The Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds, is pushing his new book about social media, so in a recent column he links a piece by Salena Zito, decrying Twitter for its sabotage of “normal political debate.” The problem with Zito’s analysis is that at least since the 1960s, the venom and furor seen on Twitter is America’s “normal political debate.”
But conservatives blaming social media for the state of public discourse sound exactly like liberals blaming guns for mass shootings. Social media is only a tool. It’s how people use that tool that makes up our nation’s political conversation. The Left uses social media just as they have used TV, radio, and newspapers. The Left poisoned debate in this country long before Al Gore supposedly invented the internet.
I was 20-months-old when President Kennedy was assassinated. That was one of those “unifying” moments people like to talk about. The myth we’ve been told is that the nation forgot their political differences during that time and banded together. Sadly, the unifying moment memo didn’t make it to Dan Rather’s desk. He went on the air and told a fake news story about Dallas school children cheering Kennedy’s death. It would take another 41 years for Rather’s lies to catch up with him.
Kennedy was murdered by a Communist. Nevertheless, for decades the Left has turned that “unifying” moment into an attack on the Right. Conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory has been created to alleviate the Left’s guilt and place the blame on the Right.
When I was 2-years-old, Democrats filibustered the Civil Rights Act. Within a few years of the act’s passage, Democrats achieved one of the most dramatic and positively maddening turn abouts in political history. The party of slavery and segregation transformed itself into the party of calling everyone who disagreed with them racist.
The Democrats began their rehabilitation by inventing Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.” This was a complete fabrication. In 1968, the Deep South voted for George Wallace, not Richard Nixon. Nevertheless the big lie was spread farther and faster than truth ever has been spread. By the time I was 10 disagreeing with Democrats on anything from food stamps to affirmative action automatically tagged you as a racist.
I was 5-years-old when Walter Cronkite went on national television to declare the war in Vietnam was lost. While America’s soldiers were dying on the field of battle, Cronkite assured Mr. and Mrs. America their sons were dying for nothing. Try to imagine that a generation earlier, on June 6, 1944, D-Day.
As the day wore on and the army was bogged down on Omaha Beach, imagine Walter Cronkite looking earnestly into the newsreel cameras and declaring World War II was lost. Instead of being declared the “most trusted man in America,” Cronkite’s name would have been synonymous with Tokyo Rose. What would have been considered treason in 1944 made Cronkite a hero to the Left in 1968.
I was a college freshman when Ronald Reagan won the 1980 election. Students wore black armbands and professors ranted about the stupid actor Reagan and his stupid voters. Some students for peace group held a “die-in” on the quad. Students lay down on the ground, demonstrating the great genocide about to commence because of the horror of that “warmonger” Reagan.
Today. President Reagan, safely dead, is held up as the “good Republican.” We are assured Reagan himself would be horrified by the extremes of President Trump’s rhetoric. That is, the same people who called Reagan an “amiable dunce” and “dangerous cowboy,” are now claiming Reagan would join in with the Trump Derangement Syndrome.
If there was some magical normal of American political discourse, in which people argued civilly, factually, and without furor, it ended before I was born. For my entire life, political debate has been dominated by the Left. The Left calls you an “-ist” or a “-phobe” if you dare to disagree with them. The Left lies. The Left engages in violence or defends the violence of fellow leftists. I am 57-years-old. Surely something that has gone on for at least 57 years must be accepted as the norm.
The internet didn’t create this. Social media didn’t do this. The ugly state of American politics is a much older story than anyone on the Right wants to admit. The ugly state of American politics is owing to the ugly state of left-wing politics. We aren’t going to fix this with common sense Twitter control.