Friday, January 10, 2014

The Fallacy of Extremism

I've tried. I've reeeeaaaalllly tried. I've read stories on dozens of news sites, watched videos, and trolled through thousands of comments. Thousands! I've gone to the extremes of both the Left and the Right. I've gone to sites that were more moderate in their views. I've covered the spectrum, trying to find a way to understand and appreciate (even respect) every view that's out there. I've tried.

I can understand the Republican view. I get it. It makes sense. I can understand the view of Democrats as well. I understand the Left and Right, the Liberal and Conservative. What I cannot wrap my head around are the extremists.

For a long time, I've been wracking my brain to understand the extreme views taken by Tea Partiers in particular. While there are undoubtedly extremists on the Left, those on the Right seem to have a special breed of crazy running through them. I decided that I wanted to learn what their values and principles were, why they held the beliefs that they did, and what kind of community they were.

I started with Fox News. Ironically, Fox has become a moderate voice on the Right, and many hardline conservatives scoff at them, calling them part of the liberal MSM. From there, I ventured over the Glenn Beck's website, The Blaze. For a long while, I thought this was the worst I would find. After all, here's a guy who believes in the Gold Standard, speaks out against establishment GOPers, and advocates for preppers and conspiracy nuts.

But recently, my delving into the extreme Right culture took a suprising turn. On a whim, I decided to check out Breitbart.com. If you recall, Andrew Breitbart was a conservative activist who passed away not too long ago. Despite his death, his brand of activist conservatism is still kicking. What I found there was insane. The stories and comments left by readers outstripped even Beck and his followers. The veiled references to Racism on Beck's site were nothing compared to the obvious racial tensions on Breitbart. Also more apparent was the open hostility towards the Left and anyone who didn't agree with those writing.

The most recent move I've made was to look at World Net Daily, which proclaims itself to be the internet's leading news site. Again, I was forced to admit that the stories, comments, language, and overall persona went beyond what I had so far experienced. When I read through some of the headlines and what people wrote in response, I had a sudden revelation.

That revelation was that I had never fully appreciated, or even understood, the extremism that existed in America. I had never taken this much time to read the words of my fellow Americans, and to absorb them. I have known many conservatives, and I have tried to be respectful and friendly with them despite our differing views. However, I have never met anyone who held the beliefs that are presented on these sites.

What perhaps struck me most, aside from the open hostility and closed-mindedness of the contributors, was how convinced they all seemed that they were right and that their view and beliefs would one day be validated. And that is what scared me most. How could people who hold such extremist views, views so obviously filled with prejudice and irrational fear, believe that the rest of the nation would agree with them?

The ultimate fallacy of extremism, of all extremism, is the belief that you are the sole vessel of truth and the right. Those who follow these insane publications and media outlets are no more right than anarchists in their view of where our country should go. But their belief that they are right, and their right to think and say what they do, will always sustain them.

When the last presidential primaries were going on, I remember hearing a conservative commentator mentioning that none of the Republican candidates were conservative enough. I thought he was joking, or at least pandering. Now I see what he meant. For the extremists, there will never be a candidate that is extreme enough. In some ways that is a relief, but I also believe that the extremists will forever be there, pushing a pulling the national discussion in their direction.

It seems strange to think that the Tea Party, that bastion of conservative Ideology, would somehow be able to move itself further to the Right. Just as Democrats should be concerned for the far-left ideologies that infect their extreme corner, the Republicans should do the same. Whether they will, or continue to pander to the extreme is anyone's guess. This year's elections should tell us. I just hope we don't suffer because of them.

1 comment:

samp said...

As we discussed yesterday, I agree that no matter which extreme it is, left or right it's crazy...
Remember the Tea Party was founded on a simple principle i.e. to get back a constitutional form of government. TEA is Taxed Enough Already. It has sadly, in some instances morphed into having some very extreme members "join" the party. Both parties suffer from this extremism.
What I don't accept is that those elected officials that use personal attacks on others. Bloggers can sit anywhere and write anything anonymously. Elected/public officials should have more "class" than to revert to name calling. I'm sure you may not agree but the public name calling seems to be more prevalent on the left or liberal side than from the right. I don't mean the Glenn Becks etc. I mean the Harry Reids and Nancy Polosi's. I think we can both agree that our current "batch" of elected/public officials leave a lot to be desired as far as courtesy and class are concerned. They are, in my mind, a bunch of spoiled, bought-and-paid-for elitists who have no idea what the common American needs. Both sides of the isle are full of them...Leahy, McConnell, McCain, Reid, Polosi and on and on. None interested in anything beyond what's good for them and their reelection. Enough said.