I want to talk about extremists today: whether left wing, right wing, or simply totally insane, there is a common thread to them all – an unshakable belief that their way is the only right way, and that everyone else is wrong – an attitude that often does more harm than good...
While I typically try to constrain my rants to industry and Webmastering issues, much of what I'll touch upon today has been a rash upon the various message boards at one time or another, and as such presents fair game as a subject of community interest and discussion. Let's get into it:
The advent of the Internet has served to shrink our global village further than ever before; and while this has exposed more people to more ideas and viewpoints, it has also brought these differing opinions into conflict with one another, and provided a mechanism that offers everyone a voice – regardless of what they wish to say, its accuracy and verity, or the agenda driving the statements.
While in a Utopian world this situation would breed a healthy discourse for the benefit of humanity, the reality is that the more balanced viewpoints tend to be drowned out by the hysterics of extremists who neither see, nor care, about "the other side's" position. Let's examine a few examples:
John Ashcroft: A Christian ideologue bent on saving America from itself, the Attorney General is a strong believer in good old-fashioned decency and morals. Is he "wrong" for wanting to "clean up" America? No. But his extremism was illustrated when he had that statue covered up because her "tits" were showing – something he ordered in defense of his faith.
This level of extremism will alienate many of his otherwise supporters, especially if he directs the Justice Department to prosecute "mainstream" pornographers, including the "big boys" like General Motors, HBO, and others involved in popular porn. Ashcroft's extremism has blinded him to the fact that at this point in American culture, going after mainstream porn involves hurting consumers and corporations – not "protecting victims."
Stick to hunting down the child pornographers and other "extremists" John, things will go smoother and you'll do more good...
The Taliban: Islamic ideologues bent on saving the world from itself, the former rulers of Afghanistan are strong believers in good old-fashioned decency and morals. Are they "wrong" for wanting to "clean up" the world? No. But their extremism was illustrated when they had the ancient statues of Buddha destroyed because they promoted an alternative religious ideal.
This level of extremism has alienated many of their otherwise supporters, including women who have been re-relegated to their historic roles as subservient property. Their extremism has blinded them to the fact that supporting and harboring Usama bin-Laden and al-Qaeda after the September 11th attacks would instigate their downfall and eventual extermination.
I will not go into "why" America was attacked, and is so hated by hundreds of millions (if not billions) of people worldwide, or into the honorable work that these "Islamic militants" have undertaken in defense of their faith – work that continues today as Iranian Mullahs attempt to subvert Iraqi political reformation.
You may be "right" boys, but no "good" will come of what you're doing...
Bush Bashers: One of the benefits – and drawbacks – of the American political system is its susceptibility to outside influence in the form of pundits, personalities, and payola. In this election year, the bullshit is piling up faster than it can be shoveled and force-fed to a naive populace, falsely secure in their perceived understanding of the democratic political process.
Manipulation is the order of the day, with the liberal media jousting with the conservative outlets, and more lies, half, and mistruths being spouted and spun in an effort to seize (or retain) power.
Want an easy example? I'm a big fan of C-Span's morning call-in show, "Washington Journal" – and will often work to the sound of it droning on in the background. For those unfamiliar with it, the premise is simple: three phone lines lead in; one each for Democrats, Republicans and "Independents." The show's moderator will read highlights from the day's top news stories, as well as feature studio debates and discussions with a variety of politicians and other parties – and viewers can call in to ask questions and make comments. Ideally, this is democracy in its purest form; a virtual "town meeting' if you will.
The problem is extremist manipulation: While many folks want to have a voice, there are only three lines, and limited time, so not everyone – or every viewpoint – can be heard. Seeing an opportunity to influence the course of discussion on one of the most powerful shows on television, various political organizations have implemented "call centers" – frequently staffed by retirees – to "work the phone lines." The goal is simple: get "on the air" and read the day's scripted message, while denying "the enemy" the opportunity to do the same. The method is simple: dozens if not hundreds of folks speed dialing across all three lines, in what we might consider a combination spam and denial of service attack. If you can keep legitimate calls from "the other side" from being heard by tying up their phone line, while ensuring that your pablum du jour hits the airwaves, you've succeeded.
Unfortunately, those doing the calling at these centers often have no real grasp of the facts or the position they are being paid (or volunteering) to promote, and the unwary listener is left with a false impression of the pulse of the nation. The show's producers are of course acutely aware of this situation and do all they can to stifle such interference – an interference usually emanating from the extreme liberal sector...
The point to this example is that well-meaning but ill-informed individuals often passionately expound a particular position despite being ignorant (or worse, uncaring) of the facts. Think you know enough about the American political system to voice an informed and knowledgeable opinion? If you don't know what the "Electoral College" does, what "gerrymandering" is, and what the true function of "Political Action Committees" are (among a host of other political influences), then you should find out – it will be an eye-opening experience that just might change your mind about a lot of things – including the harm that is often caused by extremists.
In the case of "Bush Bashers" – the upcoming election is being vigorously contested by the Democratic party who hope to regain the White House at whatever cost – including "the truth" – and have spared no effort or expense to manipulate and spin the facts into the biggest bunch of lies and misrepresentation to hit a campaign since the old Daley days in Chicago. The folks behind this campaign of misinformation have the same mentality as the anti-Microsoft camp – "We don't care about the facts, we hate Bill Gates!" Why? Because a certain misguided segment thinks "it's cool" to do so. The same applies to Bush Bashers – they don't grasp the facts and can't separate reality from political hype, they just hate George Bush...
Even some who consider themselves quite "moderate" can also be "extremists" – although they'll deny it with every fiber of their being. Case in point: proponents of "political correctness" who demand a public whitewashing of truth, in favor of the position that benefits them the most. Whether that benefit involves more votes, more sales, or more friends, the disingenuous nature of these hypocrites stifles the truth more than all the ranting of extremists combined by removing the facts and truth from the discussion at hand out of fear of "offending" those who might otherwise be shown for what they truly are – all in the hopes of somehow currying their favor. This misplaced boot licking has done much more to harm society than the average person can grasp.
In the final analysis, are extreme viewpoints, and the extremists who present them, "wrong?" While "they" don't think so (and will continue to proclaim the superiority of their position), the real answer depends upon your own perspective, including which set of "extremists" you're more inclined to listen to and believe. Regardless of anything else, extreme viewpoints often only muddy the waters of thoughtful discourse, and obfuscate the facts in favor of promoting a particular issue or agenda – something that only hinders the wise who seek a deliberate analysis of all positions in an attempt to develop their own. Stay open minded! ~ Stephen