Here's a popular right-wing meme that got spread around before the attack in Charlottesville:
So, here's what I want to ask anyone sharing that (or wearing it on a t-shirt - yes, they sell them): When we replace the stick figures with actual bleeding humans, does that change how you feel about it at all? (WARNING: Graphic fucking video):
It's not a rhetorical question. I think the answer to that will decide what happens next.
Racism, likewise, is based on a myth - that these people aren't people at all, that they don't cry or bleed or want the same things we want, that fixing our discomfort is as simple as making them go away, somehow. Now we have the technology to see an event like Charlottesville in real-time from half a dozen angles; we can hear the screams, see first-responders desperately trying to resuscitate victims. We can get a mental image of what an ethnic cleansing would really look like - that same chaos, repeated millions of times. That's the truth behind the edgy frog memes and red-arm bands. Take it in, assholes. It would be a wake-up call. That was the dream, anyway.
3 But The Sword Swings Both Ways
Hey, did I mention that after years of decline, belief in UFOs has shot back up to its previous highs? The need to believe was always there, so others looking to fill that void simply adapted to the marketplace (If you think about it, the aliens would have cloaking technology that makes them invisible to cell phones!). Now consider the fact that the Confederate statues the protesters were rallying around in Charlottesville aren't all 150-year-old relics. New ones are being built all the time (35 Confederate monuments have been added since 2000 in North Carolina alone - lots of them were built in the 1960s as backlash to the civil rights movement). They are, in other words, modern symbols erected by groups looking to change policy today. That's why there's a movement to take them down, and a bitter counter-movement to preserve them. It is only about preserving the past to the extent that it's about making current law conform to it. The point is, if racism is a dying relic, it sure as hell doesn't feel like it. Oh, I'm not surprised that hate groups thrive in this era - a few charismatic sociopaths have always been able to cast a wide umbrella of influence and mass media has just amplified their reach. I mean, you've seen their memes. What I had hoped, though, was that society would be better at spotting them, quicker to see through their tricks. I often wonder how average German citizens would have reacted if camera phones had existed back then and somebody had leaked video from inside a concentration camp. But lots of German citizens did know about the concentration camps! Sure, but it's one thing to have a vague concept of eliminating Jews, another to actually see a wheelbarrow full of dead children. It would be meaningless to the true zealots, but most people aren't that. And yet
1 But I Still Think The Good Guys Will Win
If you've come to the conclusion that the internet really didn't change anything because people are people and set in their beliefs, the facts say you're wrong. For instance, the internet era has been devastating for religion in the U.S.A., with the ranks of nonbelievers more than doubling just since 1990. In that same span, support for gay marriage went from 13 percent to 58 percent. Support for marijuana legalization, from 12 percent to 53 percent. I absolutely believe those abrupt changes happened because many Americans were coming in contact with their first atheists, uncloseted gay people, and admitted pot smokers and finding they weren't monsters. You can strap somebody to a chair and make them watch a thousand hours of PSAs about how this group or that is just like us, but it won't have the same impact as a single positive encounter with one of them. Dogma dies in the face of such experiences. It's easy to think of the internet as a cesspool of anonymous harassers but it is mostly a constellation of tight-knit communities that overlap with others, bringing them together in unexpected ways. You've heard a lot of talk about online bubbles of like-minded people getting more and more extreme in the absence of opposition, but the reason we became so much more open-minded on some issues in the first place is that online communities forced us to mingle across demographics. We may all have joined a forum based on our Babylon 5 fandom, but we quickly realized some of the cool people we were talking to were the type we'd never have run into in our real-life neighborhoods (Wait, you're posting from Brazil? What time is it there?!?). When I was a kid, you'd hear about a deadly earthquake in Taiwan and briefly raise an eyebrow over your coffee. So sad. Today, you jump online and say, Wait, did they say Jiji? That's where Ironheart69 is from! Has anybody heard from her? What I'm hoping is that what we're seeing now is the reaction to that, the loud rage of a racist realizing his sister is dating a damned Muslim, that his old college roommate turned out to be a trans woman, and that there are black people in horror movies who don't die. An ideology kicking and screaming as it is dragged out the door, the equivalent of segregationists blocking black children from their schools, knowing full well that theirs was a lost cause. Over time, lots of those segregationists realized they were wrong, that their rage and the fear at its core were based on nothing. That will happen again. I think. I hope. David Wong is the Executive Editor at Cracked. His new book,WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST READ, is available for preorder now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, iBooks, and Kobo. For more from David, check out Some Brief, Friendly Advice About Race And Racism and 7 Reasons We're Quietly Letting Racists Win. Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out Donald Trump Finally Embraces The Hitler Comparisons, and other videos you won't see on the site! Follow us on Facebook, and we'll follow you everywhere. Get intimate with our new podcast Cracked Gets Personal . Subscribe for great episodes like The Most Insane Things We Saw In Embergency Medicine and 3 Wild Stories from Inside the Opiate Epidemic, available wherever you get your podcasts.