MY TURN-As a journalist, I have been monitoring, following, and communicating with factions of extremists on both sides of the political realm for over 2 ½ years. This endeavor is not one for the fainthearted, because it enters into the heads of people that live in bubbles of existence that are completely unreal.
Psychologists typically indicate that these are the types of individuals that are easily manipulated when they receive a constant diet of misinformation that aligns with their core beliefs. After being exposed this group, I have to completely agree with the professionals.
One of the startling things that stand out with those that fall in the politically extreme left and right is that they are incredibly alike. While ideologies are diversely opposite, both groups seem to lack critical thinking abilities, buy into conspiracy theories, and choose to ignore proven facts and data that is presented to them that alters their incredibly limited lens.
Another observation is that neither of these groups of people are aware of or even care that the IRA (Internet Research Agency) division in Russia has been studying them for easy propaganda access for years and playing them with brainwashing techniques for the sole purpose of undermining the U.S. When presented with the NY Times 3 short videos entitled Operation Infection that demonstrate Putin’s long game with these two sides, both refuse to accept it. While it may be human nature to want to reject the idea that everything they believe in is a sham, those with any common sense should at least acknowledge it. Neither of these groups do.
It must be pointed out that these individuals are not the scraggly strangers wandering the streets, running away from any electrical devices; we see them every day in the grocery stores and shops. A majority of the extreme right take great pride in their church attendance, even while spreading hate-filled words about other races and religions. The left can be found working in the average company and are usually more tech savvy. You might pass any of these people and not even notice, because they are nondescript; and that is the scary part.
The Extreme Right
The first thing out of the gate with these people is that they seem to have a rather twisted idea that they are patriots. They align themselves with others that are hyper-nationalistic, often plastering American flags in as many places as they can and even wearing them. They have a “God and Country” belief system which also includes rantings about if you don’t like it, leave. One the curious things that I noted is that many of the extreme right seem to live in a constant state of fear. They are afraid of everything that isn’t exactly like them. Since a majority of this group is white, they fear people of color and many are gun owners.
Education levels vary, and I admit that I have only met and spoken with a few that had any form of extended education or knew much about American or World History. This might explain why so many not only refused to believe that the holocaust occurred but had no idea what the characteristics of fascism are or even the behavior of dictators. They are also clueless about the economy, world economics, how the global community works together, or even what the GDP is. As long as their lives were doing ok, they perceived the country and leadership as good. They are also glaringly more attracted to authoritarian figures that will help to take care of them while not stepping on what they perceive as their “liberties.” This may be one of the reasons they have no problem letting corporations have huge tax breaks on the backs of the average citizen. It may also be a reason that they place unholy trust in companies as they see them as just another figurehead of authority.
Part of any conversation with the extreme right typically involves some of the conspiracy theories that Fox has engrained into them. No matter how bizarre or even if they have been debunked by fact checkers, they continue to hold onto them. Currently this still includes their belief that Hillary Clinton sold uranium to Russia, that President Obama is not an American citizen, that Russia is good, and liberals are all socialists. On the latter, they have no true idea that they are being led around with the dog whistle word of “socialist,” and that conservative leaders do this every so many years to get a knee-jerk response from them. When informed that this occurred as the Republicans fought bought social security and Medicare, they change the subject. If you pursue the issue, showing them that we have many programs in place that are considered to be Democratic Socialist such as schools, roads, police departments, national parks, etc., their response is that you must hate the country. This now falls into the “what?” category.
As Republicans they hold fast in their belief that government should stay out of personal lives, that is, until they need something. They will complain about ACA (Obamacare) and yet if they lack health insurance, will use the emergency rooms of hospitals for their care. If there is a natural disaster in their area, they will be the first to scream that FEMA hasn’t arrived fast enough to help them.
I mentioned that many of these individuals attend church, and on that subject a majority that I have spoken to have indicated that they want the Bible taught in schools. When the subject of our founding fathers comes up, I ask them if they know why so many left England to establish the colonies. Their answers are usually somewhat ambiguous, and I let them know that a major reason was to escape forced religion, and this is why we have separation of church and state. If they truly want to open the doors for the Bible to be taught, it would also allow the Koran and even the Satanist’s books.
I must admit that the probable reason that this group continues to thrive is that they have little or no touch with any truths and topics that would offer them information other than the misinformation that they are being fed. Their idea of information “sources” is also a joke; they use Fox and YouTube edited videos with pride.
