Yesterday, Bob Cesca wrote a piece arguing that we should not ignore moronic provocateurs like Ted Nugent. We've actually discussed this internally at the site given we spend a good amount of time pillorying right-wing nut jobs, and often wonder whether we're giving them undue attention. Sure, it's kinda fun leveling snark at the truly insane comments left on The Blaze and Ted Nugent's idiotic rantings, but it is helpful?
Given the current state of political discourse in America, it's hard to see any other option. And here's why:
It is easy to dismiss the crazies as being on the fringe of society, but the truth is, in America they are well and truly part of the mainstream. Michele Bachmann - a woman who believes natural disasters are a message from God to stop federal spending, vaccines cause 'retardation', and Obama deliberately started swine flu - is an actual member of congress. The Tea Party believes the current President is a Marxist, and one time Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan thinks Ayn Rand is a serious economist.
The fact is, America isn't getting saner, it's getting crazier.
Every four years, the candidates that make it through to top levels of the Presidential election are further and further removed from reality. In 2000, Dick Cheney was regarded as one of the most right-wing Vice Presidential candidates in modern history. In 2004, a Vietnam war hero was portrayed as a liberal traitor, and in 2008, a woman who only got her passport two years earlier got on the Presidential ticket. Then, in 2012, Rick Santorum made it to the final stages of the primaries after publicly denouncing global warming as a hoax, comparing homosexuality to bestiality, and arguing that the theory of evolution had 'holes' in it.
What then, do we have in store for us in 2016? If the number of people attracted to craziness is anything to go to, it isn't going to be pretty.
Take a look at the traffic trajectory of Glenn Beck's site The Blaze since its inception in 2011:
Beck's site isn't growing explosively, but it has made steady gains month after month, year after year. While not quite as crazy as The Blaze, Tucker Carlson's right wing propaganda outlet The Daily Caller has experienced a similar trajectory of growth:
Perhaps most worrying is the number of Tea Party members, that according to an extensive study done by Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR), is growing exponentially:
More people are tuning into conspiracy theories and rabid anti-government rantings, not less. And that means that the right-wing ideology based on fantasy economics, xenophobia, and outright idiocy isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
You can't spend time arguing with crazy, but if it's all around you, you are obligated at the very least to marginalize it. As Bob argued, "The more effective the marginalization is, the less influence screechers like Nugent will have. As the number of people who take Nugent seriously goes down, the seriousness of the discourse goes up."
In the long term of course, marginalization can only be viewed as part of the strategy. There is clearly a breeding ground for the type of reactionary, extremist politics coming out of certain sectors of American society, and the underlying causes need addressing. They include lack of education, the fear-based politics of modern campaigns, the corporate media, the erosion of trust in government, etc etc. The list is long and the problems complex, but to ensure the long term survival of a functioning political system, they are in dire need of attention.
But in the meantime, it is necessary to call out the lunatics as they come in order to stem the incessant tide of disinformation and hate. It's definitely a tactic more than a strategy, but in times like this, every little bit helps.