The party of security tanked the economy and unleashed Middle East disaster. Now they have nothing but fear itself
By Paul Rosenberg
The European charge of cannibalism was unfounded. Harmless and helpful natives were bad-mouthed as wild and bestial, thus legitimating the activities of a master race. The savagery of the conquistadors was projected onto their victims, who could then be seen as subhuman and could be treated in subhuman ways—which they extravagantly were.
A similar dynamic applied to enslaved blacks, regardless of the colonizing power involved. The savagery of conquest was projected into the conquered. However, when situations allowed, there was often a place for a few “respectable” tokens who served a variety of different functions for white slaveholders, and later white leaders who followed them—to endorse their views, make them seem more reasonable, provide pacifying “leadership” for the masses, etc.
Obama was threatening for a number of reasons, not least that he adopted a form of respectability politics, while remaining relatively loyal to the black base, and running as a Democrat, whose policies were anathema to movement conservatives. Hence, at the overt level, he disarmed the demonizing projective processes, particularly in courting conservatives outright—praising Ronald Reagan, inviting Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration, reaching out to conservative opinion writers, dining with them within weeks of taking office, etc.—but he would not validate the projection of otherness onto other blacks as a whole, which is a core purpose of the “respectable black” figure. And thus the need to otherize him (and project white evil acts, impulses, phantasies, etc. into him), as blacks had always been otherized, needed to find a new form, a new rationale. Which is precisely what the birther phantasy did. It said that everything about him was a lie, so nothing he did could make any difference. It invalidated any action he might take, leaving it to be reinterpreted by those who most despised him, without any regard to the facts.