Barack Obama, Conservatism, Donald Trump, FJM Style, Politics, Progressivism, resistance, TrigTent
By and large, media outlets tend to lean in one direction or the other on the political spectrum. It’s a shrewd business move, really — the average consumer doesn’t just want a dull recitation of the facts. They like to be told what those facts represent; they want the information placed in context for them, and outlets are more than happy to oblige.
Consumers can always check the news wires (Reuters, AP and the like) for the latest information and use that information to inform their stance on a given issue. If we all did that, however, there would be no need for FOX News, no need for MSNBC; those outlets exist not to give us the news, but to tell us how we should feel about the news.
This is not ideal.
We are placing the responsibility of contextualizing information in the hands of a team of people and corporate interests whose agendas may or may not be known to us. As a result, our ability to approach topics with an open mind and a willingness to consider opposing viewpoints is entering a state of atrophy.
The articles at TrigTent (where I do the bulk of my writing) are opinion-based, I’ll grant you, but it’s one of the only sites that offers an equal platform for completely opposing views. And in that spirit, I’d like to talk about a piece that was recently published called “Progressivism Is Built On Hate And Intimidation,” written by my colleague Adam Casalino. (Excerpts from the piece are listed below in bold.)
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Fox News, Breitbart, the Washington Times (not to be confused with the Washington Post), The Federalist, and any other number of right-wing media outlets would have you believe that there are two groups of people in this country.
On one side are the conservatives. They are the real Americans: the patriots; the people who love America; who honor the Constitution, love the Bible, and want to protect and defend America’s status as a Christian nation. On the other, according to this belief, is everyone else. Liberals. The intellectual and coastal elites. Snowflakes who cry about needing safe spaces; who demand participation trophies; who are more concerned about political correctness and making sure not to offend anybody than they are about protecting this great nation from Islamic terrorists.
The implication, of course, is that people who aren’t conservative aren’t real Americans; below the sinew and bone of that sentiment lies the beating heart of another, deeper belief: the left hates America. In Adam’s piece, that belief is laid bare.
There is a double standard at play here.
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As a wave of nationalism and patriotism is sweeping many parts of the Western world, we are seeing a reaction from groups that seem to be threatened by it.
“Nationalism” is a love for one’s country, warts and all, coupled with a desire to improve the country one loves so much. What Adam is referring to could more accurately be described as “ethnonationalism.” Progressives are not threatened by an outpouring of love for America; they are threatened by conservatives’ attempts to co-opt what it means to be “American” (preferably white, Christian, English-speaking, and heterosexual). As much as conservatives like to claim that they’re the only ones who love America, it’s becoming more and more obvious that what they really mean is they love America circa 1950, when everybody knew their place and everything was much easier.
You have to wonder about a movement that masks themselves in frightening black clothing and masks (clothing they bought at stores thanks to capitalism, by the way).
This line of reasoning, perhaps more than any other, is what irritates me so much about many conservatives. They seize every opportunity to play up how “scary,” “violent” and “anti-American” anti-fascist protesters are, yet were curiously silent when it came to threats on President Obama’s life (Obama received, on average, 30 death threats a day) and cheered when once-upon-a-time rock star Ted Nugent called for the execution of Hillary Clinton and our then-President (whom Nugent also referred to as a “subhuman mongrel.” There’s that patriotism we all know and love.)
Also, it’s worth noting that living and operating in a capitalist society and simultaneously wanting to change that structure are not mutually exclusive.
[The Left] are violent revolutionaries, in the tradition of Stalin and Lenin, bent on disrupting our culture, laws, and ways of life. Their end goal is to transform our countries—into something darker and evil.
American culture is, by its very nature, an amalgamation of all cultures, hence the term “melting-pot.” Now, I don’t know Adam, so I can’t — and won’t — make any assumptions about what he defines as “our culture.” But this further bolsters the point I made before: anyone who does not share conservative values is considered to be an enemy of all that is right and good.
[We] are seeing die-hard leftists, so-called champions of progress and liberalism, acting out of hatred. In 2017 the United States has suffered significant violence, not from radical Islamic terrorists, but by domestic, left wing radicals who act like terrorists.
As far as politics are concerned, we have a tendency to pay more attention to things that reinforce our world view and less attention to events that do not align with our perspective. In most cases, this isn’t deliberate; it’s a natural reaction. So with that in mind, I decided to do a little research on this claim. I went to DailyCaller.com to get the unbiased story; they assured me the list was “mind blowing,” and sure enough, it was: 35 reported cases of violence aimed at conservatives since last April. Luckily, nobody was seriously injured or killed (at least, as far as I can verify) in these attacks.
Be honest: which side has been silencing speech, burning schools and cities, spewing hatred for those that are different than themselves, and spreading fear and hysteria? It’s not the conservatives.
Yes, it is.
