I’m not a big believer in the Liberal Democratic Experiment we have been living since the Enlightenment, which posits some supposed neutral secular space. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t see some of the benefits to this order or its superiority over some other types of political and economic arrangements. Most such things are a mixed bag.
Coming from a conservative, fundamentalist/evangelical background I was of course a registered Republican for many years. My leaving the first world entailed also leaving the second. I am now a registered Independent. While having little faith in either major political party, as both seem controlled by corporate and private money, I have been content with either in power, as long as each is checked in some way.
I say this only to note I was basically fine with the Obama Presidencies, but I would have been able to live with a McCain or Romney Presidency too. Why? Because each were intelligent, morally fit, and basically decent people. Prior to 2016, in general, one could still have honest political discussions and reasonable disagreements. While we might question the candidates’ political philosophies and policies, we rarely questioned their basic decency or sincerity. Or at least not to the extent we do now, with the current presidency. We were also averse to believing outrageous conspiracy theories regarding either party’s candidate.
However, that was then, this is now. I found myself shocked in the lead up to the 2016 election when I began to notice people who previously had seemed reasonable and measured in their political surmising, now putting out sensational and ridiculous assertions regarding, especially, the Democratic candidate. And then I noticed the hate. Not only did they disagree with a person’s political views, they called the person “scum,” and “demonic.” Not only did they want them to lose the election, they wanted them locked up and put in prison. I wondered to myself: What in the world was happening?
Well, what was happening, what we have suspected for some time, was born out in recent reports prepared for the Senate and Senate Intelligence Committee. What these reports show is a massive propaganda campaign, by the Russian government, directed especially at conservative audiences for the purpose of supporting the candidacy of Donald J. Trump. And, clearly, it worked. People wondered how in the world a person like Trump could become president, and now we know. He was able to do it with outside help—the sort of help we have never seen before, either in scale, or in type (social networking).
However, we should not blame the Russians. They were simply doing what all modern “super-powers” do, if they are allowed. They were maintaining their standing in the world and seeking to weaken geopolitical enemies or rivals. People forget that Putin saw the fall of the old Soviet Union as a disaster for Russia, something to mourn and repair, not something to take as permanent. As long as he is in power, the Russian state is no friend of the US or the West.No, the blame does not lie with the Russians. They simply took advantage of what was already present. They knew the undercurrents of racism, sexism, and a propensity to believe loud-mouthed bullies, over reasoned argument, was already there to be exploited. They knew that a culture where there were still significant pockets of people who believed the moon landing was fake, was a culture ready to be hoodwinked.
And, frankly, I think we need to look at the fundamentalist/evangelical world and the ordinary American citizens who listened to them. For years now they have peddled the idea that all one needs is the Bible (or their “gut”) and that science, experts, academia, mainstream journalism, “secular” literature/philosophy, the arts, and the so-called “elites” are not to be trusted, nor believed. While I harbor no naïve belief in each of those areas of inquiry, elites, or their pronouncements, only a fool would summarily dismiss or ignore their contribution to one’s algorithm of being informed and forming opinions.
For decades they have spread false conspiracy theories regarding the “End Times,” and supposed connections to geo-political events and people. Their theories regarding supposed “Anti-Christs,” and “new world orders,” the “Illuminati,” the “Rothschilds,” and endless speculations about such matters, have formed people for generations now to give credence to simplistic, mind-numbing and stupid conspiracy theories. These people have been primed and even discipled to give credence to abject nonsense (like this), if it seems to bolster or support much of what they already believed, regardless of facts, history, consensus, or the very best theological, philosophical, academic, and scientific understandings.
The Russians knew this. They exploited a sub-set of the population—a sub-set (remember, Trump only won because of 107,000 votes spread across 3 states) that had been prepared for decades by ignorant politicians, right-wing activists, and fundamentalist/evangelical pastors and leaders. We can cast the blame around as much as we please. We could blame Trump and his hateful media enablers; we could blame the Russians and other state actors; we could blame a social media too addicted to consumer information and greed. All these and more we could blame and name as the enemy.
However, such would be casting the blame where it least lies. We have met the enemy. It is us.
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