Sometimes, we need to remind ourselves that drumming up fear to achieve less-than-admirable ends is nothing new.
I was on the treadmill the other day, listening to old show tunes on my iPods. ( My very unsophisticated musical tastes run to Dean Martin and the Rat Pack, although I make exceptions, especially for show tunes.) I was speed-walking to the Music Man.
“Ya Got Trouble” was the song sung by Professor Harold Hill when he is using the fact that a pool hall has opened in River City to stoke fear in the city’s residents.
You probably remember:
Friends, let me tell you what I mean. You got one, two, three, four, five, six pockets in a table. Pockets that mark the diff’rence Between a gentlemen and a bum, With a capital “B,” And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool! And all week long your River City Youth’ll be frittering away, I say your young men’ll be frittering! Frittering away their noontime, suppertime, chore time too! Get the ball in the pocket, Never mind gettin’ Dandelions pulled Or the screen door patched or the beefsteak pounded. Never mind pumpin’ any water ‘Til your parents are caught with the Cistern empty On a Saturday night and that’s trouble, Oh, yes we got lots and lots a’ trouble. I’m thinkin’ of the kids in the knickerbockers, Shirt-tail young ones, peekin’ in the pool Hall window after school, ya got trouble, folks.
Hill ramps up his warning, telling the “fine folks” of River City what’s in store:
One fine night, they leave the pool hall, Headin’ for the dance at the Armory! Libertine men and Scarlet women! And Rag-time, shameless music That’ll grab your son and your daughter With the arms of a jungle animal instinct.
Scary! Hill warns that, “the idle brain is the devil’s playground!” But then he offers the antidote to all this evil: a boy’s band. For which he will sell them the instruments and band uniforms.
Contemporary Harold Hills are selling medicines for imaginary diseases all around us.
Did the Consumer Product Safety Commission issue a finding that gas stoves can cause asthma in small children? OMG! “They” are coming for our gas ranges! Those “woke” bureaucrats in Washington are going to ban the use of gas cookstoves, and they probably won’t even pay compensation! That’s what you get when you let Democrats run the administrative branch of government!
The fear and frenzy stirred up by GOP culture warriors prompted the head of the agency to issue a statement confirming the research results and the fact that the CPSC is looking for ways to reduce indoor air quality hazards, but does not intend to ban gas stoves.
CPSC also is actively engaged in strengthening voluntary safety standards for gas stoves. And later this spring, we will be asking the public to provide us with information about gas stove emissions and potential solutions for reducing any associated risks. This is part of our product safety mission – learning about hazards and working to make products safer.
There’s a lesson here for Americans who laughed at the comedic effectiveness of Harold Hill, or are currently marveling at the ability of Republican culture warriors to convince lots of people that “the government” is coming for their gas stoves. Stoking fear about– and then directing anger against– otherwise innocuous matters, works. In the Music Man, the tactic sold band instruments; in the great gas stove eruption, it allows angry citizens to confirm their anti-“wokeness” and determination to vote against “the libs.”
We see the tactic all around us.
Are LGBTQ people more visible? Those Drag Queen story hours and library books about Heather’s Two Mommies are turning toddlers gay!
Are the kids learning about events we older folks didn’t encounter in school? Things like the Trail of Tears or the Tulsa massacre? Allowing teachers to include the seamier side of American history is a “woke” attack on American Exceptionalism and the firmly-held belief that we are–and have always been–the good guys.
Did epidemiologists tell us to protect our friends and families from disease by wearing masks during a pandemic? They are obviously part of that “woke” elite that is constantly attacking American freedom!
Ya got trouble, my friend–right here in America! You need to fight back. Threaten the library. Scream at school board members and have the smug culture warriors who dominate your legislature tell teachers what they can and cannot say. Insist that the President fire Dr. Fauci! (Whoops–too late. He retired.)
And tell your friends on Facebook that the government will have to pry your gas stove out of your cold, dead, oven-mitted hands.
Harold Hill clones are everywhere.