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Why Did Ted Cruz’s Mass Murder Proposal Win Him Higher Poll Numbers?

Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Corruption, Government, Military, Policies, Politics with 20 Comments

By Rick Shenkman | * The Nation

'Perpetrators of hate crimes often take their cues from what they hear in the media,' writes Reich. 'And the recent inclination of some politicians to use inflammatory rhetoric is contributing to a climate of hate and fear.' (Photo: CBS News)

Editor's Note: Ex-President Richard Nixon gave orders that ultimately killed close to 1 million Cambodians & Laotians just because the Viet Cong might have been there during the Vietnam War. Candidate Ted Cruz brought back the ugly & pathological notion of carpet bombing in a recent debate. While not necessarily surprising in the midst of Donald Trump's candidacy, seemingly working out of Adolf Hitler's playbook as well as our sitting president's use of daily drone strikes in numerous countries and a disregard for Due Process in the War on Terror; it is shameful to see Cruz's poll numbers nonetheless on the rise. How can Americans become more in touch with their humanity and not cave in to fear which could allow genocide to happen again? This article explores this important issue.


Storytelling happens to be in every human’s toolkit. We are all born storytellers and attentive listeners. Biology may incline us to turn a cold eye on the suffering of people we can’t see and don’t know, but stories can liberate us. Ted Cruz may be able to build up his poll numbers by promising to carpet bomb foreigners in the Middle East of whom we are fearful, but at least we know that biology doesn’t have to dictate our response. Our brains don’t have to stay in the Stone Age. Stories can change us, if we start telling them. Rick Shenkman

After Senator Ted Cruz suggested that the United States begin carpet bombing Islamic State (IS) forces in Syria, the reaction was swift. Hillary Clinton mocked candidates who use “bluster and bigotry.” Jeb Bush insisted the idea was “foolish.” Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, tweeted: “You can’t carpet bomb an insurgency out of existence. This is just silly.”

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.

When CNN’s Wolf Blitzer objected that Cruz’s proposal would lead to lots of civilian casualties, the senator retorted somewhat incoherently: “You would carpet bomb where ISIS is—not a city, but the location of the troops. You use air power directed—and you have embedded special forces to direction the air power. But the object isn’t to level a city. The object is to kill the ISIS terrorists.” PolitiFact drily noted that Cruz apparently didn’t understand what the process of carpet (or “saturation”) bombing entails. By definition, it means bombing a wide area regardless of the human cost.

By almost any standard, Cruz’s proposal was laughable, and his rivals and the media called him on it. What happened next? By all rights, after such a mixture of inanity and ruthlessness, not to say bloody-mindedness against civilian populations, his poll numbers should have begun to sag. After all, he’d just flunked the commander-in-chief test and what might have seemed like a test of his humanity as well. In fact, his poll numbers actually crept up. The week before the imbroglio, an ABC opinion poll had registered him at 15 percent nationally. By the following week, he was up to 18 percent, and one poll even had him at a resounding 24 percent.

How to explain this? While many factors can affect a candidate’s polling numbers, one uncomfortable conclusion can’t be overlooked when it comes to reactions to Cruz’s comments: by and large, Americans don’t think or care much about the real-world consequences of the unleashing of American air power or that of our allies. The other day, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that, in September and October, a Saudi Arabian coalition backed by the United States “carried out at least six apparently unlawful airstrikes in residential areas of the [Yemeni] capital,” Sana’a. The attacks resulted in the deaths of 60 civilians. Just about no one in the United States took notice, nor was it given significant media coverage. More than likely, this is the first time you’ve heard about the HRW findings.

You might think that this is because the conflict in Yemen is off our national radar screen. But how much attention have Americans paid to US air strikes and bombing runs in Iraq? Washington has literally been bombing Iraq on and off for twelve years and yet few have taken much notice. That helps explain why bombing is such an attractive option for Washington any time trouble breaks out in the world. Americans don’t seem to care much what goes on when our bombs or missiles hit the ground. As pollsters found recently, a surprising number of Americans even want to bomb places that can’t be found on a map. When Public Policy Polling asked GOP voters in mid-December if they favored bombing Agrabah, 30 percent said they did (as did 19 percent of Democrats), while only 13 percent opposed the idea. Agrabah is the fictional city featured in the Disney movie Aladdin.

