If I hear one more haircut on 24-hour “news” use the phrase “both sides” when discussing fascism or domestic terrorism one more time, I’m going to start shooting out televisions like I’m Elvis seeing Robert Goulet on the screen. Yet, that won’t fix anything.
I’m more of a build, create, repair and fix sort of chap than the destruction prone lot that plagues society. TV talking heads keep trying to lump us all together despite being exactly different. I’ll begin with that issue, but regular folks on social media are just as guilty of false equivalences of altogether different types that are hurting us all as well. They would preach apathy as activism, which as is in key with our theme here today, are exactly opposite.
President Caligula famously used the phrase “both sides have very fine people” when talking about the protests in Charlottesville where fascists and white supremacists killed activist Heather Heyer, and since then corporate media has made it common vernacular.
Conflating fascists with anti-fascists, alt-right with leftists, white-supremacists with civil rights advocates and the like is dangerous language for a broadcaster to use, because it is patently false logic.
I’m not ashamed of using definitive terms like “good” and “evil” here. I would define good as helpful to others and without harm to others. I would define evil as deliberate harm. Fascists, white-supremacists and the alt-right in general deliberately seek to do harm to others. The current formation of the GOP is controlled by far-right extremists who seek to do harm to others. Not standing against them is supporting them and the harm to others they seek.
Fascists are defined as people who want an authoritarian government with stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism. Antifascists, or Antifa, are people who want to stop all of that from happening. There is a big difference between one group who wants to send anyone who isn’t of their ethnic background or with disabilities into gas chambers and the group or people set out to stop them from performing such atrocities. Painting punching Nazis as evil as Nazis existing undoes the entire history of comic book superheroes. If comic books should have taught us anything, it is that heroes fight and try to stop Nazis. Nazis are the bad guys. There is no gray area on that. Nazis are the bad guys.
White-supremacists are a form of fascist who seek to marginalize and do harm to people of color, LGBTQ+ people, Jewish people, people with disabilities, and anyone who isn’t identified as an able-bodied, white, heterosexual, Christian male. Civil rights activists want all people to be treated equally and to have equal access to opportunities, even white, heterosexual, Christian males. This isn’t rocket science, folks. Labeling “both sides” as equals deflates a very important context of good versus evil. Civil rights activists are doing good. The “other side” is trying to do harm to others.
The alt-right is a political movement embracing fascism and white-supremacy with world-wide momentum. Leftists want a social safety net to protect all citizens. While all fascists, white-supremacists and members of the alt-right want to do harm to others, only fringe factions of leftists, Antifa and civil rights organizers advocate for violence. The false equivalence of “both sides” lends an invalid credibility to the far-right they do not deserve and media figures who perpetuate it are guilty of societal harm by trying to normalize a form of extremism that would devalue other humans.
I’ve no crystal ball to tell me how American midterms will go tomorrow, but the trend worldwide these last few years has been that the alt-right, fascists and racists are gaining political power despite being a minority. I would argue that the corporate media giving them equal platform to their exact opposites, legitimizing their fear-mongering, and covering their rallies like they’re anything other than hate-groups has propelled this movement of intolerance and evil into the zeitgeist as acceptable behavior. It isn’t.
All of this is specifically why the too-cool-for-school crowd on social media endorsing lack of participation in the political process has me at wit’s end. I have been on the megaphone for years by your side preaching the duopoly acting as harbinger of oligarchy. While this is certainly a major issue, it is an altogether different conversation that slowing the rise of fascism, especially in these United States. Not having an opposition of any sorts to the fascist-in-chief has allowed him to stack the courts, not just SCOTUS, and for the far-right to make moves both legislatively and through law enforcement never before seen in this country.
In fact, if the-too-cool-for-school crowd put as much time into working for leftist candidates in the primary season as they do in telling us why voting is silly, we would be electing much more change this Tuesday that even current options allow, and there are lots of great, leftist candidates running in this midterm. Just look at candidates endorsed by Brand New Congress, Justice Democrats or Democratic Socialists of America for a list of people, likely to win, that want to effect real change outside of big-money politics.
The false equivalence that not standing up to fascists by electing an opposition isn’t just dangerous for America, it shows complete ignorance of how our system of governance works beyond nightly news sound-bites. Allowing extremists on the right all three branches of Federal and State governments is far worse than money-grubbing corporate Democrats. Yes, we should be working to get rid of both, but there is a difference, and a major difference at that, especially when it comes to the rights of anyone who isn’t a heterosexual white person. Voting for an opposition to the extreme right party that holds majority in near all levels of government isn’t endorsing the sins of Obama or the Clintons. It’s putting the brakes on the rise of fascism and buying us time to mount a stronger revolution. It is much easier to elect leftists moving forward than waiting out lifetime appointments to courts and undoing legislation.
Sure, apples and oranges are both fruit, but they’re entirely different things. We have to call-out commentators, be they corporate news haircuts or independent voices on social media trying to distract others who are rightfully frustrated by the current state of affairs. Apathy is an endorsement of these far-right extremists, a form of apathy they think they can get away with, and we must not let them.
We used to have a Fairness Doctrine in this country which sought to enforce broadcasters to discuss complicated issues with nuance and detail, and keep false equivalence and sound-bite culture from influencing the zeitgeist. While I don’t see how that could aid the need for a more ethical discourse in social media, it would certainly help curtail the hot mess which is modern-day broadcast news. It might seem like we’ve abandoned the notion of truth as a culture, but facts still exist. Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away. Citizens, shining a light on the truth is a much-needed effort in these troubling times. And citizen engagement, through electoral politics, is the only way we fight the big-money interests hijacking our supposed democracy. Conflating wishy-washy feelings that everything is the same is not just false equivalency, but does harm to others who are marginalized and in danger because of the current political rise of the alt-right.
If I had it my way, apathy endorsers and media pundits would be called out on a massive scale as alt-right enablers. The only people not voting would be those disenfranchised from doing so by right-wing leaders, and the rest of us would be litigating to make sure their rights were restored.
That’s how I’d fix false equivalencies, if given the opportunity to do so.