|Mitt Romney (REUTERS / Tim Shaffer)
The media get blamed for a lot of things in the United States. The charges leveled against them can range from having a blatant conservative or liberal bias, to charges of leading the news rather than reporting it.
What’s behind most of these charges is the irritation, experienced by many, at having to hear a point of view that differs pointedly from your own. Nowadays Americans, possibly more than ever before, have no time for opposing opinions.
Sadly, the Internet has helped foster this isolationism. Now, thanks to arcane mathematics, Internet search companies like Google have created elaborate algorithms that can precisely identify your biases and pander to them shamelessly with their search results.
What this means is that in seeking to help you identify the things you’ll probably be interested in, Google and others on the Internet have actually been building you a cocoon.
Instead of reflecting the true diversity and cariousness of existence, it’s now possible to be completely insulated from anyone and everyone who takes a different view.
It’s no accident that the rise of bizarre Tea Party conspiracy theories like the “controversy” over President Obama’s birth certificate, or his “true” political beliefs, or his “true” religion have coincided with increasingly insular web search results.
If you believe, if you truly believe, that Barack Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim socialist you can now join 10 million equally deluded souls with the click of a mouse. And now, thanks to technology, you need never hear another voice raised to contradict you.
It’s time we started worrying about this Balkanization of the Internet. In particular, it’s time we started worrying about the consequences of this isolationism for our society.
US citizens now live in alternate realities where they can whip themselves into a frenzy over so-called controversies and outrages that the rest of American society doesn’t even know exist.
I’ve wondered why the mainstream media have let the most out-there conspiracy theories and charges of the Tea Party receive airtime, over and over again, without correction.
From conservative news sources like Fox News to more progressive networks like MSNBC, it’s common to see Tea Party commentators find forums for their nonsense, without fear of correction.
The networks know that broadsides and outrageous charges pull in viewers, but do they damage our society in the process?
What’s truly chilling is that lies repeated often enough could start to convince even the people who originally told them.
It’s a fact that the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, a political escape artist who never met a principle he couldn’t later disavow, has failed to inspire Tea Party voters.
But in their far-right Internet echo chamber they have managed to turn a moderate social conservative with hard right economic views into Barbra Streisand.
“We will never support the abortionist, homosexualist, socialist, mandate loving, constitution trampling liar Mitt Romney,” wrote Jim Robinson, founder of the conservative Free Republic website, the acknowledged ground zero of middle-aged, white Tea Party supporting voters.
I don’t know what a homosexualist is, by the way. Is it someone who becomes homosexual by default by allowing them to exist? Probably.
But Robinson wasn’t finished berating Romney yet: “You’re a tool. And a coward. A surrender monkey. Willingly voting for a known abortionist socialist constitution-trampling liar. Going down on your knees for the evil bastards for political expedience.
“If I were you with your cowardly attitude I wouldn’t wait to be banned. I’d flee this pro-life conservative site as fast as my weak knees could carry me. But that too would take guts and obviously you don’t have any. So long, RINO (Republican In Name Only).”
Robinson is now calling for a Tea Party revolution against the Republican National Convention (RNC). This is the moment when Frankenstein’s monster breaks free from of the harness and attacks its creator, apparently.
The thing about living in the paranoid hothouse atmosphere of your own worst nightmares is that you can stop seeing a way out.
Robinson’s words suggest he’s inspiring his most ardent followers to assemble a circular firing squad.
In pursuit of an far right America that he hasn’t noticed most Americans don’t want to live in, Robinson and his fellow travelers on the world wide web have turned the global village into an Appalachian backwoods with a Keep Out sign hanging over the gate.