Saturday, January 23, 2010

New Vanity Fair article up on Charles Johnson

About six or seven years ago, Little Green Footballs, run by Charles Johnson was a notorious right-wing blog. There was just one little problem: Charles was not your run-of-the-mill wingnut. In fact, it's questionable if he were ever truly "conservative" in the sense we currently use the term. Anyhoo, here's a VF article on Charles. If there's a lesson that can be learned, I think it is this: as activists, advocates, writers, bloggers, whatever, we would be served well to ditch the sectarianism. What I value most in writers, regardless of perspective, is an open-minded skepticism. It's one thing to have a passionate set of beliefs (heck, I'd even encourage it), but it's quite another thing to be so blinded by passion that one fails or refuses to consider other points of view. What probably drew wingnuts to his blog was his disdain for Islamic extremism, which fit in well during the early years of the "war on terra." Problem was that much of his audience belonged to a different extremist group identified as Christian. So when it became apparent that he was actually pro-science and pro-theory of evolution, these folks freaked.

Of course once one actually takes a look at what a fair number of these movement conservatives and their self-appointed leaders believe, there is cause for concern. I refer periodically to much of today's "conservative" movement to be an American version of the Taliban for good reason. Just look at the so-called "tea party movement" or the birthers or some of these other wackos and it begins to remind me a bit of a zombie movie without the humor or entertainment value. Then I start to ask myself some rather uncomfortable questions, such as, what ever happened to critical thinking? Can we really expect to have a functioning society for much longer when such a large proportion of our citizenry seem perfectly happy to parrot whatever nonsense their chosen tribal leaders spout off, even when solid contradictory evidence is staring them in the face? Is a society in which too many are caught up in their tribe's scoring political points at all costs (i.e., scorched earth politics) even worth trying to salvage? I haven't quite reached the point of cynicism with regard to the last question, but I definitely am increasingly concerned. Plenty of the bloggers and columnists I link to share that concern from their varying perspectives. Regardless of our probable disagreements on plenty of topics, what I respect is the willingness to think reflectively. That's something we need more of: people (hopefully with much more influence than me) who are willing to wake up and think critically. Failing that, I would offer that it's a safe bet that the America we inherit a decade hence will be even less salvageable or worth salvaging than is currently the case. Food for thought.

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