Yesterday, we chatted a bit about the extreme right wing and whether this expression of hatred and vitriol was something unusual in American politics.
I concluded at least, that it was not new, but that our history was replete with examples of extremism, often resulting in rioting and outright violence.
Although not unusual, it bears, as we suggested continuing watching and every effort should be made to diffuse and to speak against such lawless and ugly rhetoric and activity.
Yet, the perception is clearly that these are extraordinary times. While historians understand that there is not much profit in reviewing past events too quickly, since we are trapped in our own response to it, the troubling thought that this is different does not go away easily.
It is profitable, I believe, to look at what powers this phenomenon. Without doubt, as we go back in time and review past instances of public outcry, we are awed at how it could have happened at all. Just think about it. Towns and cities were islands, camped within vast tracts of land, mostly farmed. Distances were traversed by horse and whatever vehicle a horse might pull.
Under such circumstances, it is amazing that the flames of revolution or civil insurrection could be kept fanned. People were often left their own devices, unsure if others in other places were also working for the cause or, in fact, if they were lonely sojourners in the land of change. Courage was at a premium in those times. It required courage to act, seemingly alone, trusting that others were doing the same in far off places.
Today, the landscape has changed unbelievably. We live in a technological wonderland of instant communication. This has its pluses no doubt–how General Washington would have loved to be able to communicate so quickly with forces and political backers. But the downside is just as mind blowing.
I speak of the crazy. In years gone by, the crazy person, if he did not suspect he was loonie, at least acknowledged that nobody else much cottoned to his opinions or beliefs. He knew he was an outsider, knew that most people got on with life in a much different manner than his mind directed him.
He lived in his own world, where he might well feel largely ineffectual. His actions were limited as well. In the best of all worlds, he got some inkling that he was not quite “right” and began to explore the possibility that he might need help. At least, he might admit that he was one sick bastard.
But that is no longer the case. I would not want to test out the hypothesis, but I’m fairly certain that it would be true, that every certifiable wacko can find other wackos just like himself. How you ask? Why, via the Internet to be sure.
Here, one can test the waters of acceptability, and frankly, one can be as outrageous as one wants, and all fairly anonymously. Soon, other vermin extrude from the woodwork and give credence and validity to our nut case. And that is how the ball starts rolling. Surely every utter lunatic can find 500 more just like himself without much effort. No doubt crazies troll the Internet looking for others like themselves.
And, no doubt they find each other. And they re-enforce the worst in each other. They commiserate in their passions, and discuss how their putrid worldview is actually correct. Only they are reading the Bible correctly, only they have seen the intricate connections between various groups existing around the globe. They see the connections, they see the conspiracy, and they are patted on the back for being “one of the ones who get it.”
It is the curse of the Internet, the ability to give strange backward bat-shit crazy people, the confidence to go out and act out, confident that there are many others like them. That must mean they are right, right?
As we all are busy linking up and sending material to each other, secured from “the Internet,” we would all do well to remember that anyone can say anything. Anyone can make any website look “official” or legitimate. Anyone can create any number of bogus “resumes,” claiming to be doctors, lawyers, or nuclear physicists.
We must be ever vigilant of the content of what we peruse, but more than that, we must realize that every wacko site, we happen up by accident that outrages us with its content, is in fact, lauded by hundreds if not thousands, as speaking truth. If you don’t believe me, then actively look at the worst of the right wing rags.
You will read comments that will blow you mind. As one woman put it regarding the claims that the teabaggers were shouting Ni**er at Congressman Lewis and fa**ot to Congressman Franks:
“Why,” she said, everyone knows that the worst violence comes from the left. I’m sure that if there was any of that kind of thing on the steps of Congress, they were left wing plants who were trying to stir things up. That is what they do.”
The woman had no evidence of this of course. But her worldview prompts her to assume that the other side is the perpetrator of bad things, not her side. Her side is simply free speech. No matter the ugliness of the slogans slapped upon the signs held aloft by ranting slathering teabaggers.
Indeed, the crazies today are dangerous, and we must do all we can to call them out on their violence-inducing speech. But we must also remember, that they do not change their minds easily. Not since they can find each other so easily in the shadows of the Inter-tubes.