens to make a terrorist Muslim blow himself (or herself) up. He talks about “that foreign face”, propaganda and winning hearts and minds, but nothing is said about the fact Manning was a part of an occupying military force killing Iraqis because American propaganda peddled lies about weapons of mass destruction.

The point of Manning’s piece is to compare the Patriot movement’s consumption of dangerous propaganda to what he claims is the driving force behind Muslims blowing themselves up. The point of the bedwetting post similarly seeks to paint with broad strokes anyone who expresses concern about bringing over traumatized refugees as bigots.

Going back to the Missoulian article, a licensed social worker from Corvallis also sent an email to Commissioners. Before I saw her comment, I assumed it would be supportive of the effort. I was wrong:

Brenda Olmsted is a licensed clinical social worker from Corvallis. She said she watched the community of Fargo, North Dakota, struggle greatly after allowing refugees to settle there.

“The already taxed health care system, schools, mental health system and criminal justice system was taxed and stretched even more,” Olmsted wrote. “Crime increased as did domestic violence due to the lack of cultural understanding. I love Ravalli County. I would hate to see us make the same mistake.”

Social workers know how fucked up our support systems already are for people already here. This isn’t coming from a bedwetting bigot’s perspective, and the name-callers might want to consider that not everyone who disagrees with them is a bigot.

But there are indeed plenty of bigots in Montana, which leads me to this question: is Montana a safe place for Syrian refugees? If they are relocated to Missoula County, would it even be safe from them to travel outside the County?

Muslims and American Patriots are not the only people susceptible to propaganda. The only reason we are even having this debate about Syrian refugees is because some Missoula moms saw that picture of the dead toddler and felt like they had to do something. Before that picture captured the hearts and minds of these moms, there was another picture of Syrian boy lost in the desert. Except that wasn’t true:

A picture is not always as it seems.

On Sunday, CNN International anchor Hala Gorani tweeted a photo of a Syrian boy crossing the desert to Jordan. The striking image of the 4-year-old was widely shared around the Web. But it wasn’t long before details of the photo became jumbled, leading many to mistakenly assume the boy was wandering the desert or fleeing Syria alone.

Democrats aren’t immune to propaganda. Maybe they should think about that before comparing Americans with suicide bombers and calling those who are concerned about Syrian refugees bedwetting bigots.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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10 Responses to Propaganda for All

  1. Big Swede says:

    Let’s bring the real “War on Women” over here.

    A recent case in Phoenix, Arizona, involved Mohamed Abdullahi, a 30-year-old refugee from Somalia resettled in the state by Catholic Charities. He entered into a “Nikah,” which is an arranged Islamic marriage, with the parents of an 18-year-old Muslim woman.

    Phoenix police arrested him April 22, 2015, on charges of kidnapping and sexual assault. The Arizona Republic reported that his bride-to-be was brought to his apartment that day by her parents, against her will.

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, told Fox News that such violence has “no basis in the Islamic faith.”

    Apparently CAIR has not read verse 4:34 of the Quran.

    “Chapter 4, verse 34, of the Quran expressly says if a woman does not comply with her husband’s command he has the right to beat her, and that is what you see happening here and what has happened over 1,400 years,” Akbari said. “What is going on here in Phoenix is totally Islamic, under Shariah.”


  2. Greg Strandberg says:

    It’s important to remember that Manning was a member of the Criminal Cabal in Washington. That whole city is corrupt. Look at his family. His mom is the adviser to Bullock that locked Angela McLean out of her Twitter account.

    What was she so afraid of? Well, I think those following the blogs know exactly what they were afraid of…and what they still are.

    The main problem with Montana Democrats is their hypocrisy. They love name-calling as well. For the most part, this is aimed at their own peanut gallery. Any look at an election map of the state shows you they’re in the minority.

    My, they hate this. They hate their inability to do anything about it even more. Instead of taking steps to gain relevance in the state, however, they cling to the same tired old issues that made them a minority in the first place.

    I don’t care one lick about Syrian refugees.

    Why should I? I can barely pay my rent each month now…no one’s helping me out. Democrats should be helping me – they should be shouting in the streets how hard it is for people to make a living here!

    But they’re not. Instead they want to invite more people in that can’t speak English, might not have any skills, and will probably – once they’ve gained the comfort and confident to do so – get jobs.

    Wow, that’s great.

    How does that help me, again? Oh yeah, by making that rich cultural tapestry that we need here.

    Rich politicians making $60,000 to $80,000 a year for the city and the county might think that. I made less than $20,000 last year and I don’t.

    I feel most in this state agree with me – we have so many problems in Montana right now that we just can’t be pandering to bleeding hearts over the refugee issue.

  3. JC says:

    Might be a good time to revisit the history of the Hmong and their integration into Missoula. Here’s a good video from Montana PBS. While short and simplistic, it reminds us that our foreign and covert policies often result in unintended blowbacks, much like the Syrian debacle is doing.

