The Masquerade of Identity Politics, Part Five
This is the fifth and final installment of this series on identity politics.
In Part Four, I posed the question: Does the deep divide of today’s identity politics really originate with either party?
My mother was a lifelong Democrat and a pioneer in our little town for civil rights, as well as an early proponent of the rights of the local gay community. Defying those who said it simply could not and should not be done, she took the first bus of integrated students to 4-H camp in the early 1970s. When she opened her home to young gay men coming out of the closet in the 1980s and went to bat for them with their parents, she was again tackling a real issue, and problems which she knew to be solvable.
I am convinced she would not recognize many of the issues in 2018 associated with the party of her choice. If she were alive today and someone told her she needed to carry the torch for properly prepared ethnic food lest someone’s feelings be violated, she would have thought it was a joke. If she was told that she should help show Beyoncé why her “Indian Costume” was offensive, or that college students needed “safe spaces,” my mother would have had a few choice and colorful words for the suggester and a good laugh.
In our local Republican Committee, the members of which I have known over the last twenty years, there have been a handful who had a problem with people who did not look like them. Likewise, in our local Democratic Committee there have been a few as well. That handful usually doesn’t last long and disappears from the committees when they understand they are not getting agreement.
Overwhelmingly though, by and large, members of both committees were people who loved and cared about their community regardless of race or creed. Up until about a decade ago, Democrats and Republicans shared the same umbrella at Caroline polls when it rained. It is still true at some polls here even today.
On facebook, my conservative and liberal friends are split fairly evenly. To date, since becoming a user in 2011, I have had to unfriend maybe five or six people, so-called conservatives who might adhere to ideas such as race baiting or making posts that immigrants should not exist. This is clearly a handful when considering the number of 1,800 friends. Then why are Republicans so saddled with the nomenclature of intolerance?
If one pays any attention to social media and the news, presently there are warnings to Democrats about civility and how way-out accusations will help to reelect Trump. Democrats I know seem to be heeding and sharing that advice, so why is it what purports to be their identity politics so prevalent and escalating?
Surveys tell us negative campaigning does not work with the average voter. With such divisive national rhetoric like this how can you hope to win elections, which now belong in our country to centrist voters, who are turned off by such language and stands on issues?
What if, however, this was not about winning elections at all?
No one in the groups I studied suggested a certain candidate or party would remedy the situation, or even suggested that action. It was more important to wax on and on about oppressed feelings and drawing membership to what amounted to the “safe space” of the group.
If you consider that my study was done with just under 40 people, what happened to the other several thousand members of the forums? Somewhere out there are people from both parties, and the whole spectrum in between who used to say things like, “My friends in the Democratic/Republican party want the same things we do — freedom and a good quality life for their families — but they just have a different idea of how to get there.”
Those voices have been silenced with the fear that they will not be perceived left enough or right enough, while the rest have somehow bought into the notion that joining the latest group de jour will make them feel better. How is this kind of control accomplished over so many people?
In consulting colleagues for this post, one reminded me that the very language used today in identity politics smacks soundly of that used by Karl Marx to manipulate millions. In fact, the idea that oppressed groups must rise up and quell the opposition regardless of guilt or innocence is the Karl Marx model. The original theories of Marx are predicated on class warfare.
The tactics of Saul Alinksy too, who rose to prominence in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s with his Rules for Radicals, has a similar “take no prisoners philosophy,” but unlike Marx the goal was not Utopian in nature. He sought to empower citizens with the weapon of their own numbers via a tool called “community organizing,” in order to get the attention and change direction of the government on their behalf.
So historically speaking the model of convincing people that they are oppressed even in the recent past is not new, but I believe what is happening today is different. In Marxism, there is one group, the proletariat, who wins the battle against the Bourgeoisie and utopia reigns which, of course, never happened. The model was a failure.
With Alinksy the goal was organization and to find ways to be all things to all people, and to appeal to the even marginally like-minded to enlarge the group, not close it off. Bigger numbers supported the successful election of their candidates. While Alinsky advocated the spreading of woe to those who would not sign on, when the goal was achieved, it was done.
Not so with today’s identity politics. There is no directed outcome. Neither the Proletariat not the Bourgeoisie are immune. If you do speak up, you run the risk of being shunned as racist, anti-gay, anti-immigrant or anti-anything, and via social media the whole world will know what an evil person you are.
I believe this level of identity politics originated not with far left leaning or far right leaning individuals from the United States, but other countries who seek to undermine us using what they perceive as our weaknesses against us. They have no practical use for either party as long as they turn citizens against one another, destroying us from within. It is immaterial who wins our elections; the goal is to create chaos.
I believe it is being done with clever attention to detail and research, not the res speak. When Jeff’s new campaign website went live four years ago, we had an immediate problem with hackers, despite the fact that there was no medium for campaign donations or controversial information, and he was a lowly supervisor on the local level.
We had to rebuild the site multiple times. The site was hacked from overseas daily and ordinary firewalls were useless. I finally found a company who had multiple safeguards in place and paid them monthly to keep the site intact. What the supervisor’s site did portray, however, was a record of “community” and community groups who interact with each other daily. The company I hired keeps records and shows me that the site still takes a pounding weekly. They host members of the General Assembly whose sites are way less trouble than ours.
