As our world has become at least a little less stable in the chaos of the coronavirus crisis and the economic mess and the racial tensions and the presidential campaign that have consumed our country, agitators have taken advantage. In this Boomer Opinion piece, BoomerCafé’s co-founder and publisher David Henderson issues a warning: don’t be taken in.
If there is one overarching dark cloud that the 4th of July 2020 can be remembered for, it is the proliferation of underhanded dirty tricks being played out at a dizzying pace. At the core of what’s happening, I believe, is fear… fear by those white Americans who feel threatened that “their country” is being overrun by minorities. Racial minorities, ethnic minorities, non-Christian minorities.
The fear, stoked by divisive and apparently calculated speeches from the president, morphs into anger, hatred, acting out, and violence.
Like the white woman who vandalized a Black Lives Matter mural in Martinez, California. “The community spent a considerable amount of time putting the mural together only to have it painted over in a hateful and senseless manner,” Police Chief Manjit Sappal said in a statement. “The city of Martinez values tolerance, and the damage to the mural was divisive and hurtful.” But good people have preached tolerance before. Bad people aren’t listening. In the Martinez incident, the two people have been charged with hate crimes and acts of vandalism.
Then, there are the White Supremacist militias… those mostly rotund, bearded, pretend-soldiers who carry Confederate flags, big guns, and show up whenever they think (do they think?) something “un-American” might be happening, like an alleged flag burning.
That kind of thing comes from anonymous malicious pranksters on the Internet , who have been creating fake personas to trick White Supremacists into scrambling to respond when… there’s nothing to actually respond to. A recent example happened at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when armed right-wing militias were tricked (reportedly by other right-wing troublemakers) into thinking (again, there’s that “think” word) there might be a flag-burning, driven by the amorphous movement called antifa (which is an abbreviation for anti-fascist). It was a hoax created by fake personas on social media.
I must admit, I had never been aware of “antifa” before it became a much reviled sort of bogeyman of ultra-conservative groups. Maybe extreme right-wingers are so obsessed with antifa because of envy and regret that they were not the first to lay claim to whatever antifa is meant to be. A good many journalists were not familiar with the term themselves until recently, having learned it from remarks from the White House, especially when the president proposed to designate it as a terrorist organization.
And, then, there are those who believe that climate science and research are a hoax, that there is no correlation between global warming, excessive CO2 and manmade gases in the atmosphere, and rising global sea levels. That’s more liberal hogwash, someone tells them on Fox News or InfoWars or from some pulpit… including the bully pulpit of our expert-on-everything President.
Bubbling in the darkness below are a variety of forces, from sinister propagandists in Russia to online marauders in Alexandria, Virginia, near our nation’s capital. They are responsible for brewing much of the hate. It’s not all Fox News or InfoWars who prey on the ignorant. It’s also things— hard to call it anything but a “thing”— like QAnon and 4Chan.
As Seth Cohen recently wrote in Forbes, “A disorganized but growing network of conspiracy theorists and online agitators, collectively referred to as QAnon, is rapidly making its way from the shadows of the internet into mainstream culture.
“QAnon started out as a groundless conspiracy theory centered around an unnamed individual (or individuals) known as “Q.” Purportedly, “Q” started posting anonymous messages on online bulletin boards such 4Chan as early as 2017, claiming to have credentials and top security clearance.”
QAnon gained traction with the so-called “Pizzagate” nonsense, those groundless accusations about Hillary Clinton and pedophiles in a Washington pizza restaurant. When it was realized that some people, however incurious and ignorant, believed such stuff, the movement gained strength.
These people are busy disrupting America with their groundless theories, rumors, and lies. These people foment fear to maliciously fan anger at Trump’s rallies. They toy with mindless gun-toting militias.
What can we do about it? Do what baby boomers are known for doing: think, challenge, question assertions. If you’re active on social media, take a moment before reposting anything and check its validity. Do a “sniff test.” Trust your instincts, your gut, not the anonymous source of baseless information. I dismiss anything labeled “deep state” as corrosive subterfuge.
Just because we are getting older and a little slower, we can still think and ask questions, whether of ourselves or others. Just because someone online or in public says it’s so… doesn’t make it so.
Remember that the recent 4th of July, like others, is a day not just for flyovers of military jets or pompous speeches or political chicanery, but a time of remembrance. It’s a day to commemorate a fundamental proclamation of insurrection against and independence from a foreign power that wanted to control our country.
We must control ourselves.