I observed in a recent post that, for people on different sides of a political argument, “‘their’ views are always based on ignorance, fear, self-interest, or a refusal to face reality, while ‘ours’ are always based on wisdom, courage, decency and deep understanding of the world.”
‘Always’ is an exaggeration I admit, but if you look at the incredibly abusive and ill-tempered political debates that happen online, where the normal veneer of politeness is stripped away, ‘people who don’t agree with me are just ignorant shits’ does seem to be a pretty prevalent view.
This article here (about working class people being more right-wing than middle class people) caught my eye a while ago. I found it interesting. But look at the comment thread underneath it. So much of the argument consists of applying ugly labels to people, in order to define them as ‘other’, and therefore not worth considering.
For example, one post reflects as follows on why working class people are (according to the poll under discussion) more opposed to immigration than middle class ones: ‘Perhaps the working classes don’t care for a few million new workers competing for a diminishing pool of work’. The next post retorts: ‘I guess the BNP is your party of choice’ and ‘Pretend you aren’t a nazi if it makes you feel better.’
If you’re going to call someone a Nazi for thinking that working class people may be worried about immigrants taking their jobs, what word have you got left to describe someone who thinks (just for instance) that Jews should be exterminated and Aryans should take over the world?
But then again, calling someone a Nazi (or a bullshitter, or whatever), is a very quick way of not engaging with what they have to say at all. Yes, and let’s at all costs stick to two camps, ‘us’ and ‘them’, rather than deal with the anxiety of not always being certain that we’re right.