Social media is a ripe breeding ground for such a tool where fake identities are rampant and make it ever so easy to spread fake information. Facebook can say what it likes, but they don’t have a handle on anything. Recently, I sought to advertise both local Farmer’s Markets on Jeff’s supervisor page and was denied by Facebook because, according to them, the ads were political.
I jumped through all of Facebook’s hoops (four steps) to be able to advertise politically, including waiting for the mail where they sent a code number. In the end, I was denied the ability to advertise (according to Facebook) because the picture of my driver’s license was not clear enough to discern my identity.
After five denials, I removed it from the plastic and scanned it, making a perfect original copy and was still denied. In the meantime, scurrilous political ads or some others, quite subtle from amorphous groups, continue to scroll my news feed. Tweets are worse because they throw a sentence or two of fake information into the stratosphere where they hang there despite efforts to right the wrong.
Over the last year and a half, most people I know believed Trump Derangement Syndrome would die down. It was a fad, they thought like Occupy Wall Street. Such behavior takes a lot of energy and people would come to understand that just like with President Obama, the world was not coming to an end, right? In my opinion, TDS is as strong as ever, pushed constantly with a relentless pressure from some source to keep it going.
Occupy Wall Street shut down when the funding dried up. What is driving the obsession with Trump and why would otherwise intelligent people continue to give him fodder for his tweets, causing him to make the news nearly every day?
The internet has seen the demise of print media and with it the old fashioned journalists who used to report the news in an ethical manner. The ego driven media of today on both sides can’t wait to pick up and make the most of the smallest footnote of discord. Journalists no longer, they are stars in their own right waiting to beat the other to the punch with sensationalism. Our enemies can count on what years ago would have been a footnote of disagreement now fueling the flames of identity politics.
Then consider the effects of the entitled generations of the late 20th and 21st century, the generations where everyone got a trophy. While not everyone fits this bill, there are enough for society to feel the burn. Here we have snowflakes, who don’t know what the Holocaust was, living in their parents’ basement who have way more time to “internet” than previous generations who would have been at work. Their gullibility is a key factor as well as lack of basic skills, or the understanding that they should muster some energy and do some research. Here the victim mentality is also legion. The proponents of identity politics are counting on this group to be our future.
While the conditions and culture of the 21st Century United States of America certainly set the stage for all that is happening, I believe the longevity, the push, and the funding for identity politics comes from outside of our country.
This was never more apparent than when we saw the amazing organization within days of the Parkland school shooting (purported to be organized by students) and then transportation hundreds of miles to Washington, D.C., to lobby for gun control. What was really interesting about this movement was the lack of a cohesive message on what they students really wanted. The messages were so mixed, it became apparent there was no goal other than a march on Washington and for the media to record the demonstration.
Then this past weekend in Charlottesville, the one year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally, “student organizers” who for the most part kept their backs to the camera with matching t-shirts and bull horns, moved the crowd along with prepared mantras to supposedly combat the presence of white supremacists. The rally, however, turned out to be, in a major way, against local law enforcement who were there to both protect the demonstrators and the bystanders. The permit for Unite The Right 2 was actually issued by the Park Service in Washington, D.C.
What was really telling were the prepared signs on a variety of issues not having to do with white supremacy, such as better housing in Charlottesville, so people were invited on whatever issue that floated their boat. One cannot help but think, given the plethora of prepared signs against law enforcement, this was not about the prospect of the alt-right returning to Charlottesville at all. So who took advantage of an anniversary date in a previously little known Virginia city to create such dissension and chaos?
I theorize that the culprits are super organized with data they have collected via social media and are ready to pull the trigger on an “as needed” basis. They know exactly who to contact to come out for a variety of issues and have the funds available to move people where they want them to go which is where the most media will be present with cameras. Watch the videos from the Charlottesville rally on Saturday, August 11th, especially the faces of those the camera captured. Many of them look like they are asking themselves what they are doing there, almost as if they are confused.
While I certainly do not purport to have all the answers, individual responsibility must be the way to start, even in a discussion on social media. If you find yourself in a discussion of an issue which sounds surreal, negative, and even dangerous to others, and cannot be the voice of reason, make sure you are a group of one who joins neither side.
Get away from your keyboard and join real people, real time, face to face in your community. If you know your neighbor as more than just a photo on facebook, you are way less likely to think of him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Furthermore, our elected representatives in D.C. must come to grips with these influences, acknowledge them, and take steps to reveal to citizens who is behind the curtain and show us what and who is making us so angry with one another. Disinformation from the Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign is the tip of the iceberg. How about a bi-partisan movement to show us just exactly how we are being played instead of joining the players?
To do this, they will have to take steps to return our intelligence community to its former mission and level of integrity, minus the partisan politics. These organizations would, in previous decades, had the desire and the ability to provide the information regarding this level of interference of foreign governments and would be sharing it with our elected representatives. Today, instead of moving quietly behind the scenes to protect our nation and its people, they are choosing expensive suits for their television appearances before Congressional Commissions, and looking for the best book deal.
Identity politics is, in the end, a sinister masquerade. Unmasked, it offers more discrimination, more oppression and less inclusion as we shut everyone else out in favor a tribal group think. It stifles real solutions to real problems in favor of fighting one’s neighbor, sometimes literally, instead of figuratively. This is not the legacy we can leave to future generations.