by Isaac Butler
Little bit of an addendum to this piece I wrote over at my employer's joint. The use of negative stereotypes for political gain predates any scientific understanding of how discrimination works in the mind. There's many very famous examples of political ads and propaganda using negative stereotypes of a group to influence seemingly-unrelated policy outcomes. Perhaps most famous there's the Willie Horton ad, but the practice way predates that.
In fact, one of the most famous examples of racist propaganda ever falls into this category: The Protocols of the Edlers of Zion.
The Protocols, which purport to be minutes from a meeting of several top Rabbis as they plan world domination in the name of Shiva (seriously), were actually created to help persuade Czar Nicholas to eschew liberal democratic reforms in Russia. The point of them is actually not to cause discrimination against Jews. The point of them is to associate liberal democracy (and political modernity) with Jews, so that liberal democracy would become distasteful.
Here's a passage taken at random, the full document is chock-a-block with this stuff:
In all corners of the earth the words "Liberty, Equality, Frater- nity" brought to our ranks, thanks to our blind agents, whole legions who, bore our banners with enthusiasm. And all the time these words were canker-worms at work boring into the well-being of the goyim, putting an end everywhere to peace, quiet, solidarity and destroying all the foundations of the goya States. As you will see later, this helped us to our triumph; it gave us the possibility, among other things, of getting into our hands the master card— the destruction of the privileges, or in other words of the very existence of the aristocracy of the goyim, that class which was the only de- fence peoples and countries had against us. On the ruins of the natural and genealogical aristocracy of the goyim we have set up the aristocracy of our educated class headed by the aristocracy of money. The qualifications for this aristocracy we have established in wealth, which is dependent upon us, and in knowledge, for which our learned elders provide the motive force.
The Protocols are intended for a reader who already believes Jews are part of some kind of evil conspiracy because of a greed inherent to their nature. It's illustrating for the reader what that conspiracy is. It quickly became used for something else, though, a documented intended to provoke and inspire anti-semitism. But it's worth saying that the Protocols' major proponents (who include Henry Ford, who later recanted and Adolph Hiterl who, uh, didn't) were already unabashed anti-semites.
In pointergate's case, the sad truth is most Americans (including me) do on some unconscious level hold negative stereotypes linking black men and criminality even though the overwhelming majority of Americans (including me) believe in racial equality. This is why making the implicit explicit here is so important, so that we can in turn use our conscious values to defray the impact of our unconscious associations.