Snake OilIt doesn’t solve your problems, but the burn sure feels nice.

The industry of Hate & Fear doesn’t profit from Understanding.  As soon as you accept an idea or concept or a belief into your world and it achieves something resembling respect, it is lost to the machine that needs your confusion so it can twist it so you question its very right to exist.

When you stray too far left or right of a “moderate” view of the world, you find the irrational and the angry, the bitter and the bigoted.  They exist there because they never figured out a way to live in a world with people and ideas that conflict with their own.  Unfortunately, these people are no longer limited to the far stool near the Men’s Room at the local bar or their Archie Bunker recliner in front of Fox News.  Some of these people have learned to use mass media to take and then sell you back your own ignorance.  They wrap it up on God and Country and call it Danger.  They introduce it with phrases like “I find it interesting that…” and “Many people are saying…” before telling you that they have some secret insight into something you know nothing about.  They will connect something strange or new to universal obstacles to Freedom and Happiness.  They will connect it to the other ideas you’ve been taught to fear, like some Terror of the Month Club in which you must collect every item to understand the Grand Unified Theory of Fear.

They don’t sell you solutions.  They sell you the unresolvable conflict.  They sell you a kind of heroin that makes you feel like you’re part of a crusade to solve or stamp out something, but you’re really just barking at it behind a fence.  They don’t want to solve the problem.  They will just cycle through different ones to keep it fresh.  Ebola.  The deficit.  Terrorism.  Drugs.  The Liberal Elite.  The Gay Agenda.  Nothing is just a difference of opinion.  It has to be a grand Illuminati conspiracy.

And we buy it.  Desperate for secret wisdom to distract us from our own, very real problems, we consume the products they sell us.  The fleeting sense of control and power we have in connecting feelings to other feelings makes us feel smarter because we’re thinking like the men and women who sound so smart and who have law degrees and who sit in front of digital flags on television to say THEY have all the answers to make everything wrong in the world right again.   We want to be on their side because they will fix our problems by removing those to blame for them.   Invariably, those to blame for our problems don’t include ourselves.

They include brown people or gay people or highly-educated liberals or people who dare criticize the decisions of an approved list of “patriots.” If you can’t feel better about something, turn that Fear to Anger.

Anyone can bark about whatever they want, but a cry between two mountains creates an echo.  When one side shouts about something, the other side reflects the noise in responses laced with its own invective.   There are no clicks in reasoned response.  Web traffic is driven by conflict.  We’ll stay if the bullied kid shoves back.  When the right calls out the faggot, we want to read the left rail on the bigots and the haters, never considering for a moment that this is all a kind of corporate street theater designed not to educate us, but get us to drive advertising revenue through our comments, our shares and our digital endorsements.

I guess I buried the lead by putting the point down here.

Erick Erickson is a talking head.  He has a law degree but calls himself a writer and a columnist.  He is not a historian nor an academic.  He fills in for Rush Limbaugh on the radio.  His job isn’t to educate you.  His job isn’t to make you understand an issue from both sides.  This role is illustrated perfectly when he says something like this:

There is no reason anyone, unless they want to be a professional victim or college educator,” Erickson said, “should take a women and gender studies class or a queer theory class. There’s no reason for anybody to have to take that nonsense in college. And some colleges try to make stuff like that near mandatory.

Of course. There is no reason anyone would want to study what many consider the civil rights movement of our generation with anything but a biased eye. As Stephen Colbert observed, we want to FEEL our issues. We want to feel things in the same place we feel our patriotism and our fondest memories. We don’t want to complicate our lives by confronting things that make us uncomfortable.

No. To keep things simple and easy, we have to accept those who are different as cartoon characters. They must be accepted, but only in the most inconsequential ways possible. Gays should remain stereotypes and stories we tell at cocktail parties. Gays and lesbians should live on the fringe of our communities or make us laugh with their kooky antics on sitcoms. Does it matter the difference between someone who just wears clothes of a different gender and one who believes he was born a she or she a he? No. In the trade of Ignorance and Fear, we shouldn’t have to understand the pain they feel or the challenges they face. And, hell: if we treat them like people, we can’t just stand in a circle of (assumed) heterosexuals at a party and make shit up about what they REALLY are and what they are up to when we’re not watching. I mean, who knows what goes on when we’re not keeping an eye on The Gays while they’re spooning together on the collective sofa at Gay HQ — plotting a new strategy to inflict their agenda on the rest of us.

There is no drama in understanding. When someone begins to examine an aspect of our society with a critical, clinical eye, we risk understanding it. We risk creating a group of people who exist to call “bullshit” on the industry of Hate and Fear.

That doesn’t work for some people. So only “professional victims” need apply. Education isn’t about knowledge and critical thought, but about programming a mind with prepackaged facts. You can make truth seekers out to be con artists or profiteers. THAT sells the drama. I’ve read the same thing about Women’s studies and African-American studies, that focusing on those issues creates a culture of apologists and activists against the hard-won economic and political system that works just fine, thanks very much.

So if you study something that only exists in assumptions and stereotypes, or is part of a class of citizenry used as a punching bag by those who need someone other than themselves to blame for their problems and setbacks in life, Erickson and his highly-paid pundit brethren want you to know that you are a professional liar and possibly mentally ill. Either that or the school offering it is engaging in a conspiracy to control the thoughts and minds of citizens by providing biased and potentially dangerous information to the public that is not based in fact.

Well, I gotta give him credit. He speaks as an expert in that field. However, for the rest of us truth seekers, we know that we have the heavier burden. We can’t try to sell you a solution to your problems at the top of the seven o’clock hour. We can’t mix up a batch of sour snake oil to take your mind off the pain in your soul for a while. We have to figure it all out for ourselves, objectively and critically, to try and change the world through understanding.

For my role, I throw my support behind those who do the harder work.