Extremism: The New Toxic Starbucks of the Internet

On a bit more than a hunch I googled “how liberals are” – the first two entries that came up were just what I expected. “Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity …” and “Secular Sabotage: How Liberals Are Destroying Religion and Culture in America…” – no wonder we have police chiefs firing his weapon at imaginary liberals on youtube. It used to be that liberals were, in the minds of conservatives, just an irritating bunch who were “a little pinko” or “prone to taxing and going easy on loafers and slow to bomb commies”. They were people a conservative could snort at, and dismiss–or vote against. But now in the minds of an increasing number of ordinary people, “liberals” are murdering, devil-worshipping plotters against the family and the church, ready to turn us over to an atheist dictatorship. The term has gotten to be a septic epithet…

The internet is famously a mixed blessing. And giving extremist rhetoric a much, much, much wider audience is part of the mixture. When I was a kid, I saw a billboard for the extreme-right paranoiac John Birch Society–once. It warned about communist plots against our water…And I saw a John Birch Society pamphlet (I think it was in a barber shop). Once. But now it’s as if the John Birch Society, or its equivalent, is almost a kind of Starbucks of lunacy on the internet. There are flat-out, blatant anti-semitic screeds on youtube. Real NeoNazi propaganda stuff. White Supremacists websites are common. Sites claiming that Obama is planning to put all gun owners or Christians in concentration camps are common. This is not conservatism; this is extremism.

These toxic memes are plots against our “water”–they’re poisoning the collective conceptual well.

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