In his book “U.S. vs. Them,” J. Peter Scoblic investigates the rise of what he terms “Cold War conservatism,” the foundation upon which the current strain of conservatism was built. He further claims that “’conservative’ describes a distinct attitude in which the world is conceived in terms of ‘us versus them’ or ‘good versus evil’ […] It is often an explicitly religious vision, with frequent allusions not only to good and evil, but also to God, Satan, and Armageddon.” This may sound familiar, especially if you’ve ever read an InfoWars article.
It’s not just the fringe elements, either — Fox News has been on the “good vs. evil” bandwagon since shortly after 9/11, and they’ve been trumpeting “America’s coming civil war” since at least 2012. One might think Fox News wants a civil war to break out, if only to justify their incessant fear- and hate-mongering since the outset of the Obama administration.
It never ceases to amaze me when conservatives attempt to claim that the practice of “spewing hatred for those that are different than themselves and spreading fear and hysteria” somehow originated on the left.
Oh, and as far as “spreading fear and hysteria” is concerned? When I was researching the aforementioned DailyCaller report of left-on-right violence, I also took the time to look up the data for right-on-left violence, just to see how they stack up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find data for same time span (April 2016 – June 2017); what I did find, though, was a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which noted that “[in] the ten days following the election, there were 867 reports of harassment and intimidation.”
You might be thinking “Well, harassment and intimidation aren’t violence — nobody was harmed.” If that’s the case, then the real number of incidences of violence against conservatives reported by DailyCaller drops to 25; in 10 of the 35 cases they mentioned, nobody was physically harmed.
Since there isn’t a one-stop source for data on right-wing physical violence, here are the instances I can recall off the top of my head:
- The shooting in a Quebec mosque by a Trump-supporting white nationalist;
- The murder of Lieutenant Richard Collins III by a white nationalist;
- The stabbing murders of Army veteran Rick Best and Taliesin Namkai-Meche (and wounding of Micah David-Cole Fletcher) by a right-wing extremist after they attempted to stop him from harrassing a Muslim woman in a hijab on a train in Oregon, and;
- The shooting in Kansas of two Hindu men (one of the Hindu men, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was killed) and a white man who attempted to stop the gunman, a far-right extremist.
The rebuttal to this argument is, of course, that “not all conservatives are far-right extremists.” And this is true; however, if I’m going to concede that point, it would be nice if those on the opposite side of this debate conceded that 1) not everyone on the left is a progressive, 2) not all progressives are anti-fascists, and 3) not all anti-fascists engage in violent tactics.
You see, most of us gentle conservatives believe America is great because of our traditions, largely thanks to the foundation of our country: faith in God and the Constitution. Both go hand in hand.
“The government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
-John Adams, Treaty of Tripoli, 1796
If you want to argue that God is indeed at the heart of America, feel free, but nowhere did the Founding Fathers specify that the God to which they referred in other writings is the Christian God.
They believe the Founding Fathers were evil, because they were white, cis males, who owned slaves. They point to all the flaws of our early history as proof America was built on injustices and evils. They ignore the virtues of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, only acknowledging the mistakes.
The argument is not that the Founding Fathers were evil; the argument is that society has made massive strides since the 1700s, and that it is absurd to cling to cultural and social norms from over 250 years ago as justification for not doing enough to help those who need it.
And in point of fact, America was built on injustices and evils. For proof, let’s look at Howard Zinn on Christopher Columbus — you know, the guy we celebrate every year:
In his quest for gold, Columbus, seeing bits of gold among the Indians, concluded there were huge amounts of it. He ordered the natives to find a certain amount of gold within a certain period of time. And if they did not meet their quota, their arms were hacked off. The others were to learn from this and deliver the gold.
Columbus’ thirst for gold remained unslaked, leading him to his next money-making venture: the invention of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. That is the foundation upon which America was built. Canonizing these people and disregarding their terrible actions is of no benefit to us as a society. Everything doesn’t have to be black and white; it is possible to appreciate the work the Founding Fathers did to establish this country while still acknowledging their numerous flaws as individuals. Doing so does not automatically invalidate their accomplishments.
Why do you think they fight so hard to remove the Confederate flag or statues of Confederate leaders? It’s not because they are reminders of slavery.
This is correct: it’s not because the statues are reminders of slavery. It’s because they’re celebrations of the so-called “heroes” of the antebellum American South. You know, where they had slaves.
Yet if we ignore something as significant as the Civil War—and the brave men and women who fought to end slavery and reunite the nation—we lose a part of ourselves.
The idea is not to pretend the Civil War didn’t happen — nobody is doing that. It’s about not having statues honoring Jefferson Davis. You can have pride in the South without erecting a monument to a man who once said:
It would grant me much relief to learn your sons were engaged matrimonially to other white men if I was previously faced with the spectre of those same sons wedding negro women, slave or free, and siring negro sons that could presume to claim inheritance of your namesakes and property, or worse, equality with your purer grandchildren.
