I've been holding this post back for months, but maybe it's time to say something. It's about mob mentality, conformity, blind allegiance, submission, overreaction, Republican and Democratic, it doesn't really matter.
What triggered this post at this particular time? The hyper-positive reaction from my fellow liberals to this VIDEO- Chris Christie: “There is only one group to blame: the House majority and their Speaker, John Boehner.”
Suddenly, because of one moment of justified outrage by this conservative, egocentric blowhard, I'm hearing how Democrats who couldn't stand the guy are now saying they're "fans." That's the word I've heard today, "fans." And as I wrote in that very post, Chris Christie is indeed charismatic, even entertaining, and of course, blunt. But let’s not forget that he’s still rude, nasty, and this guy: Link. Link.
It seems, at least on Twitter, that every time some political figure does something applause-worthy, the comments go right to, "[Hero of the Moment] for president!" (This includes even calls for me to run. Serious calls. No kidding. That's absurd.)
One good deed, one positive news cycle, one moment of clarity or leadership does not warrant unconditional praise or represent a 180 turnaround. Approval, yes. But being that easily impressed and elevating someone so undeserving to hero status is mystifying. Qualifying such a leap in adoration would be helpful.
But the Christie example was simply a catalyst for this writing. Something else, something loosely related has been eating at me for awhile now, and it's time to discuss it.
For the past 3 or 4 years, I've been relentlessly smeared, lied about, bullied, and harassed by someone on Twitter (yes, I've done what I can about it, that's not what this is about), an Obama supporter of all things. It still goes on, but it's calmed down some since the bully is now, sadly, targeting someone else. He has a long history of doing this, a pattern that has been tracked for years, in fact.
Many, many of his former followers (true and obedient followers in every sense) have come forward to apologize to me for their part in piling on. And boy, did they pile on. And boy, did they apologize with sincere, heartfelt, regretful apologies. We've all reconciled, except for the very few who still hang on to this very disturbed individual (medical professionals describe him that way, as do casual/not-so-casual observers, ex-friends and lovers, journalists, politicos, celebrities, and his former allies).
There is no way to convey how complicated, painful, and destructive this years-long episode has been, and only those involved really get it.
That's the VERY short version of what happened. That was traumatic enough, but here's what continues to bother me. I've asked nearly every one of the people who came forward why in the world they so willingly joined him in spreading his bizarre, concocted stories about me (one was a 14,000 word blog post, among other public posts, out of context tales, and tweets). I repeatedly questioned why they would blindly take the word of someone they've never met, someone who wouldn't so much as post his own photo online, without ever coming to me to fact check.
I've wondered what would cause anyone to turn on a former Twitter pal and political ally, a fellow Democrat, and spread vicious rumors, post insulting tweets and blogs of their own, and hurtful fabrications via private message, emails, chats, etc. without ever taking the time to ask me my side of things, whether there was any truth to it, and if any of it were true, what my point of view and reaction might have been.
Every (non) response I got was essentially the same: "He was so charismatic, so believable, seemed to have such credibility, had political connections, provided a huge quantity of 'evidence,' sounded like he knew what he was talking about... and I was needy, I need acceptance, he gave me that, I'm a weak person, I'm gullible, how could I have done that? Now I see others falling for his b.s., and I think to myself, 'That was me!'"
Yet not one person, not one, took the time or even thought to come to me and hear me out. Not. One.
Now. What do the champion of the moment stories and the bully story have in common? Some of you may have figured it out. Those I've spoken to privately about this saw the connection immediately:
Fellow Democrats fell for a strong, authoritarian personality hook, line, and in this case, stinker. No questions asked. They did as they were told (They literally did what they were ordered to do. They'd tweet malicious, stinging messages to me daily, worded the way he dictated to them. They told me this.)
Otherwise thoughtful, intelligent, analytical people willingly aided and abetted a nasty, sick individual without blinking. They supported an obvious narcissist who attacked me, my work, my reputation when they should have known better, should have recognized very obvious signs of hostility and desperate need for attention and power.
What if this were taken a step further, as one very insightful, talented political writer and another professional political commentator I talked to suggested, in light of the Newtown tragedy... what if this mentality extended to outward aggression, violence, including gun violence? If people can be so easily driven by someone they don't know to verbally assault someone they don't know, then what next?
And don't get me started on how upsetting it was to see how easily my fellow Progressives could be convinced to turn on one of their own because they mistook an emotionally ill man to be normal. They were that easily led astray by a "strong" leader.
Would an equally engaging, believable political figure pull the wool over their eyes and cause them to harm themselves and other simply because their words were just attractive enough, just credible enough to charm them into action?
Vetting is important, even in the Twitterverse, but in the "real" world it's mandatory. We must not forgo critical thinking, compassion, reason, and sound judgment for short term and very tempting emotional, political, or financial rewards. Too much is at stake.
Having witnessed just that first hand, you see why I have reason to be concerned. I might add that everyone who has severed their relationship with the man in question, or has watched these very public incidents unfold, has expressed similar concerns. That is why I thought it was time to share mine.
Moral of this very long post: Think for yourself. Ask questions. Do your homework.
Thank you for listening.