How Extremists shape the divisiveness

     What goes around comes around. Today, we have access to all the knowledge imaginable, we can learn the history of so many individuals and we can socialize with anybody. But instead of being tolerant free thinkers influenced by the abundance of this worldwide knowledge, we tend to be more clustered within our own kind and have less respect for different views and opinions. We want to reinforce our assumptions. Even the horrible past brought by blind divisiveness (wars, segregation, genocide) is not slowing today’s divisions. Instead of engaging with people from whom we can learn, we connect with people from whom we can get likes and praise. I guess Goethe was right when he said “Everyone hears only what he understands”. The older generation is getting its biased information from TV while the younger generations are gaining more extremist views from their internet connected phones. Social media sites are ruled by trolls and factions spreading fake news, stupid memes and biased information. Cable News is doing the same exact thing, replacing journalists by talk show hosts.

     Nothing is easier than creating a twitter account, messing around as an “anonymous” on 4chan or having a website. Anybody can share any thoughts to the world with only the click of a button, and anybody can like, share and promote it as easily. Online content is made to be widespread. So the mainstream institutions from which you can rely on are being sandwiched by extremist views which are the ones that people share and talk about. The left and the right extremists learn about the unfairness of their society (whether true or not) and demand a change without compromise. These platforms are playing on these fears and help create extremist leaders or wanna-be leaders. Racist views are more easily expressed everywhere while in the contrary the left is trying to suppress free speech to everybody who does not agree with its agenda.

     What is the difference between the Daily Stormer – a neo nazi “news” website – and Dabiq – the propaganda ISIS magazine? They both have the same purpose, increasing tensions by using conspiracy theories and racial differences. Mix this with Breitbart, Alex Jones, Donald Trump and the trolls of 4chan who enjoy memes with racial, sexist, homophobic ideas . This creates a whole network of increased tensions coming from the right wing of America. This whole right side of the spectrum is doing everything it can to gather support on their divisional agenda. And in front of them you have a fringe of the left whose goal is to mute everybody who disagrees with them while in the same time wanting equality for all. What is the difference between leftists asking for people to be forbidden to speak and China’s Great Firewall? Spreading hatred is horribly wrong and disgraceful, but claiming to wish for equality by silencing opponents is just as bad. The lesson that the left has to understand is that there cannot be equality without authoritarianism. This is the moment when the left really has to be the better woman. Freedom of speech is the most important fundamental idea. When they spread hatred let’s be better at spreading love. “When they go low, we go high” Michelle said, right?

     The problem with the more and more loud extremist left is that a person who one day expressed an inch of a controversial idea is, in their mind, an enemy. We live in a tyranny of the louder. Who is always the loudest? The extremist. Today, a person is only forced to apologize by a twitter mob, not by facts. What happens when a person comes into power who decides that the loudest is right and jails people for expressing racist views, or someone who doesn’t believe in climate change or is against abortion? The answer to these stupid ways of thinking is not forbidding them. What is also scaring me is that you can see an antagonization of White straight males and females by some on the left. It seems like they are not as good an ally as people who have suffered from some kind of discrimination. Let’s be clear. Racism exists. Sexism exists. Homophobia exists. But not all white persons are racists. Not all men are sexists and not all straight persons are homophobic. I will never understand how, having suffered from any of these mistreatments, anybody can feel ok mistreating others in return. No one has ever solved injustice by being unjust. But throughout history we have plenty of examples of ideas and regimes which praised equality and ended up being authoritarian. A perfect world cannot exist without taking away liberties, which makes it an oxymoron…

     Yes I can say something stupid. Of course I can say something offensive. You can bet that I have crazy ideas. But we live in a country which has freedom of speech stated in its first amendment. I am allowed to express flawed ideas or to be wrong. It should not make me a bad person. Correcting me or having a debate on the subject is the best action. Shaming me because I did not know or treating me like an enemy is not the way to make me change or improve. I understand that outright outrage sells (and spreads) more than asking to clarify. Sometimes what I say is not what I mean. Either because I was not able to express myself correctly, or because I spoke too fast. In any case, judging an opinion on its – felt – impact instead of on its meaning is wrong. This increases tensions. Apologies are better than censure in a free world. We just need to understand that people with the best intentions do not always do the right things. But the goal is to make everyone better themselves. If you are offended it is your duty to educate the offender. Or to debate the whole event.

     Let’s be honest, more and more people get offended by merely everything and anything. Social media was supposed to be a media to become more social. But it became a place where everyone is looking for its own “Gotcha” moment. Which now reverberates on real life. There is an increase in anti social behaviour, from everybody. And Far left extremists live in this utopia that no one ought to get hurt, implying that we should start talking like in Orwell’s 1984… this is exactly what we would expect from a far right regime. The Nazis were not “National Socialists” for nothing; They were feeding anger to every side of the spectrum. Far left and Far right ideas tend to come back to the same principle in the end: My truth is more important than the Truth and I will do everything I can to impose it on everybody else.

