Last week I spent four days in Cleveland listening to speakers at the Republican Party’s national convention describe an America I don’t recognize. According to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and dozens of other convention speakers, the United States is beset by threats from all directions: murderous illegal immigrants crossing the border in droves; Syrian refugees intent on coming to this country to kill Americans; and terrorists hiding in the shadows ready to strike at a moment’s notice, to name just a few.
Of course, virtually none of this is true. But to paraphrase an old saw, if the convention showed us anything, it is that when it comes to fear-mongering, nothing is more dangerous than a little bit of the truth.
While many of the convention speakers spoke of America’s alleged war with radical Islamists, the piece de resistance came from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. And a closer look at Gingrich’s speech helps illustrate how fear-mongers use an exaggerated threat of terrorism as such an effective political tool.