A little to the Left, a little to the Righté
Over the past few years I have become convinced that the terminology and wordplay associated with describing where our views fall along the Political Spectrum are designed to be used as a tool to make us uncomfortable with any idea counter to the mainstream and in many cases, simple truth. The centrist view has always been and will always be the most comfortable, appealing and acceptable view when discussing ethical, social or political issues. This is nothing new. Generally speaking, we can choose to be on one side or the other of debates on issues such as gun control, prayer in public schools or a woman’s right to choose. This basically means that if we choose a side, it is not vital to formulate personal opinions of great depth. The positions and boundary lines have already been drawn. Basically, mainstream “thinkers” simply must choose a side. The opinions are usually already out there for us agree with or oppose. There may be little agreement or compromise between the right and the left when it comes to arguing for our positions on such issues, but we can choose which side of the debate to position ourselves on without venturing too far away from the center of the Political Spectrum. Whether one is for or against prayer in schools, gun control or a woman’s right to choose is not the point. The point is that such issues can be debated by both sides without venturing too far to right or too far too the left and still leave room for speculation, moral analysis and dialogue. Some maybe a little to the right, others a little to the left, yet generally most mainstream thinkers fall somewhere close to the center.
The effects of Labeling on Mainstream perception.
Now, say for instance you are involved in a debate on a woman’s right to choose. You are sharing your views with someone who is on the other side of the debate. One of you firmly believes in a woman’s right to choose because it is her body and the other believes that abortion is taking a life and is morally wrong. The debate may get heated and even ugly, yet the dialogue continues. Then, let’s say, a third person joins the debate. This third person believes abortion is wrong and is ready to bomb clinic’s to kill any activist, doctor, woman, man or nurse who supports the continuation of these evil deeds. As a matter of fact, this person is actively trying to enlist people to join the cause and to know if either of you have any knowledge of explosives. Would you feel comfortable being associated with this person? Would you want to engage in future conversations with this person? There is a label we place on people with such viewsé An Extremist. Such views fall so far off to the right that anyone whose beliefs fall close to the center of the Political Spectrum will naturally be uncomfortable with continuing the debate or engaging in a reasonable dialogue. Let’s face it, people who take extreme positions on certain issues makes those of us who walk the mainstream uncomfortable. It is difficult for the mainstream to welcome opinions which conflict with the norm in such a drastic manor. In the case of bombing abortion clinics, most of us on the right or the left would more than likely think of such a person as down right crazy. This is an example of how labeling can effect mainstream perception or willingness to even listen to a position.
Now think of how such labels, if used maliciously to further a social or political agenda, can damage mainstream opinion as it relates to an individual or a cause. For anyone to be labeled an extremist is a damaging rhetorical assault as it relates to mainstream perception and acceptance. Consider how we prejudge guest on talk shows or news segments who are introduced using such labels as “radical” or “extremist” and often form opinions about such people before they speak a single word. We can create a whole list of such words: Extreme, contentious, radical, fundamentalist, fanatical, revolutionary, rebellious, militant, angry, etc., etc., etc. We could go on and on adding to this list. Armed with this arsenal of negative rhetorical weaponry, just think of how easy it would be for the media or people and politicians highlighted in the media to manipulate or sway popular opinion. The use of such words triggers a certain degree of uneasiness for most people who live a life rooted in or centered around mainstream thought. Information that is potentially damaging to thought patterns centered around an established way of life can be labeled with such words and the most people will avoid, dismiss, laugh at or ignore it, no matter what the implications or ramifications maybe.
It always confused me, that is until these recent revelations, as to why people would ignore facts, concrete evidence or, in many cases, indisputable truth in favor of a more “comfortable” story which is basically concocted to maintain the status quo without shaking things up too much. Here is a perfect example that I almost hate to use, but here goesé The assassination of JFK. Okay, there! I said it, but If I say too much more about the unyielding amount of evidence suggesting that Lee Harvey Oswald never even fired a Manlicher-Carcano rifle on November 22, 1963 and that President Kennedy was killed as a part of a plan to escalate the war in Vietnam as orchestrated by a variety of powerful players in high places, I will be branded with an unshakable label. A Conspiracy Theorist. Once branded with this label the mainstream will never take serious any additional insight, facts or opinions I may be able to provide to an otherwise ignorant public about a subject as important as the murder of a United States President. Better yet, most anything I say relating to the case will simply be dismissed as impossible or perhaps even laughed at. Why? Because it is easier to accept that one mixed up, former communist, who had possible espionage links to Russia was responsible for such an act than it is for a patriotic public to accept that there was a government conspiracy to kill the “Leader of the Free World”. To believe the latter, for many Americans, would be a crushing blow to all this country was founded upon and currently stands for. It would be, in many ways, destructive. When such charges are presented against key government officials who are pivotal players in the functioning of an institution as loved and adored as the American system of Democracy, it is easier to accept the “lone gunman” theory. Doing so preserves the perceptions of greatness of the institution. Doing so deletes the need for a paradigm shift or reevaluation of the mainstream thought process. Doing so allows us continue to maintain any delusions of superiority we may possess as it relates to our system of government as compared to other countries around the world. Many people believe that such a thing as a coup d`etat simply could never happen in the United States of America. The key conspirators behind such an act would recognize this. Anyone who dared to step forward to shed any light on what really happened would be the subject of the kind of labeling designed to convince the mainstream that they were fanatical conspiracy theorist with an extreme agenda working towards bringing down our wonderful system of Democracy. The true conspirators could easily play on the mainstreams belief that such a thing is not possible in a country like the United States of America.
