I have a nephew who I admire a lot. When he married early in life, he bought a fourplex and let his renters pay for his home. He used his high school welding training to build a one-man pump repair business that billed over $1 million one year. He is dedicated to his family, and the example he set has carried on to his two children who are committed parents to his grandchildren. Despite these positive traits, there are some of my Facebook friends who don’t understand why I tolerate his repeated castigation of liberals, Democrats, socialists, communists, and “libitards” in his posts.
The reason, of course, is that I cherish opposing ideas. However, his posts are illustrative of why political thinkers on both the right and left are apprehensive about the effect of the flow of unedited information across the internet. He has bought the snake oil and swallowed the Kool-Aid offered by the unbelievable number of websites dedicated to detailing conspiracies.
For my purposes, snake oil is bottling a specific event as an example. Kool-Aid is the collection of these examples as proof of the overriding anti-American values of a group of people who are enemies of Our Way of Life. It truly seems as if, somehow, a well-meaning, even enviable, group of people have been gathered into a collective which sees itself as a defender of traditional American ideals which have been corrupted by the extent of modern thought.
I say this because the names of the websites he posts from, the range of events, and ideas these websites use, promote the one central thought: a nation run amok. These items often have nothing to do with policy. They are about motive and mental competence. They gather up an astounding number of examples; some are false, some are half true, and some mischaracterized, but all serve the same narrative. To this collective, Trump is the “outsider” who will defeat the foes inside our nation and re-establish its ideals. Bernie might have been seen the same way.
The most well-known site he uses is YouTube. The less well-known websites typically have patriotic themes, names denoting real truth or conservative ideals. They are an interesting lot. The articles posted reinforce the villainy of the “other.”
Many of his non-political interests probably identified him as a potential member of the collective. No doubt things he has looked at over the years have added to the frequency of the posts directed his way. Because he shuns items he doesn’t agree with (except, thank goodness, his aunt’s posts) he doesn’t get much fact-checked journalism.
Now, just in case you are one of my readers who believe that you are firmly on another side, please think again. It could be that you are simply buying another brand of snake oil. If you love to see the worst of the other side, gather only with like-minded individuals, watch only commentary you agree with, or do not take time to investigate the news, you could be swallowing a different flavor of Kool-Aid.
Idaho, like its Western cousins, is made up of a history forged by people who wanted to think for themselves and resisted collective thought, but not community. Westerners have always been skeptical of the snake oil salesman, and that has been our strength. Whether the impulse of homegrown authoritarians or an influence outside of our country is using modern communication to push us into collectives, I believe it injures our Western sensibilities to allow it.
My objective with this column is to break out of the collective into the collaborative. I want to suggest ideas that may find common cause and break away from groupspeak. I believe to the tips of my toes that our founding documents were written to allow for both the emergence and death of ideas. That is what is needed to hold a diverse population together cooperatively.