I wrote this Tweet a little over a month ago as a quick expression of a much deeper conversation happening within my mind.
The longer I have been removed from partisan politics, the more observation I have done from this more neutral standpoint, the more clearly I see what is happening today, mostly on the Right (because that’s where I used to be) and within the American Evangelical Church.
I see a common motivation behind dramatic posts I see these days in my Facebook newsfeed, and it’s one to which I’ve seen far too many people fall victim: control people without them realizing they are being controlled by instilling within them a fear of being controlled.
I used to be a willing participant of this manipulative narrative so I feel like it’s almost my duty to write these words in hopes that it can help someone else.
Friend, you are being fed a false narrative that there is always a battle to be fought. This sense of perpetual embattlement, this continual teaching that someone is out to get you (usually it’s about the Democratic Party) or control you, is actually being used to control you.
Those who live in fear of being controlled, those who are convinced that there is a never-ending battle against them and that someone is out to get them, are usually the ones being controlled by those telling them these narratives.
If you can convince people that there’s a battle to fight and an enemy trying to do harm, they will do just about anything you ask of them. They will give money, they will storm the Capitol, they will spread conspiracy theories that undermine whoever it is you’re trying to undermine. When there are no real threats, you can invent dramatic-sounding threats and ensure they are repeated until they are believed by many. Look at QAnon or just about any source of “outrage” that you see today. What is the common theme behind so many of these conspiracy theories? Control.
No one is trying to control you. No one is trying to ruin our country. There is no one out to get you.
Sometimes things do happen that seem suspicious, but often it’s just due to a lack of understanding on our part. There are usually sound reasons behind those circumstances but it’s easier (and more fun) to believe that there’s a grand conspiracy taking place that you’re helping to uncover. And, it’s easier to just go with it than to seek out primary sources and accurate data/information.
A current example of this is the “outrage” over a certain upcoming trial not being live-streamed; the truth is that it’s in a level of court that has never allowed cameras at all, but people are manufacturing outrage by insisting that there must be a cover up taking place because of the subject matter of the trial.
Another example: the president doesn’t have as much power as many think he does. He doesn’t control gas prices, for example.
Facts matter, and as Sharon McMahon loves to say, “Facts don’t require our approval.”
Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t mean that it’s a conspiracy. In fact, it’s probably not.
Just because someone disagrees with you or sees things differently doesn’t mean that they are an enemy trying to harm you.
Don’t assign nefarious intent to something or someone simply because it’s not what or how you believe.
I’ve written a lot about partisanship and listening to understand in the past year and I’d love for you to check out those posts as well. Our country must change how we approach those different from ourselves if we are to survive. You can find many of those posts here.
When we dehumanize the other side, it’s easy to believe terrible things about them.
To conclude, I’d like to quote my favorite movie because it continues to be so relevant. As President Andrew Shepherd said in his final speech in The American President:
America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours…
We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character…(see full video here).
My advice based on my experience:
* Take some time to consider the motivations behind the posts you are seeing and sharing, especially from politicians and conspiracy theory groups. Are they trying to get people riled up with no factual evidence behind their claims?
* Have you fallen into the false sense of constant embattlement? Find someone on the other side of the aisle and actually talk to them, learn from them, find out why they believe the way they do. Assume that you’re wrong and see what happens. Hopefully, like me, you will learn that we actually want similar things.
* And, most importantly, don’t believe everything you see on the Internet.