Thursday, December 1, 2016

Is This Even Worth It?

After digging through 8chan to learn about this "pizzagate" thing and writing about it, I found myself feeling a lot of pity for the people who cling onto things like this. I'm not saying that they deserve pity, or that anybody shouldn't feel anger or contempt for these people who have put so much effort into hurting so many people. Because they have. For many of them, "trolling," i.e. hurting people for fun, appears to be a top priority, a huge part of their lives. And I haven't been the victim of trolling to the extent that many, more visible activists have been.

But that's how I felt. And still, now, the following morning, when I think of these people who frequent 8chan, I lack feelings of anger and contempt. And I'm wondering if the alt-right watch thing is worth the trouble.

Or at least, maybe it's not worth it to pay attention to these types. Perhaps only older, more serious white supremacists and neo-Nazis deserve my attention. Or maybe I should check in to see if they're planning anything shitty so I can warn people, but it's not worth my energy to try to analyze them. Though being the psych nerd I am, that might be impossible.

I just can't help but wonder, what is it that makes people do this? What is it that draws people to such bizarre and unsupported conspiracy theories as "pizzagate"? How can they cling to these impossible notions, grasping at each pathetic scrap of non-evidence they can find, never stopping to think that maybe it's all nonsense? Do they really believe in any of it, or is this another form of trolling?

After discarding all the ableist terms that pop into my head when wondering "why" and "how," what I come up with is "desperate." These people are desperate. They're poor, and they're disenfranchised, and they're powerless, and that's why they do this shit. These people didn't vote for Trump because the Democrats didn't listen to them. They voted for Trump because the wealthy and powerful people of this country have taken so much for themselves and left the rest of us to fight for scraps.

And then they tell us that we should all have good jobs, and we should have houses, and we should have nice cars, and we need all these things to be happy, but they're dangled just out of reach, and it drives people to a state of intense anxiety and desperation. And then along comes a man, a politician, a political party that gives them easy answers, like "it's the immigrants' fault" or "it's the Muslims' fault" or "it's the refugees' fault" and people eat it up.

And it's not just that. Since the election, I've read multiple stories on Tumblr by people who grew up in the South and other very conservative areas of the U.S. These stories all paint the same picture - of families and communities where generation after generation are taught that liberalism is evil and any news program less conservative than Fox News is full of lies. Independent thought is far from encouraged, it's demonized.

Clearly, some kids escape this community brainwashing, but many more don't. They survive by adapting and adopting the dominant mantras of the family. Liberal is bad. Conservative is good. And as those messages are repeated over and over, is it any wonder that it's come to be that anything even slightly compromising with liberal ideas is bad? That more conservative is more good? That things are still bad because the Republicans have been too soft on the liberal enemy?

And of course I've seen plenty of conservative individuals try to argue that the inverse happens in liberal communities and families, and that colleges are liberalism factories that brainwash students into hating anything conservative. But it's not true. They're just projecting. And I know this because I was raised in a very liberal area and went to a very liberal college, and what I was taught was to question everything, to do research, to recognize bias, and to listen to other people's point of view. In fact, one of my biggest criticisms of liberalism is that they go to far with that shit, saying that every opinion is valid and important, when they're not.

But even if I don't think every opinion on every thing even from the most uneducated person on a subject is valid, I have the ability to empathize with even the most right-wing people, even the most vile bigots. I get where their arguments come from, no matter how wrong they are. And right now, I feel bad for them.

There are some things that Trump voters and I agree on. I agree that we need something different than the same political establishment dominating the nation over and over again. But clearly Trump was not that something. The problem is that the poor, white, cis, straight, Southern or Midwestern conservative being screwed over by the establishment has been tricked into believing that their problems are caused by people who have it worse than them. And they've been tricked into thinking that a billionaire who started his adult life with a million dollar head start and thinks that's a small amount of money is actually going to be anti-establishment. And now they have to watch as he appoints establishment Republicans and other billionaires to White House positions where they will keep screwing over the people who voted for Trump.

And again, I don't think I'm better than anyone because I feel sorry for them right now. There's plenty of arguments to be made for why they don't deserve pity. I mean, they should have learned their lesson from the W. Bush presidency, right? But they didn't, and it all comes back to white supremacy. The election of Obama caused such a racist backlash that they forgot all about how the Republicans screwed them over and failed them. And it comes back to patriarchy as the misogynistic hatred of Hillary Clinton drove so many to vote for a scam artist. They have no one to blame but themselves. They could get better healthcare, better education, and better mental health services that would improve their lives drastically. But they reject all of it, and for selfish and often racist reasons.

Yet at the same time, I see desperation driving so many people to shit like pizzagate. You know, that and anti-semitism. Somehow it always comes back to that.

I guess the lesson is that these people are terrible, but they're also largely powerless. They're exploited. They're exploited bigots manipulated by our real, common enemy - the intensely bigoted and utterly selfish, genocidal white rich people. The "1%," if you will. That doesn't mean you're wrong or bad if you hate them. You're allowed to hate them. They do cause harm to those of us who are powerless but haven't been brainwashed as children and/or don't have the privilege of being fed a sense of entitlement our entire lives.

I guess what I'm saying is I'll keep watching them, but maybe with more of a sense of a documentarian rather than with a sense of contempt, feeling like I need to point out where they're wrong. It will honestly make the task a lot easier, especially since I've formulated a solid answer to why the fuck they're like this. They're desperate. Desperate people, consumed with hate and lashing out because they don't know how else to handle the very uncomfortable feeling of utter powerlessness. It's... understandable. But still inexcusable.



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