Despite continued objections that it is not nineteen goddamn fifty-five, Rep. Peter King (R–NY) convened Congressional hearings today on the “radicalization of Muslim Americans.” King is the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, which is why he considers it his obligation to respond to “repeated and urgent warnings which the Obama administration has been making in recent months.” Of course, the White House has been making those warnings about radicalization of libertarian separatists, white supremacists and other ultra right-wing groups, but we all know what religion terrorists are. “I remain convinced that these hearings must go forward, and they will,” King told Politico. “To back down would be a craven surrender to political correctness and an abdication of what I believe to be the main responsibility of this committee to protect America from a terrorist attack.” Ah, yes—political correctness is why you don’t launch a congressional inquiry into whether Americans of a particular religion are doing enough to fight terrorism. At least we’re not being craven.
King’s motives are a matter of pure speculation, of course, but it’s like speculating on why the cat is interested in the can opener. From the purely cynical perspective of votes won vs. votes lost, we should note that King’s district is 90% white, presumably not more than 10% Muslim and, being located in Long Island, almost 98% asshole. As a 20-year congressman from a wealthy, culturally homogenous district, King’s decision to speak out against the threat posed by 1.7% of the American population is politically courageous, but it’s also physically so. Shortly before convening the hearings, he casually mentioned that he has been under 24-hour police protection for the last six months, due to a vaguely defined “threats” against him.
See, Peter King doesn’t just represent America; as the target of unknown threats from unidentified enemies who are probably Muslims, Peter King represents America. He also represents America by being a self-aggrandizing dick. At his request, Capitol police will be stationed throughout the hearing room and his office during the proceedings, presumably to emphasize how important and dangerous everything is. “We have to be ready” for protesters to try to interrupt proceedings, King told Politico. “Obviously protesters will be removed and we’ll continue with the hearing.”
King’s multi-step envisioning of what will obviously happen after the protestors who haven’t arrived interrupt the hearings he hasn’t started yet, only to be thwarted by the police he summoned to protect him from the unknown enemies who threaten to attack him in the future, suggests one underlying theme in the workings of his brain. I think the other is nicely encapsulated in this Daily Show clip:
It’s unfair to suggest that Peter King is conducting these hearings solely for political gain or reasons of overarching paranoia; he also seems to be genuinely bigoted. His 1995 claim that “the moral standing of the IRA is equal to that of the British army” makes more sense when you replace moral with racial. Given that King’s revulsion for anything even associated with terrorism extends only to Muslim terrorists, and that his awareness of particular threats is limited to a hunch that we should investigate the American Muslim community, one must ask what he hopes to accomplish today. He’s already got a detailed vision of what will happen when his enemies try to stop him. What will happen when he gets what he wants?
Maybe Representative King just wants America to know how dangerous American Muslims are. Maybe he wants everybody to know how staunchly against terrorism Peter King is. Maybe he wants us to implement some sort of plan, the first step of which is, “Okay, who’s Muslim?” I keep following these decision trees, and I keep arriving at ugly endings. Perhaps I am overthinking his motives, though, and the same habits of mind that have made “Muslim” and “terrorist” near synonyms to King have led him to consider the larger purpose of his hearings not at all. If that is the case, I feel obligated to point out that this man is head of our Congressional committee on Homeland Security.