Thursday, February 25, 2021

Going Back To My Remarks About Racism In America

17% is not an insignificant amount, but neither is it 25% or anywhere close to 50%.  I'd like a baseline of conspiracy theories for comparison, and I don't mean thinkgs like flat-earth or the moon landing was faked (although I suspect you might find close to 17% when that conspiracy theory was at its most popular).

Racism and racist thinking is, I still contend, not fundamentally different from conspiratorial thinking.  It rests on misinformation and lies and fiction; it is fervidly adhered to by its proponents, and filters into the general culture in ways both malicious and perilous.  If anything it's even more pernicious, since the very concept of "race" was started to distinquish "us" from "them" (always a vast and shadowy horder who would take what "we" had, or certainly bring civilization into chaos if "we" were not ever vigilant.  What do you think "white man's burden" was?).  We talk about discarding racism.  Seldom do we talk about discarding the very concept of "race".

Far more than 17% of the American public holds some attitude about "race," which in itself is almost by definition an adherence to racism ("Oh, no!", we cry.  "Racism is fare worse than recognizing racial characteristics!"  But is it?  Really?  And no, we can't discard "race" with a wave of the hand and make everything all well again.  But until we work toward full equality for persons, and toward eliminating distinctions based on the very concept of race, we won't get to the former.).  So I'm wondering:  is 17% believe a completely crackpot notion of Satan worshippers and pedophilia secretly runs the world (replacing the International Jewish Conspiracy, among other things)(and again I point out the roots of this ridiculous notion lie in the news stories of the '80's and '90's, when mothers and fathers turned their children over to strangers for "day care," and the anxiety of the era gave rise to actual court cases in which people were convicted for Satanic worship and abuse, physical and sexual, of the children in their care.  That was nonsense and bullshit, too; but it was sanctioned by the courts themselves, through criminal convictions.  When even the courts are in on it, however well-meaningly, how do you prove it was all lies and frightening fairy tales?).

Sorry for so many digressions, but the question remains:  what is this 17% number in context?  As Forster said:  "Context is all."


  1. 17% is roughly a sixth of the population. If a sixth of the population believed that any number of insane things were an imminent danger on March 17th and were ready to act on that,it would be serious trouble. Especially when you realize that a lot of those prone to these irrational beliefs are allowed to possess everything from hand guns to means of blowing up large federal buildings because of the goddamned Second Amendment as interpreted by Republican-fascists and "civil libertarians" as if they're really different at bottom.

  2. There’s the “if” again . How many people really think anything is an “imminent danger” AND are ready to act on it. I would grant the first part is easy: my experience as a pastor is that people complain about everything. Taking action, though, is another matter.

    1/6th of people in any group will have “bad” ideas. That’s unavoidable. Acting on those bad ideas usually requires someone urging them on. Trump got further with that than Father Coughlin or Tailgunner Joe, but he’s in Florida now and his next gig is CPAC. I saw some videos from CPAC 2019 and it was like an old Academy Awards show: who remembers what was said or who said it. And those people were flat crazy.

    Complaining on the internet is a lot easier than taking to the streets. After January 6 there were supposed to be similar incidents at state capitols. About 6 people showed up in Texas, milled about for an hour, and left. Talk, as ever, is cheap. It’s also easier.