Ground Zero Mosque Backlash a Symptom of Economy Says Think Progress Blogger

Is it "the economy, stupid" or is it just that the economy makes people stupid? Either way Matt Yglesias, ThinkProgress.org blogger extraordinaire, believes the economy is what's driving conservative furor over the "Ground Zero Mosque."

On MSNBC's August 9 broadcast of "Countdown," Yglesias did his best to psychoanalyze people that are upset a mosque is being built in the shadow of Ground Zero, where over 2,600 people died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. According to Yglesias, whose blog, ThinkProgress.org, is a function the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress, opposition to the plan had nothing to do with sensitivities but instead economics. The anti-mosque sentiment, he believed, couldn't exist without masterminds like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich whipping conservatives against the mosque into a frenzy.

"Well, it seems to me that there is or at least there - it's much more visible than it used to be because we're seeing it stoked by sort of the leads in the conservative movement, by Sarah Palin, by Newt Gingrich, by others, in a way that we never had before 9/11," Yglesias said. "And I think what's happening is that when the economy goes down, people become anxious, you see, historically, a lot of increase in xenophobia, in fear and in sort of intolerance. And we've got the conservative movement leaders, very opportunistically trying to take advantage of that, try to play on people's anxieties, and build this kind of anti-Muslim hysteria in a way that President Bush never did in 2001 and 2002."

Yglesias, who also saw nothing wrong with his participation in Ezra Klein's JournoList, a listserv that left several members of the liberal media intelligentsia embarrassed for their downright angry, conspiratorial and mean-spirited comments from it that have come to light, then went for a historical analogy. He compared the current anti-illegal immigration sentiment to President Herbert Hoover, Depression-era United States deportation of as many as 500,000 Mexicans, regardless of legality.

"I think it's really part of an interconnected series of rising xenophobic and anti-foreign sentiment," Yglesias said. "In particularly with immigration, every time there's a major economic downturn, you see new anti-immigrant measures. In 1929, President Hoover launched what he called the Mexican Repatriation Initiative where they sort of swept around the American southwest pretty indiscriminately, finding people of Mexico origin and kicking them back. And this is what happens when the economy goes down - people get more worried about people who are different from them. And politicians who are unscrupulous, you know, really to play on that instead of trying to address the underlying problems in the country."

It's not known if Yglesias is aware of the problems in Arizona because of the wave of illegal immigrants coming across the Mexican border, but in his view this is nothing more than people wanting jobs and not other issues that come with unfettered movement across international borders.

"Well, the idea is that when jobs are scarce, you know, maybe if you round some people up and kick them out, and their jobs will come to other people," Yglesias said. "Of course, the economy doesn't really work that way. If 10 percent of the population vanished tomorrow, it would be economic chaos, not extra jobs. But, you know, that's the kind of zero sum thinking that people get into when they become nervous about things they're seeing in their life and in their community. And we had in the 1880s as well. That's when we shut the door to immigrants from China and Japan."