Would you support or oppose bombing Agrabah?
Support bombing Agrabah: 30%
Oppose bombing Agrabah: 13%
Not sure: 57%

That 57 percent were “not sure” might be considered at least modestly (but not wildly) reassuring.

Why Cruz’s Numbers Rose

History suggests that this blanket bloodthirstiness or at least lack of empathy for those on the other end of America’s bombing campaigns isn’t new. In March 1951, nine months into the Korean War, Freda Kirchwey, a crusading liberal journalist at The Nation, expressed bewilderment at American indifference to the fate of Korean civilians killed by our bombs. The destruction was awful. Little was left standing, structurally speaking, in North Korea. Nothing, she complained in a column, “excuses the terrible shambles created up and down the Korean peninsula by the American-led forces, by American planes raining down napalm and fire bombs, and by heavy land and naval artillery.” And yet few seemed bothered by it.

Because she was an optimist Kirchwey expressed the hope that Americans would eventually come to share her own moral anguish at what was being done in their name. They never did. If anything, the longer the war ground on, the less Americans seemed interested in the fate of the victims of our bombing.

Why did they show so little empathy? Science helps provide us with an answer and it’s a disturbing one: empathy grows harder as distances—whether of status, geography, or both—increase. Think of it as a matter of our Stone Age brains. It’s hard because in many circumstances an empathic response is, in fact, an unnatural act. It is not natural, it turns out, for us to feel empathy for those who look different and speak a different language. It is not natural for us to empathize with those who are invisible to us, as most bombing victims were and are. Nor is it natural for us to feel empathy for people who have what social scientists call “low status” in our eyes, as did the Korean peasants we were killing. Recent studies show that, faced with a choice of killing a single individual to save the lives of several people, we are far more apt to consider doing it if the individual we are sacrificing is of such low status. When subjects in an experiment are told that high-status people are being saved, the number willing to let the low-status victim die actually increases.

Another social science finding helps us understand why empathy is often in short supply and why Ted Cruz is capable of cavalierly recommending we carpet bomb Syrians living under the control of the Islamic State. Once we have convinced ourselves of the necessity and correctness of bombing the hell out of a country—as Americans did during the Korean War and as we are now doing in our war against IS—the wiring in our Stone Age brain helps us overcome any hint of guilt we might be inclined to feel over the ensuing loss of life. It quite naturally acts to dehumanize the distant victims of our air strikes.

This is a classic case of cognitive dissonance. Our brain hates to feel torn between conflicting emotions. Instead it rationalizes doing what we want to do by discounting any feeling that gives rise to negative emotions, in this case, guilt. An extreme example of this was what happened when the Nazis decided to stigmatize Jews and later wipe them out. From the moment they began their ruthless anti-Semitic campaigns, they used hideous imagery to convince other Germans that Jews were not, like them, human at all, but little different than rats. It is, of course, far easier to kill someone, or to sit by while others do the same, if you dehumanize them first. Rather than feeling empathy for the downtrodden Jews, many Germans felt contempt and disgust, strong emotions that swamped whatever other feelings they might have had.

[Read more here]

* Originally entitled: “Ted Cruz’s Poll Numbers Rose After He Proposed Carpet Bombing. How do we explain Americans’ lack of empathy for those on the other end of our bombing campaigns?”

Robert O'Leary 150x150

Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products & modalities since the early 1970’s & he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist & father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive & safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield (MA), New England & “virtually” the world, with his website. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty.

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  1. 10153826085697770@facebook.com' Patrick Henry says:

    None of these people have any chance of winning, so who gives a shit?

  2. 10205736225381004@facebook.com' Dwayne Robbie says:

    ‘Murica!

