Monday, September 19, 2011

The Era of Ranters

Angry ranters are all over the web. The anonymity of virtual communication encourages their vituperation. The racist, know-nothing, jingoist language of online political commentators would be shocking if expressed in person. In normal life, these ranters hide their less pleasant feelings and less defensible ideas. Alone, in front of their computers, they liberate their inner ogres.

Because they spew playground epithets, it is easy to dismiss them. But they are worth listening to. They have something to say about America, although it’s not what they think they are saying.

The ranters possess an absolute faith in their versions of the truth. This faith cannot be shaken by mere facts, because anything which contradicts their cherished beliefs couldn’t possibly be a fact. Anyone who expresses contrary ideas must be part of a world-wide conspiracy. Any news article which contains unwelcome information can be attributed to the biased media in the hands of the enemy. No credential can affirm the worthiness of any expert’s ideas, if those ideas don’t fit preconceived categories. So saying something like this, in response to one of my articles, can make sense: “You, along with scientists, don't have one iota of a clue about global warming.”

Most of the ranters are white men. They are stuck in a simpler world, an idealized version of some long ago America. There was no talk of racism, because there was no questioning of white supremacy. Men were men and women were in the kitchen. The whole world worshiped America, with good reason, since we were the most powerful and most virtuous nation ever. Religious and secular schooling, popular culture in all its forms, and legislation at every level, reinforced those ideas.

In the last 50 years, that vision has been shattered. Life became less comfortable for white men. Not hard. In every comparison of earning power and occupational prestige, white men are at the top. White men have half the unemployment rate of black men at every educational level, just as it was 20 years ago. However badly white men may be faring at any moment, even when the economy has been run into the ground by rich white men, they are better off as a group than anyone else.

But their comfortable position at the top of the social pyramid is under attack. Every time one of those anti-American professors publishes one of those government-funded studies about racism or poverty, the liberal media shoves it down everybody’s throat. Then they turn around and fawn over some foreigner, as if they might be nearly as good as Americans, talking about their Canadian health care or their German labor system or their Chinese economy.

The whole pyramid may be threatened by changes in the earth’s atmosphere that nobody can see or feel, claimed by those same government-funded ivory-tower liberals, who are also socialists, and they say it will cost us gazillions to stop.

It’s tough to be told that you should recycle cans, eat less meat, buckle up, wash some dishes, and accept all those other people as your equal.

The ranters don’t want to talk about white privilege, because it doesn’t exist. They don’t want to talk about global warming, because it doesn’t exist. They don’t want to talk about Muslims in America, because they shouldn’t exist.

I would not call them losers, because ranters occupy all segments of our population. Some of them have billions to help fund other ranters. Some of them publish carefully crafted essays and books that other ranters can read to prove again to themselves that they are right.

How many ranters are there? In the New York Times/CBS News survey last week, 12% said that there is no global warming. lists Ann Coulter’s “Demonic: How the Liberal Mob Is Endangering America” in the top 1000 among all books. Rush Limbaugh’s 3-hour radio program is carried by 600 stations across the US. 23% in the 2010 Gallup poll said that only creationism, not evolution, should be taught in public schools. There’s a ranter in your neighborhood.

Are they dangerous? The ranters are generally not in positions of leadership in our communities, because their closed minds and disdain for what others think make it unlikely that people would follow their lead. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for their outsized anger – nobody will listen. For them the world is filled with dupes and hypocrites, people who just can’t see the truth.

There would be fewer ranters if responsible people, who actually know better, did not encourage them for temporary political gain. For example, how many Republican politicians denounced the birthers as mistaken, or criticized any of the ideas I listed above? But that’s America today, ranters and their enablers against the rest of us.

Steve Hochstadt
Jacksonville IL
published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, September 20, 2011

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