Now, let’s fast forward to 9/11/2002. Many people never believed that such horrific atrocities as the acts of terror committed on September 11th could ever take place in America. If anyone could have predicted that passenger planes would be used as missiles to destroy the World Trade Center and attack the Pentagon as a part of a terrorist plot to kill innocent Americans, we would have found it easier and less frightening to dismiss such possibilities as extreme. Perhaps this is what George Bush and his top administration officials found it easier to do? Perhaps this is why they face so much criticism and scrutiny these days in the media regarding if the President, F.B.I. and other top officials did everything that could be done to prevent such devastation? Sorry, I’m kind of getting away from my point, but if we really think about it we can see how it is easier to dismiss the extreme, whether elements of truth are present or not, than deal with the possibility that mainstream vision is being deliberately blinded to many of the harsh realities of the world. Mainstream vision is the center of the Political Spectrum. It is like looking straight ahead and only focusing on what is happening directly in front of you. In our peripheral we can see bits and pieces of what is really going on, but we are scared to turn and look. Nobody wants to be alienated from the comfort zone that is the centrist perspective, even in those cases when such views are blind to or content with ignoring the facts, concrete evidence or, in many cases, indisputable truth. Few people are willing to venture out on their own and explore the realities of the world outside of the cozy warmth of the mainstream blanket. Why is this? Venture too far away from the center of the political spectrum and risk the great possibility that you may be uncomfortable with what you find. You may even have to THINK about what you find. Scary, isn’t it? The mainstream will be uncomfortable with and may harshly criticize you for what you have to say. Doing so could lead to alienation. For politicians this is especially true. Nobody in the political arena can survive if they move too far away from the center. This is perhaps most clearly evident during an election year. Politicians on both side of the any debate will move a little away from the center to win a primary election and capture a party nomination. After the primaries they must move back towards the center to win a general election. This is simple campaign strategy.
Fanatical, extreme, Evil Doersé That about sums it up, right?
So, why do so many people in so many countries around the world hate America? Why would anybody want to attack and terrorize innocent people in the United States? Why are all the countries in the Middle East ganging up against Israel? To even suggest that it has much to do with a manipulative, oppressive, hypocritical and biased foreign policy is too hard for many in the American mainstream to accept or, in many cases, even contemplate. To consider that many people around the world suffer, starve, die and have their homes bombed, bulldozed or raided as a direct result of policies implemented, funded or supported by the United States of America would be unreal. To consider the possibility that the United States is content with doing absolutely nothing as thousands of Palestinians are robbed of life, liberty, land and freedom at the hands of an Israeli military backed by U.S. dollars is something that a patriotic public does not wish to hear. It is easier to believe that Israel is alone in a part of the world where everybody hates Jews and that the Palestinians are all fanatical Muslim extremists who are waiting in line to strap bombs to themselves and get on crowded buses or go into street cafés and kill innocent Jewish people. It is much easier to simply listen and believe our political leaders when they address the nation and the rest of the world proclaiming the need to stand united against terrorism. Mr. Bush has continuously provided us with a variety of simple reasons as to why many countries hate the United States since September 11th, mostly ranging from our enemies being jealous of our freedom to being just plain evil. Such reasoning is simple and requires little, if any, additional explanation for us to accept. Jealous & Evil. Could it really be that simple? The Evil Doers are jealous because we, the people of America, are free. It becomes even easier for us to accept that anyone who attempts to destroy our way of life is evil when we consider the fact that we are talking about fanatical, non-Christian Muslim fundamentalist attackers. They must be evil, right? The thought of all of America’s enemies being jealous of our freedom and the international perpetrators of evil deeds naturally makes it seem as if our every endeavor is in the name of God, peace and justice. Such notions are dangerously blinding and misleading. Mainstream vision is not wrong, but it is easily manipulated by the few who believe it is necessary to keep us shielded away from a world stage in which America is not the righteous protector of the free world. The Centrist Perspective is not entirely blind to the ways of the world, however there are many truths outside of this often limited field of vision. We must recognize that there are many ways and techniques used by the media and people or politicians highlighted in the media to manipulate tha mainstreams perception of a cold and cruel reality. We must, at some point, look through the lenses of another reality and see a world that is not always cozy, comfortable and eager to follow the lead of the United States.
Tillman J. Brownstudy contributed above article to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Tallahassee, Florida.