I would like to use what little social capital I have to address a major problem emerging in our society: a lack of reasoning, a willingness to follow others blindly, and then most dangerously, a willingness to shame anyone who doesn't believe as you do.
Yes, I'm talking about you. I'm talking to myself too. We must all step up, because this moment may not seem important, but it is.
I love the movie Inception. It has a great cast. It has a fantastic plot. Most of all, it illustrates the power of ideas. A truly powerful idea can change your mind. In the story, Dom's wife Mal is infected with the idea that her world isn't real, that death is the only escape. In the end, she kills herself and brings her family down with her. But the point of the story isn't the elaborate corporate plot played out in the dream world. The lesson is that a well-placed idea in a vulnerable mind can have tremendous consequences.
In the 2016 election, it became clear that nefarious actors were trying to hack our democracy. Operatives were deployed by our strategic rival, Russia, to sow discord among Americans, to inflame rhetoric, to pit son against father, sister against brother, citizen against citizen.
Now this attack of discord-sowing is coming from within. The purity tests that I see being published on social media are deeply troubling. There are tests around attitudes toward biological sex, tests regarding the importance of race in systemic oppression, tests about abortion rights, and most importantly in this moment, the test of whether or not you support the abolition of the police. Fail the test? You're a deplorable human being that needs re-education.
This idea is outright dangerous. If we accept this state of affairs, we are accepting a world ruled by the tyranny of the mob. People cry out for free speech and freedom from the oppressor, and in the same breath, they seek to oppress the "hate speech" of others. When you have videos of teenagers disavowing their parents because they don't accept the original sin of being white, and you think this is a good thing, take another good hard look at it.
Abolish the police! Don't you know that the police are responsible for all the ills of society? You don't believe me? Then you must be a boot-licking authoritarian fascist who wants to live under Nazi-esque rule. Unfollow, Unfriend, Disavow, etc.
Do you see the problem here? What happened to the idea of having a conversation with people you disagree with? What happened to the exchange of ideas in the public square? Do you even know who is establishing these positions that we must all follow or be mercilessly shamed?
Before you throw up your hands in disgust and disavow me as a friend, note that I haven't taken any position on any specific policy issue in this piece. If you're assuming that I must be a deplorable individual that thinks racism doesn't matter or that transgender people are lesser individuals, you're wrong, and the fact that you even entertained those thoughts means you are infected. We all are. And we need to cut it out before it's too late.
Speak out now, because before you know it, it won't just be name-calling. There will be actual violence towards anyone committing thought crime. Reputationally, legally, and eventually physically, it will be over for anyone who refuses to turn on a dime to obey the tyranny of the mob.
If you think that the our institutions can stand up to such mob behavior, you are wrong. Our leaders are weak, and the mob smells blood in the water. Two weeks ago, you were a monster if you left your house for any non-essential reason because you were going to spread the coronavirus. Now you're a monster if you don't gather in large crowds to call for the defunding of the police. Did the public health experts with scientifically-backed studies remain steadfast in their resolve to avoid disease outbreak? Nope. It was too politically dangerous for them to do that. They could have easily stated that while the protests were incredibly risky, they simply believe the trade-off of human life for the cause of fighting systemic racism is worth it. People will die, but it's a price that we are willing to pay. That would be an acceptable, believable, consistent answer. Instead we get the following: "we do not condemn these gatherings as risky for COVID-19 transmission."
Here's another example: Donald Trump is president. He was not impeached even after overwhelming evidence for obstruction of justice. It's because of the mob that supports him. They turn on a dime to follow whatever policy he happens to wake up thinking about, forcing even the most powerful legislators to kowtow to him. Those with the courage to stand up to him and his supporters are removed from office. But it's all because of the people who refuse to have moments of introspection and, most importantly, shame anyone who doesn't think the same thing as them.
You know what fascism is? Dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society. Does a single powerful individual have to be at the helm for this to be the case? Welcome to the new America governed by the whims of the angry mob.