Sheep and Stereotypes

My last entry, which even the most humor-challenged amongst us could have surely understood was a tongue in cheek pontification of a single, liberal nation-state on the “Left Coast,” brought upon me an avalanche — or storm from snowflakes — that I had not quite anticipated. I had, of course, observed that the election had brought out the worst of behavior on both sides, but even in taking several steps back, it did seem quite clear that the left had behaved in a manner far less tolerant than the right, and when they did attack, did so with far greater vitriol. Indeed if we learned one new fact about liberals with any degree of certainty during what I think we all agree was silly season, it would be that they collectively possess zero sense of irony. The great tolerators would not tolerate; the love, peace, and potcicle brigade would protest, shout expletives and damage property to emphasize their moral superiority. Some of their most prominent mouthpieces are millionaire performers or media figures of one ilk or another who preach about higher taxes, non-engagement, the AAC, open borders and more, yet some of whom were revealed in the Panama Papers to have made use themselves of elaborate tax avoidance schemes offshore. They’ll fly their G6 to the grocery store, but lecture the rest of us on climate change. They want us to accept refugees but argue against applying even the most basic of common sense checks and balances to that system in order to secure our country because they are afraid of offending strangers, but expect the U.S. citizenry to continue to buy their music and movies. They do not even understand or make an effort to comprehend that a large part of the reason for the now historic refugee crisis is our non-engagement in Syria, whether in supporting regime change or in committing real force to combating ISIS.

But yesterday in receiving the first of my mean tweets — my new badge of honor – I realized that I’ve seen these people before. I see them almost daily in the research that I do for my work. These are the women who are anti-GMO, but want us to feed children in Africa, not understanding the correlation between the two. They give vaccines to their children and would accept life-saving cancer treatment if they needed it, but do not understand that the same biotech that creates those cutting edge drugs is the same that is used in GMO seeds. These are the people who venerate a movie star who produced a documentary called “Cowspiracy” about how agriculture is causing climate change, but who himself likely cannot remember they last time he flew on a commercial plane.

We closely monitor online activism in my work and have studied those who most frequently orchestrate and conduct it with ever greater scrutiny. We know, for example — after collecting and crunching literally millions of online mentions of activist topics — what our composite activist “soldier” looks like, as well as the “captain” agitator who rallies those virtual troops. 57% of the antagonistic online activism against pharma, food brands, chemical companies, agricultural corporations, insert perceived devil here, are women. And largely, they are uneducated women; 52% have no college degree and 23% no high school diploma. They are stay-at-home moms or work onlypart-timee outside of the home, and say that they are concerned with every trendy, of the moment cause one can conjure, but they are the soldiers. The captains are almost always men; paid agitators and professional activists who we see in every single issue we examine, regardless of industry. The very same ones pop up time and again, to the extent that I would be worried if they did not. They are by now practiced in the art of conscious based seduction and know all too well how to push the guilt ridden buttons of these stay at home moms, and they do it with every increasing efficacy. What these women do not know and have no visibility to is that while they are propagating and perpetuating activist messages, and doing so because they want to feel that their voice matters and can make a difference, the captains who pushed them there are onto the next issue, having already been paid by whatever counter effort engaged them to act in the first place.

Sound familiar? Sweetheart liberals Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and Alec Baldwin might be too extreme or too old for some tastes, but the message can be watered down, too, to suit that solider demographic by deploying the likes of Katy Perry, Beyonce, Demi Lovato and more. Pushers all, who like most good dealers do not partake in the product themselves, but will do whatever it takes to make you feel better and keep you coming back for more. The pushers aren’t too long on detail, and the addicts do not ask too many questions. They’re with the cool kids now, and that’s all that matters. The cool kids care because they’re helping them make a difference; they’re all in this together, except they’re not.

I had initially planned to write about something else today — something quite amusing — but then this just seemed to spill onto the page. The absolute nastiness that was leveled at me online today by complete strangers was breathtaking in its tone and frequency, and yet the most logical part of me cannot understand the genesis of it. I am not a person without temperament —  far from it — and I have lost my cool with more than one airline, bank, hotel, or customs agent, and even God has lost it with Comcast. But never have I had need to lower myself to the most debased of ad hominem attacks on someone I do not know and likely never will. It felt, for a moment, like partisanship in our country is the new racial divide, except unlike being born a minority, political persuasion and how one chooses to both reach that identity and to express it is a choice. A choice provided to us and protected by our Constitution. The fact that we do not feed it more richly, nurture it more selectively, and expose it more respectively has led us to where we are today. We have arrived in a place where civilized discourse, informed exchanges of views and open minded examination have all but died. And unfortunately, this platform by which I now communicate is much of the reason why. We can hide behind avatars, be divided by hundreds or thousands of miles and risk nothing more than a wicked retort. We can speak our mind in 140 characters or less while making the coffee or mixing a drink.

The same vehicle that helped propel our new President to victory has also stolen a great and valuable part of our political past in the form of healthy debate. We do not have to wait more than two seconds for a salacious “news” item to leak online and become our latest focus and newest topic, all the while distracting from the issues that actually matter to us all. When I have challenged people whom I know to be liberals on the specifics of the platforms of their chosen candidates, more often than not, they cannot cogently respond. I realize that I could be perceived to be part of the problem— I have been by the many presumed Democrats who came after me yesterday — having been accused of gross over-generalization. But again, anyone who reads the majority of what I write and does not understand that it’s hyperbolic for the sake of humor is missing more than just the point. Further, I actually am informed. Two undergraduate degrees in Russian & Soviet Politics and International Relations and a grad degree in the same do not put me in the same category as someone who is not willing to do the work in order to have a plinth built of books on which to stand as they shout their view. I read three foreign newspapers every single day and absorb as much foreign policy and national news as one mind can handle while still holding down a high-pressure job in a non-related field. But perhaps more importantly, if I do make a mistake — back the wrong horse or espouse an idea that is proven to be wrong— I will relent, listen, research and rethink my point of view.

The main complaint from those who attack people like me or anyone else who dares have a view that is not their own is that we are generalizing their party, their views and their behavior. For them, I have this to say: if you do not wish to be treated like a stereotype, stop being one. Your party and causes have melted to the ground, so surely now is the best time of all to stop, reflect, examine and be honest, first with yourselves and then with others. And perhaps somewhere along the way, do your best to develop an appreciation of irony and  sense of humor to the same level at which you have perfected your practice of the absurd.

Image Credit: I do not know who coined “Sheeple” or designed the image I used in my header, but I could not think of a more appropriate representation of this topic.

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