They have a group of copy and paste responses and topics that they grab onto in every conversation. When each one is debunked, they grab another one and bleat the Fox/Breitbart/Sinclair parroted response. It’s like watching a Twilight Zone episode.
The Extreme Left
Considering that I am a lifelong liberal, I thought that I would have a lot more in common with this group. I tried to eliminate any bias, although I did assume that I might have more positive and even enlightening conversations with them as compared to the extreme right. I couldn’t have been more wrong. If I gathered some of the extreme left into a room, I would expect to hear exactly the same talking points that are presented at each of their meetings….ad nauseam.
What’s interesting about this group is that they seem to think that they are witty and smart. Each time a topic will come up they will ask you to show proof, then negate the fact-check data, then ask you for another one. They seem to quote their manifestos with pride, thinking that words such as “establishment” are completely unique. Their bubble becomes a bit deflated when I remind them that this was a popular term in the 60s.
The extreme left charges into the fray assuming that they are so incredibly tech savvy that they can use social media as a weapon. They present “poll results” that are obviously skewed and when I let them know that multiple online voting polls don’t count, they move onto another topic.
Inevitably, they begin to circle around their demands: healthcare for all, educational assistance, etc. I let them know that these have been high priorities for many of us, but that they need to understand that passing them is all based on the perception of the people. In the past, very few saw a need for healthcare for all, now the costs have escalated so that it is a priority topic. Democrats have been trying to get this front and center for many years, including Hillary Clinton.
The next “challenge” is getting money out of politics. In this, many liberals from across the board agree, but until we overturn Citizens United, we can’t arrive at a fight with a knife when the other side has deep corporate investments from the likes of the Koch Bros. This is typically all that the extreme left is looking for, an opening to begin the name calling. You see, blind following without understanding or questioning is the same on the right and the left. They will accuse all that don’t agree with their ideologies of being “centrists,” and then neo-liberals and shills.
They have a group of copy and paste responses and topics that they grab onto in every conversation. When each one is debunked, they grab another one and bleat the parroted response from their extreme liberal sites. It’s like watching a Twilight Zone episode.
Their ideas of candidates are also completely one-sided. They have a “purity test” that each candidate must pass in order to be accepted by them. Since politics is a dirty game, it takes only one piece of misinformation that they don’t bother to fact check, and a candidate is “out.” This happened to Cory Booker when he and a number of Democrats rejected an amendment that Bernie Sanders deliberately inserted to get them to negate it. I cover this topic in my article:
STOP Attacking Cory Booker on the Pharmacy Amendment: You Don’t Know the Details.
An extreme left group designed a meme filled with incorrect information on this topic and the rabid extreme left began foaming at the mouth in their anti-Booker attacks.
I do find that extreme liberals have a tad bit more knowledge on American history, albeit, it is cherry-picked. They understand Democratic Socialism but without the base knowledge of how and why each of the programs were set in place. They choose leader examples such as Bernie Sanders without doing the due diligence of recognizing his dark past. They elevate these leaders to a cult status by eliminating anything negative about them and only believing what they are told. They don’t understand that blind faith in anything will undermine the original goal and simply create a mob mentality. If you take note of the news, you will see that they are doing the same thing with AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez).
Until the Cult Attitude is Broken, They Will Not See
Sadly, both the extreme right and left demonstrate cult behaviors. Blind faith in the words that are repeated to them, lack of ability for questioning or critical thinking, and elevating leaders to an untouchable status has led to their inability to have critical thinking.
We have seen this type of behavior in past dictatorships. The tribal attitude of following without question is not what our Democratic experiment is all about. The individuals that founded our country were a diverse group, often debating and even fighting to get their points across. None of them got their way 100% and they learned that negotiating and meeting in the middle offer each person the ability to walk away with some kind of “win.”
As a nation, we have been under attack by Putin and the Russian IRA to take advantage of the weaknesses of personal ideology while creating brainwashing tactics that push each side further. Will we become a nation that follows the lies of an enemy foreign government so that it escalates into a continued war? If that happens, the United States will go the way of Rome.
No political side should be in complete control of the government and we have seen devastating results when the extreme right is voted in. There is supposed to be a balance, and when even our world allies look at the U.S. in shame, it’s time to step up to the plate and change. It is also time for the American people to shake off the propaganda and begin questioning everything that they are being told. Will any of this happen? Only time will tell.
(S. Novi is a journalist that worked in the media and continues to seek out truth and integrity. A liberal and one that is suspicious of cults and empty promises. She is a member of Medium.com and a contributor to CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.