    So, another foreign crisis brings home many facts: chest-thumping abroad has long term effects on local communities; local communities have stressed resources for people of lesser means which may be further stressed by a new influx of refugees; refugees stoke the fears of locals as we have no understanding of either the foreign/covert/economic policies creating the crises, nor do we understand the culture of the dispossessed.

    25 years ago my family competed against the Hmong at the Farmers’s Market for selling space, and for customers. It would have been very easy to let bigotry dictate my interactions with them. Instead it became an opportunity to understand them as they struggled to become part of the community.

    While the story of the Hmong is different from the Syrian refugee crisis, in that they had a local connection to Missoula before they left Laos, and immediately had an affinity for the landscape, the cultural disconnect was easily as great as with Syrians. When I saw the Hmong both try to assimilate into western Montana culture, and hold true to their own culture and share it, I became acutely aware of the beauty of a multicultural existence.

    While refugees arriving in Montana may present problems with availability of local services and resources to handle them — and much bigotry opposed — they do present an opportunity to diversify our very monocultural white society here in western Montana.

    I get to watch multiculturalism at work up here on the rez, too, as Nyingma Tibetan Buddhists involved in the Ewam and Namchak Retreat move to western Montana and begin to integrate themselves and their culture into the native culture here.

    I don’t know about others, and I’m not a bleeding heart liberal. But I look at the possibility of Syrian refugees moving to western Montana — if we can assure that we don’t further tax the limited resources and services available to the people already here — as an opportunity to diversify the predominantly white monoculture here, and for us to learn yet again another lesson in what happens when our foreign/covert policy goes awry due to the lack of oversight and guidance of the people of this country.

    • Greg Strandberg says:

      “if we can assure that we don’t further tax the limited resources and services available to the people already here”

      Good luck with that. When the Hmong came Missoula was coming off a more responsible time. Dick Shoup had been mayor for years and he didn’t waste money. I can’t say the same for the current “leaders.”

      Of course, we had a much better economy back then too. Turman took over after that, and although he later switched to the Dems (probably to run as LG), he used to be a Republican.

      After that came Bob E. Brown ( Not sure if he was a Dem or Republican but considering he was appointed, he was probably Republican.

      The point is, Missoula used to have responsible leadership that knew the value of a dollar. They knew that dollar was a lot better in a citizen’s pocket than in the city’s bank account.

      We’ve lost that. Along the way we’ve lost our economy as well. Just the other day I heard a Missoula Chamber of Commerce person say that the university isn’t carrying us through anymore. Timber and other resource jobs are long gone.

      That’s what people are mad about. Nationally, that’s what people like Trump supporters are mad about too. They don’t have jobs anymore – we shipped them away.

      Instead of talking about this, or locally, even trying to replace the more recent job losses at Smurffit-Stone and Champion, we invite service industry jobs in and then migrants.

      There’s a lot of talk that older, white people are angry in this country, perhaps even because they’re becoming a minority.

      They’re not a minority in Montana, however. I feel we should recognize this and start recognizing some of their concerns.

      The GOP are. The GOP is making inroads from the rural areas into Missoula. That will continue, we know that from the 2014 returns.

      What is the Dem answer to this? If it’s refugees over high-paying jobs, I’m sorry, but we’ll see the Dems become a minority here. It might take time, but it’ll happen.

  4. I saw the face of a terrorist last week, and was deeply disturbed. She supervised a policy that starved 500,000 Iraqi kids to death in the 90s. Her name is Madelyn Albright. Yikes! Imagine that head on a stick if you believe is karma.

    I’m constantly reminded of the deep, deep ignorance of Americans about the greatest force for violence on the planet, American foreign policy. People imagine we are victims! They imagine our soldiers are emissaries for peace rather than agents of terror. If we could package our ignorance and sell it, we’d have no national debt.

    I don’t know if bringing Syrians into white Christian neighborhoods is a good idea, but it would be nice if people understood that these Syrians are refugees because of American foreign policy.

  5. steve kelly says:

    Did we bring Sudanese refugees into Montana? How many Iraqis were relocated here? Yemenis? My point is that Syrian refugees are not that different than many other refugees leaving war zones we helped create. Why not Egyptians, Libyans or Gazans? Syrians are the most recent focus of MSM propaganda. Refugees from Guatamala, Honduras and Mexico are being rejected. Somehow Syrians are more desirable? What is special about Syrians?

    • JC says:

      There’s nothing special about Syrians, when compared to other groups of refugees created by our foreign/covert policies. But they do comprise the largest international group of displaced refugees (nearly 5 million) in the world right now, other than the Palestinians already harbored by the UNRWA. Which is why — other than the pending WWIII in Syria — it has taken on the scale that it has. The preferable solution would be for a deescalation of the war in Syria, with the refugees going home and rebuilding their country. But the likelihood of that is…???

  6. Eric says:

    It’s not a good fit – moving people from a desert climate to a cold northern climate like Montana.
    They would be happier in Nevada.

  7. Big Swede says:

    Not a Trump fan but admire his guts in this vid.

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