Today I was foolish enough to comment on an anti-Trump diatribe on the internet, which appeared to be in full flow of invective and hysteria towards Trump, Russia and anyone who sought to offer even a vaguely dissenting opinion. My comment seemed mild enough to me and alluded to the degree of vitriol expressed by many of the commenters, the lack of proportion in this and to my belief that regarding Russia as the source of all evil was reminiscent of the Macarthy era witch hunts. My contribution was not well-received and I was promptly called a "moron", "tool" "idiot" and many less pleasant names! One commenter simply said "How's the weather in Moscow, Mark?" Well, I don't know, but it certainly started me thinking.
It seemed to me to bear out my complaint about the way in which people conduct arguments on the internet and how intolerant they are of others' views. What is especially surprising, is that many of those who express such intolerant and abusive terms are those who espouse liberal or "enlightened" views. Perhaps this is a matter of the depth of their conviction - but it is, nonetheless, inexcusable. The many attacks on Donald Trump, his wife and family, are characterised by a scurrilous vernacular, carefully fostered by a smirking MSM and cultivated by politicians for their own purposes. To offer a counter-opinion or to express a view that DT's foreign policy is actually, thus far, rather more successful than that of any of his recent predecessors, is to invite such a fury of dissent - no, abuse is closer - that one wonders at the nature of those who proffer it. What has induced presumably normal people - fathers, mothers, sons and daughters - to subscribe to this mass hysteria which has more in common with an unthinking lynch mob than with rational thought? It must be strength of feeling, but the determination to snuff out any opposing views or the free expression of them, is ironic since many of those who partake of it claim to be its defenders.
Donald Trump is not everyone's cup of tea, to be sure - he is a maverick by disposition, intolerant and self-opinionated, suspicious of Establishment advice and prone to pig-headedness. Many of his domestic policies are mean-spirited and divisive. That is my view on Donald Trump. He is not, however, deserving of the kind of abuse which is directed at him, his family and supporters on a daily basis. No-one is. The debate on Trump's Presidency has been reduced from any meaningful argument to one of abuse, meme, graphic, cartoon and biased opinion based on disputed fact, half-fact or no-fact at all. Surely no intelligent person will refer to Trump as "the orange one", "Drumpf", "Putin's poodle" or any of the laboured and quite unnecessary labels manufactured by the opinion mills? And yet this is the somewhat puerile and inadequate way in which Trump's detractors choose to express themselves. And what of the meme I saw recently which declared that a University study had revealed Trump supporters to be of lower intelligence than Clinton supporters? Really? Was the poster unaware of the irony that anyone who would post such a meme was probably not possessed of great intelligence? Furthermore, if such a study exists, what motive and credence could we attribute to its authors, its funders and what would it say of their prejudices and fitness for such an enterprise? It would seem to me equally valid to investigate the intelligence of those who comment in such abusive and inarticulate terms on any form of dissent from the anti-Trump consensus.
In the UK we have a fascinatingly similar situation in which views are polarised around the Brexit debacle. Those who support Brexit are regularly characterised as "stupid", "moronic", or of "lower intelligence", "old", "easily fooled" etc. Curiously, I have even seen a meme suggesting that an academic study has shown "Brexiteers" to be less intelligent than "Remainers"! Academia is not what it once was, it seems! The MSM pursues the same manipulative agenda as their American counterparts in smirking obeisance to the Establishment consensus, and the internet is filled with corresponding abuse from both sides. "Troll", "idiot", "moron" and "can you actually read?" are among the politer terms I have met with when I have attempted to espouse some temperate dissenting view on the worst prognostications of anti-Brexit voices.
What divided societies we inhabit these days on both sides of the Atlantic! There may be many reasons for this and I do not have the answers to how these divisions may be mended - except to say that something is badly wrong when the US President withdraws US troops from an illegal occupation and is vilified for it; and when a UK Parliament conducts itself with all the decorum of a bunch of braying asses over Brexit, while a homeless man lies dying on the pavement outside of Parliament. Politics and its practitioners have never, perhaps, been in lower repute.
At the end of a turbulent 2018 it seems appropriate to express a hope that people will be able to argue their points of view civilly, will respect the views of others and their rights to hold and express such views, will desist from using names for each other. At the very least, consider this: it does not persuade your opponent, it does not advance your own argument and it reflects badly on yourself and discourages public discourse.
For the record, I should say that I do not know what the weather is like in Moscow but I do hope that my many friends in Moscow, New York, Tokyo, Brussels, London or in any other city, town or village in this small world, have had a very pleasant Christmas (or whatever else they may celebrate) and that they will enjoy a peaceful and more respectful New Year.