In a recent opinion piece in The Guardian, John Naughton discusses how the American Right used social media on the internet to disseminate its message of xenophobia and hate and to undermine fact-based reporting with a litany of fake news. Using social media bypassed the usual journalist gatekeepers who require some indicia of truth. It further allowed the Right to identify and target potential supporters. As Naughton notes, liberals and progressives remained largely asleep at the switch. In comparative terms, the Right was riding a social media Tidal Wave, the Left a ripple.
This phenomenon was only part of the calculated conspiracy described in Jane Mayer’s Dark Money. Annual meetings hosted by the Koch brothers have for years set strategy for a “conservative” agenda designed to protect the privilege of the rich. That strategy has resulted in the financing of right-wing agendas in virtually every facet of American life, from our colleges and universities, to our main stream media, to the host of purportedly public interest foundations denying climate change and claiming a pervasive “liberal” bias and election rigging. This right-wing movement is an octopus – its arms everywhere, often not identified as such.
I recently had a first-hand view of what is going on when, pursuant to a power of attorney, I assisted a good-hearted lady who was confined to a nursing home. This lady, a lover of birds and stray cats, had, with the death of her husband, become a soft-touch for the begging letters in the mail. Her name had found its way onto the right-wing mailing lists. When I began to handle her mail, she was receiving as many as forty begging letters a day from right-wing organizations in the nature of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. These letters were filed with hate, alleging, for example, that Obama was a Kenyan Muslim intent on destroying us. Birthers, and gun nuts, and racists. What is important to consider is that someone was funding these mailings and that this elderly lady was not some kind of outlier. No, this sort of campaign, much like the social media campaign, was going on across the country, targeting anyone susceptible to its venom, virtually under the radar of mainstream America. One can only wonder what other actions the Right is up to.
Still, I would like to end on a positive note. The reason the Right has so debased itself is because it fears it is on the losing side of history. The demographics are against them – the growing Hispanic, black, and immigrant populations are against them. Liberal Arts education and education in the sciences is against them. Intelligent thought is against them. The only card they have to play is to pander to our lowest instincts of Tribalism and hate. It is a sad reflection on us. Evil. Hillary was right – deplorable. But for the moment, they have the upper hand. Now is the time for us to respond.