By Scott Robertson
Have you ever seen someone intentionally rile someone else up just to get a rise out of them?
In today’s vernacular, it’s called trolling. When I was in talk radio, we’d do it all the time. You begin with a reasonable question, then take the argument to an absurd level.
“Of course I believe in concealed carry. Now do I think kindergartners should be allowed to carry concealed firearms into schools? Well, if their parents have trained them in firearm safety from the cradle and truly believe their little angels are ready for the responsibility, I don’t see what business the government has telling us how to raise our children, especially if it’s a small caliber handgun like a little two-shot .22 or something. I mean a .357 magnum is obviously a non-starter because how are you going to conceal one on a kindergartner? But still, you have to have adequate stopping power, regardless. It’s an interesting question. Caller, go ahead…”
Pretty soon, you’ve filled another hour of airtime with entertainingly enraged callers on both sides, played the commercials that were the real reason the program was even on the air in the first place, and hopefully driven up the ratings so the advertisers would pay more next year.
Internet chat room and comment section users do it to each other today. The websites love it because more comments equal higher ad rates. Some even generate intentionally divisive stories to drive that sort of thing, or so I am told.
Now I don’t want to go full tinfoil hat here, but I am really starting to believe many players at the highest level on both sides in government have given up on solving most of the real problems America faces and are now just toying with voters in order to keep us feeding the conflict machine.
It’s certainly easier to continually recite the same few copy points with minor variations than it is to actually govern. Governance takes effort. It takes nuanced understanding of complex issues. It takes willingness to give and take. It takes the political will to sometimes tell your constituents you have to vote in their best interest instead of giving them what they want at that moment.
So instead of governance, we get “the government.”
Maybe some party bigwigs on both sides got together and set some ground rules, or maybe it’s just happened this way by circumstance, but there do seem to be some things that work toward keeping this system rolling toward perpetuity.
For instance, have you noticed that on social issues, liberals seem to always have the upper hand, while in fiscal issues, conservatives generally fare better?
The first time I noticed it was back in the early ‘90s, when a pundit on one of the Sunday interview shows noted, “conservative voters get riled up by candidates promising to overturn Roe v Wade, but they get a capital gains tax cut instead.”
This has been the pattern for more than 20 years now, and everybody in government seems to be okay with it. Roe v Wade has stood for 42 years. If it were really the priority that conservative politicians say it is, do you think it would still be here 42 years after the fact? 42 years?!?
Pot is increasingly legal. Gay marriage is the law of the land. The battle flag of the Confederacy is now signa non grata. Social conservatives have sources for outrage everywhere they look.
At the same time, voting law changes and decisions like Citizens United make it easy for fiscal conservatives to dominate their liberal opponents in fundraising, providing liberals with ample opportunities for righteous (lefteous?) indignation.
It’s not uniform, of course. Guns and militarized cops are liberal social issues, while the war on coal is a conservative money issue. Both buck the trend (the Supreme Court finally weighed in on coal’s side, though far too late).
It just looks like both sides have figured out how to milk us all for continuing campaign donations in perpetuity, without ever having to seriously address the issues, and we’re all too easily distracted by the latest shiny thing to notice, or even care. We just keep arguing with each other on the Internet, and they keep raising the rates for next year.