     One of the great thing of our time – which was spread by the internet – is that we finally have the opportunity to listen to everybody’s voice. But one horrible thing of our time is also that we think that everybody’s opinion has the same weight. People have more trust in their “anonymous” friends online than in experts. People feel that because John Oliver said this or Fox News said that, that it can only be true. Internet was supposed to bring us to the next level in terms of critical thinking but still, the majority of people continue to be uninformed and manipulated by the opinion of someone they trust. Here is the problem, it’s an opinion, not an expertise. Sadly both sides decide to focus on all the differences they need to protect instead of the similitudes they need to unite.

     We also – wrongly – believe that everybody’s feelings have to be taken into account. It is now forbidden to say or do something wrong or stupid, in public or in private. If you happen to express anything that is no longer accepted by a certain group of people, you can expect to be “tweetsecuted” (= persecuted and prosecuted on and by twitter). And these attacks come mostly from the supposedly liberals. Accuracy or relevance doesn’t matter in this case; you just need to get as many people as you can to make it a real cause. Everyone now is interested in coverage. If it’s watched, if it’s retweeted, it matters. Even if it’s a cat video or fake news spread by Russian bots. People love attention. Even if it comes from something that does not matter. And this movement is coming mostly from the new generation. They act in the same way as conspiracy theorists. Their clan or biased source is more valuable than a “mainstream”, trustworthy one. When Bill Maher is invited at Berkeley to make a commencement speech , the extremists few – aka the loudest – decide to campaign against him claiming that he is a racist – aka their Truth. I disagree with most of what Bill says about Islam; But if you watch him, or if you listen to something else than what your “trusted” friend tells you, you know he is not a racist. Moreover, can you believe that people who claim to be the defenders of everybody’s rights (liberals) force universities to spend thousands of dollars in protection details every time a conservative speaker is invited to speak?

     Another example, when a black audience, shouting at Bernie Sanders to say “Black” instead of the more politically correct “African American” that politicians use (which was coined by a black person… I still personally hate it unless we start calling Whites “European Americans” though), what is their purpose? Attacking friends for semantic is not helping any cause. And what about the Washington Redskins controversy? A – loud – minority who despise the name convinced influential non Native Americans that it is offensive. On 2 different polls, 90% of Native Americans were not bothered about it. But still, many people are convinced it is a slur. Let’s give it a little perspective and let’s talk about Oklahoma. The name of this state, which has been suggested by a Choctaw Nation Chief, means literally “red people”. If Redskins is offensive, then Oklahoma is offensive. Or because no one understands what it really means, people don’t care? The loudest complain and many extremists start to agree and share. It is spread, talked about and debated. Facts do not matter anymore. What matters is each other’s “truth”. Everyone has to speak out to be broadcasted. Everyone has to pick a side.

     Today, most issues are made to be partisan. Most people would rather speak about porn stars, cabinet replacements, Russia, than real issues such as the welfare of the poor, the Climatextinction or international relations. But these issues are not easy to understand for most people.

     And that’s where it all comes back to. Education, knowledge, critical thinking. What is the point of being the first economy in the world, the country of freedom if it means having such an illiterate population? The younger generation, who think they are better than their old folks, spend 10 seconds on a news video or on the title of an article (without reading the article) and spend an hour watching videos and pictures of their friends. Young generations spend more time connected online with their “friends” but less time physically connected with their countrymen. And both sides are having an identity crisis. All extremists are always going to focus on what impacts you – or what you believe impacts you – to turn you to their cause. Immigrants take your job. Bill Maher is a racist. Etc. People and organizations have found the way to manipulate and use the fears and the divisiveness of the uneducated people. We cannot only blame the broken educational system though (how is it legal to teach creationism or that racism does not exist anymore?). We also have to blame families, companies, churches, associations, etc. for spreading misinformation or for not denouncing the hatred that exists in their communities. And frankly, there is not much difference between a vegan, anti-vax, anti-GMO person and a Climate Change denier, pro-gun, pro-life person. They are both manipulated by misinformation and groupthink and this is doubleplusungood for everybody.

     We all need to make an effort and try to understand the other person. We are all here living in the same place, trying to make it a better one for us and our families. Just like the BirthRight Israel invites jewish people (from the diaspora) to Israel for a 10 day trip to learn about their origins and culture, why couldn’t we set up a 10 day trip for teenagers from every State going to see the minority in their state that contributed, suffered or is still suffering (a poor white going to see a museum about racism and a poor black neighbourhood, a rich white who thinks only blacks suffer to go in a very poor white neighborhood, etc.).  We could end this with a circle where we put them together to speak about what they learned, what they still don’t understand or believe and how to fix it. This is just an idea, but we need to fight the fight. During the days of the American Revolution, New Yorker Alexander McDougall said “I fear liberty is in danger from the licentiousness of the people”. That’s how I feel today. We cannot let the divisiveness persist. 

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