Example - I have been added to the Patriot movement's email distribution list.
Not the fun football Patriots, but rather the gun-toting, Obama-hating, Bible-thumping, anti-tax, grammatically-challenged Patriots. (Note: I'm really not calling people names here. This is more or less a Patriot self-description made available on a t-shirt. See below.)
I have a junk AOL email account that I use as a catch-all for general email crap...pizza coupons, make-up tips, Vegas deals, fur recommendations from Rachel Zoe. I hardly ever look at it - I mean does anybody actually use AOL anymore?! So imagine my surprise when, right after Christmas, I started receiving daily Patriot Update emails in said account. My reactions went something like this...
Get the fuck outta town!
Hey, this shit is funny!
Ewww...this shit is disturbing.
Oh wait, there's a blog topic in here somewhere.
Patriot spam. Really. Each email was primarily a list of links to very important Patriot-related "news" items followed by a series of ads for very fun Patriot-related items. Such as...
- The 1599 Geneva Bible - back in print AFTER 400 YEARS! The Bible that "Obama does NOT want you to read!" I'm not sure why Obama doesn't want me to read this version of the Bible, but there wasn't an FAQ section to the ad, so I guess this will remain a mystery...unless I buy the Bible. Awesome marketing idea.
- The 2nd Amendment t-shirt - "The 2nd Amendment: America's Original Homeland Security, Right to Bear Arms"
- The D.A.D.D.D t-shirt - "Dads Against Daughters Dating Democrats". Get it? Like Mothers Against Drunk Driving? I'm a little disappointed that I didn't come up with this one myself.
- The "I'm a God Fearin', Bible Believin', Gun Packin', America Lovin' CONSERVATIVE" t-shirt. Conservatives evidently hate g's. Unless it's capital G in God. I believe this purchase comes with a free bumper sticker: "I'll keep my guns, freedom, & money...You can keep the 'change!'".
- And my personal favorite...The 2011 Cruise for Liberty. Only $599! "Makes a great Christmas gift for that conservative who needs a break from Obama and the Democrats!" I guess this is what conservatives do with the money that they kept - along with their guns and freedom. Maybe they'll be able to shoot dolphins from the ship!
I didn't dig much deeper at the time that I first discovered my newest email resource because of all the other shit that was going on in my life. But I made mental note, logged it under "possible blog topics" and moved on.
And then yesterday, I turned on the TV to watch football and came face-to-face with the horrifying coverage of the shooting in Tucson of U.S. Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords.
I wish I could say that I was surprised that this happened. Given the hate spewing from both sides of the political spectrum...given the unbalanced fringe of audiences hanging on every word...how could it not?
It was sad and frustrating and so completely senseless.
I remembered the Patriot email and was curious. So I decided to have a peek at the site.
It's not for the faint of heart.
The articles are obviously written with a Tea Party slant but are, for better or worse, not completely offensive.
But the comments - holy shit, the comments!
Here's a taste...Nancy Pelosi in a body bag, Barack Obama in a body bag, solve the country's problems by taking away White House Secret Service funding, Barack Hussein Obama, how all Muslims are generally evil and want to kill us, Obama is not really the president, the goal of healthcare reform is to control the people, Obama is a socialist, Obama is evil, "Barry Odumbo" is a power-hungry Muslim, Allah is a god but has to bow to God the Father, you can't take the "slum" out of Obama, and on and on and on. A lot of it is incoherent, grammatically indecipherable rambling - a bit similar to what we've been seeing from the YouTube videos allegedly created by the Tucson gunman.
And I'm not sure who this Barry Odumbo is, but he sure sounds like a dick.
But the most chilling - for me, at least - was this comment, "In Arizona we saw a tragedy yesterday. The assailant was 'pissed off' at his Rep. She backed the healthcare, and abortion. In November, We The People have spoken against this Tyrannical Government and their Socialism Run Regime...yesterdays result is from the after-affects of this healthcare, someone finally 'had enough'....I'm saddened for the little girl who passed, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. But for the Rep., she represented Obama." (sic)
In other words, it's ok. She had it comin'.
And this is only one comment that I chanced across on one site. What the hell else is out there??
I'm going to step back here and say that I firmly believe that everybody deserves a voice. If you have an opinion, you have the right to make it heard. But...BUT...if somebody is already on the edge of crazy, and is prone to seek out fringe opinions such as the one stated above...that somebody might start to think that crazy is ok and, worse, actionable.
My goal here is not to preach. God/Allah knows, I hate preachy. And if you're a card-carrying Patriot or Tea Bagger, don't just fire off on me here because - you know what - I'm bringing awareness to your crazy and maybe somebody will seek out your site as a result of reading this blog and will be so taken by the strength and conviction of your crazy that they decide to become a Patriot/Tea Bagger too.
And if you're a "main stream" Tea Bagger with legitimate issues and are interested in engaging in a conversation to find a productive solution to what ails us, doesn't it bother you that the crazy in your fringe have taken over the conversation? That you are now lumped in with them?
There are valid points to be made on all sides of every issue. But - for the sake of all - let's take a step back, breathe deep and quiet the crazy.
Or just put it on a t-shirt.