I Joined 10 Conservative Facebook Groups
I’ve been thinking a lot about this past election and trying to remain objective. I’ve been trying to look at this result as a conflict of ideas, with both sides having legitimate reasons to feel the way they do. So I joined several conservative groups on Facebook, Including “The Conservative Standard”, “Join Hands Across America for Trump”, and “The Trump Project”. And I read. I followed links, read posts, watched youtube videos. I found a youTube channel called “Sargon of Akkad” that commentates widely publicized news events from a conservative perspective. For several months I tried hard to understand what motivates the other side.
The conclusions that I came to were complicated, and absolutely not what I expected. I found a spectrum of conservative ideology ranging from intelligent criticisms of liberalism to fear-mongering, white-power instilling garbage.
On the one side you have Sargon, a British conservative who runs a political youtube channel. He thinks about his criticisms and voices them clearly. His central thesis is that liberals, in the process of trying to defend minority groups, are actually creating a culture of apologism that actually separates groups further. By defining groups by the issues that only in-members can relate to, we are closing off conversations about more universal issues. For example in discussions about the election we tend to act as though white racist republicans won, and that sentiment actually closes off some more intelligent conversations about economic disparity, corruption in the political system, etc. Sargon thinks that conservatism stands not for racists, but for people who are sick of being called racist — in reality what they want is to find common ground instead of focusing only on group-centric issues. These people are living on the fringe of conservatism, and are thinking deeply about these topics.
On the other side you have people who are not thinking at all, and would prefer to keep it this way. Most of the groups that I joined and channels I subscribed to were echo chambers for these types of ideas. These are the basest and simplest ideas you could feed to human beings without them being offended. Derogatory memes about Michelle Obamas race and looks, fear mongering about Islam, unfounded conspiracy theories, fake news. On one conservative Facebook group I found a post called — ‘Muslim Army’ Is Hiding In America, Is Arming For WAR Against Trump (pay attention to the airquotes here, guys) — that references a Fox News interview by someone named Ryan Mauro who calls himself a “security consultant” and runs a news site that posts only anti-muslim news. These posts and websites are producing exaggerated or false news that is fear mongering, white-power instilling, and hateful, isolating people and tying them to their basest instincts. There is a LARGE audience for this type of news.
At this moment in American history I see the the conservative party as a small number of intelligent critics with legitimate beef against some tenants of liberalism, stoking the fire by feeding angry garbage to some of the most scared and ignorant people in America.
I can’t say how this will shake out. I can’t tell if this incongruous group will be able to exist for long without fracturing. What I can say conclusively is that doing some research is a good idea. The conflict is always more complicated than it appears.