Right after the election, Muslims, gays, and immigrants were terrified. Why? Because Trump had promised to march them off to internment camps? No, because liberal outlets lied in order to spread fear. Some actually believed that Trump was going to persecute gays—despite his open support for the LGBT community.
Trump opened his campaign by asserting that the majority of Mexican immigrants were “rapists and murderers,” which would seem appropriate cause for alarm. And I’m sure Muslims were similarly encouraged by Trump’s previous claims that “Islam hates us” and that he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey “cheering on 9/11.” Liberal outlets did not “lie in order to spread fear”; they reported what he said.
As far as gay rights are concerned, let’s not forget that Trump’s second-in-command is Mike Pence, a religious fundamentalist who has stated that gay couples are a sign of “societal collapse,” opposed an anti-discrimination law that would protect LGBT people in the workplace, and opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” because he didn’t want the military to become “a backdrop for social experimentation.” And, as you’ll recall, Trump’s plan on the campaign trail was to authorize his VP to handle all domestic and foreign policy. The LGBTQ+ community can be forgiven for thinking Trump’s selection of running mate didn’t bode well for the progress made under the Obama administration.
That’s why leaders in Black Lives Matter tell even sympathetic whites “You’ll always be racists, no matter what.”
The Movement for Black Lives isn’t a progressive organization. Its members are not a monolith; people from across the political spectrum are welcome. Second, the Movement for Black Lives simply asks white allies to do three things:
- Consider the inherent privilege they enjoy by being white in a historically racist nation;
- Understand that they are there to support the movement, not to dictate the movement’s direction, and;
- Support the movement by combating racial injustice at all times, not just when it’s convenient.
Further, I’ve never heard any prominent member of the Movement for Black Lives claim that all white people are irredeemably racist. If that were the case, there would be no white allies.
[Leftists] are trying to propagate the concept that winning is wrong. Achieving success in business and earning money, and therefore spending that money on a big house and furnishings, is bad.
This is more of a socialist argument than a progressive one. For the record, I agree in principle that there’s nothing wrong with making money; where I suspect my and Adam’s views differ is in the amount of faith we have that the wealthy will act in the interest of the poor.
This is not a political ideology so much as it’s a philosophical one; I do not expect the wealthy to look out for the poor of their own volition. In a fair and equitable society, perhaps they would; in our society, however, the rule of the day is “kill or be killed.”
Much like what went on in the Ministry of Love in 1984, their aim is to destroy our societies built on Biblical principles that call all people to a higher way of living. People like that are hard to control. The left wants to strip us of our humanity, dignity, and personality, so we can blindly follow them.
And herein lies the double standard: the notion that conservatives are somehow more pure, more elevated, more compassionate, while “the left” is comprised of individuals who hate everyone who doesn’t agree with them and want to see them destroyed. This argument fails to take into account the constant cry from conservatives that America’s cultural values are declining — 88% of conservatives in 2016, to be exact.
That number has since lowered to 77% following Trump’s Electoral College victory, despite our country having elected as our President a thrice-married serial adulterer who cheats the people who work for him out of fair pay; who scammed the people who signed up for his real-estate seminars; who incites violence against those who disagree with him; who once boasted about groping unsuspecting women; and who may have worked with a foreign adversary to win the 2016 election.
If adultery, fraud, sexual harassment, and a penchant for lying don’t appear to bother conservatives, it begs the question: what kind of “cultural values” are we talking about?
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Progressives believe this country does a piss-poor job of offering equal rights and opportunities for all citizens, not just a select few; I would think it impossible to argue with that sentiment, but here we are. Reasonable people can disagree about whether or not it is possible for progressives to “love” America and, at the same time, expect more from the self-proclaimed “greatest nation in the world”; it’s certainly up for interpretation.
From my perspective, it appears that progressives may not be in love with America, but they do love America. And they are at least invested enough in its continued success to want to have a hand in shaping its future.
To be clear, I personally don’t support or condone acts of violence. But it would be foolish to pretend that unrest, protest and, yes, even the destruction of the odd piece of property aren’t useful tools to effect social and cultural change, provided they are deployed responsibly and with a tangible goal in mind.
Acts of political demonstration — whether they be marches, boycotts, or the occasional black bloc tactic — aren’t acts of hate or intimidation. More often than not, they’re expressions of anger and fear. Instead of tut-tutting about how “frightening” and unsettling it is to see angry people on television, perhaps our energy would be better spent attempting to understand why they’re so angry.
Progressivism is no more rooted in hate than are conservatism, liberalism or libertarianism. In its simplest form, progressivism is rooted in a desire for equality for all. The acts of political violence that a small faction of progressives are carrying out are not evidence that progressivism is inherently violent, nor are they proof positive that the so-called “left” wants to bend the rest of the God-fearing world to its will.
These acts are simply a means to be heard. We would do well to listen.