  3. 1304472249567451@facebook.com' D Gaia Castillo says:

    “Create ISIS then use ISIS to make yourself look good” CHECK! https://anarchodutch.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/mccain-isis.jpg

  4. 10153602110616672@facebook.com' Bob Wert says:

    Almost like carpet bombing Germany in WW-II. But we certainly made sure those bombs never hit any civilians, didn’t we?

    If I remember right, we won that war – the only one we won since.

    No one wants to bomb innocent civilians or children, but our leaders and military understood then that to win a war, and to limit future American casualties, we had to do what was necessary to win.

    We dropped two nukes on Japan for the very same reason, to limit American service men casualties. An invasion of the Japanese home land would have had devastating consequences for our fighting men, and we would have surely lost ten of thousands in either country without “carpet bombing.”

    Do we sacrifice our Dads, Brothers or Sisters because we refuse to do what may be necessary; or do we continue to fight a war that puts them in harms way, and increasing the chances of coming home in body bags, because we refuse to do what’s needed to win and limit causalities for our people?

    But politicians have been handicapping our military’s capability to win wars since WW-II. More dead Americans or more dead enemy? Which one? These are questions we must ask in the end.

    I don’t like either solutions, but I would chose my Dad, Brother or sister over them.

    • 897660826975160@facebook.com' Joan Wiersma says:

      Do you know what? If you study deeply, you will know that we never really won that war with Germany. What we did was bring all of those war criminals here. Who DOES that!?? The people that took over this country long ago. Look what I said up. You’ll see the answer.

    • 10203793604999669@facebook.com' Adairani McCreesh says:

      Its not for the win, or peace. War has no end, its a money making scheme. Its just not designed to resolve an issue and then put the guns dwn and walk away

  5. 1033182333404978@facebook.com' Dan Brooks says:

    His poll numbers went up because people enjoy violence. They play violent games, watch violent movies, watch violent sports, love to watch violence in the news etc. You can’t get much more destructive than “carpet bombing”…. so yes, let’s vote for Cruz.

    • 10153602110616672@facebook.com' Bob Wert says:

      There’s some truth to that Dan, but I believe its an over-simplification.

      Like in most media cases, if what a politician says allows for fodder to attack, despite the greater context, they will use it to forward an agenda or their favorite pol.

      I believe Cruz was referring to “winning” a war, and Not dragging it out for years.

      So I would refer to what I wrote below. Just my thoughts.

  6. 10207536369021904@facebook.com' Frances G.Law says:

    Where is that crazy button…..

  7. 223472881321820@facebook.com' Hope Gonza says:

    Our country gone nuts

  8. 419268154925083@facebook.com' Diane Berge says:

    Because he is creating fear

  9. 10208614424302001@facebook.com' Linda Martin says:

    To many people “the end justifies the means” but when the means go against all honourable aspects of humanity, then the end is tainted and shameful. It may be what was thought to be necessary but it really is the coward’s way out. The weapons of hate and power are so much easier to fight with than the ones of wisdom and truth. Killing innocent people on purpose will never be right no matter what we are trying to protect.

  10. 10205333311989033@facebook.com' David Thrasher says:

    insane murderers….NO WAR…NO MORE..

  11. 713597545339138@facebook.com' Robert Urr says:

    the world was a safer place when the world knew that america leads the way.

  12. 128436984202969@facebook.com' Heivenu Alachem says:

    America is a psick nations (not all of you). It is based on psychopaths that Europe did not desire to have around. So they got no jobs, no work, no help, and had to flee to america. So it appears… Psychopathic logic is binary. Black or white. Me or noone.

  13. 10154419872581124@facebook.com' Christal Isaqueen says:

    WHY IS A CANADIAN ELIGIBLE FOR PRESIDENCY?

  14. 10206500897933858@facebook.com' Jurgen Knorr says:

    first thing they should do is stop the americans from arming the enemy. if you don’t give them weapons then it will be harder for them to fight back. the americans made ISIS and now they want to blow them all up. makes sense

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