The New Moral Majority (or, Thank God I'm Not Like Tom)

A few months ago, I stepped away from Facebook partly because -- though I truly enjoy connecting with people in various circles this way -- social media as a whole has become such a time suck. Mostly, to be completely honest, I stepped back because of the horrendous display of pretentious meanery (I know that's not a word) displayed by so many people in every social media sandbox. 

Let me say this up front: the last thing I want to do is sound like yet another angry, trumpeting voice. In fact, I'm not angry, not now, and truly haven't been that way in the past. I'm worried, mostly. In the past, the online world of life-sharing has had its horseflies, people (generally called 'trolls') who travel site-to-site for the sole purpose of posting angry venom. Because they are angry people; they are hurt people As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people.  You put up with them, do your best to control their access to your virtual world like mosquitoes at a cookout, and move on.

The thing is, and it might not be the way you think from the title of this post, those 'trolls' have evolved. Into you and me.

In the 1980's, during my distant college years, a group of powerful middle-aged white men decided they knew what was best for the world, and like the Spanish Inquisition of the past they began pontificating against anyone whose lifestyle was against what they believed the Bible said. These folks did everything they could to turn the world (or at least their beloved country) against them. Some might have argued then, as now, that most of this was done for political gain than any moral cause. In the end, they would argue, what did it matter what they said about the sinners of the day? Those people were going to hell anyway, right? Maybe, they must have thought, if their lives and livelihood were destroyed they might turn around, or repent, and find Jesus, or at least no longer be a wrong influence on our children. 

I tended (and still do, though far less because of the subject at hand) to be pretty liberal in those days, and perhaps this shielded me from most of this propaganda. I was also a Christan and could see how their words and actions were breaking Jesus' Golden Rule. But what did I know?

Today, the Moral Majority are back but not in the way one would think. Yes, the conservative political powers and media still woo and deceive (in my opinion) my fellow believers to vote their way. But far more menacing and troubling is the new, modern Moral Majority being played out by the "left" or liberal political pundits and their followers. In the 80's, the media (news outlets, the larger, more influential magazines - there was no internet) went where the readership and money was and backed the conservatives. Today, they promote the progressive and liberal causes most of the time - again, only because that is where the readership and money is. 

The online communities have collapsed into angry conservative 'rednecks' and angry liberal Karens. (No, I did not mix up my metaphors). My fellow liberals have suddenly become raging trolls across social media, Virtue Signaling every chance they get both to damn anyone who thinks other than what they deem proper, and to make themselves look good. Neither of these is always their intentions (at least not consciously), nor is it likely their first instinct, but if you take an honest step back and look....

People still say things to make a splash, or honestly make a mistake. But like the 80's conservative political powerhouse, today's Moral Majority leaves no room for any narrative but its own. 

Earlier this year, a leader in the horror writer community, Tom Monteleone, once a respected figure in the business for his day and man known for (and praised for) being bullheaded and caustic (both traits he used for comic and often irritating effect), said things online that were probably intended to shake people up, get people irritated (and, as would happen in past, get them talking). I'm pretty sure he was also sincere in his opinions and thus revealed his more conservative bent towards life, being a gray-hair like so many of us. 

It blew up in his face. 

Should he have said what he said initially? Yes, because he has the right to post his opinion. Was it a popular opinion in today's artistic clime? Not a bit. However, when enough angry people began e-yelling at him on the thread he posted, he did what one would expect of a man used to being listened and praised for his words, he shot back with equal venom.  It spiraled and collapsed and I'm certain he will never publish another word in any horror or speculative fiction magazine ever again. 

Because it would not be politically prudent. In a way this is too bad because he could be very entertaining and sometimes we all need people to shake up the status quo, if only to make sure the current normal for "right and just" still sticks when flung against the wall.

Any of us, young, middle aged or old, white or Black or Name-Your-Origin, are one sentence away from Tom's fate. Many good people I know were far more civil in debating him on his points (which I won't cover here, since that's not the point for this discussion, but I do touch on a number of similar topics here). Some who defended him were immediately labeled as racists or transphobic or name-your-phobic simply for speaking up for the character of a friend. Many of the latter stopped posting. Many of the former, who started out polite enough also stopped, but a chunk of them eventually posted elsewhere that they disavowed everything Tom said, to let people know where they stood on the battle (in case anyone cared). They didn't need to. But they did, in case someone read it.

I love my fellow writers and artists in the horror and sci-fi community, and I still consider myself moderate left (which I define as progressive but willing to listen to both sides of an argument). And yes, I'm speaking to so many of you who are actually standing up for the downtrodden, for the under-represented in our society. Thank God, literally, that this has happened, and if that's what you are saying, then great! Because this world needed equality and kindness to finally come to the forefront of society. 

In all honesty, however, what I see most of the time from so many is someone lashing out at anyone you deem to be unworthy to participate in "decent society" and applying to these people words like "racists" and "transphobe" arbitrarily because it will hurt them, rather than listen and debate respectfully. Calling people "transphobe," especially more recently is a very worrying trend. But that's for another time. 

In the end, what we had earlier this year felt like (and you can disagree just don't be a dick about it) respected members of my beloved Creative Community acting like an angry mob of self-righteous prigs attacking other angry, self-righteous prigs for having an opinion, right or wrong as these opinions might be. I may find troubling many of the politics of my right-leaning friends, but when they point to the creative left as borderline communist in moments like this, it becomes hard to argue. 

What remains are us frustrated Creatives in the middle watching the "sinless" cast the first and last stones while beating to death the careers of anyone they decide is "bad" with the planks in their eyes. 

It is good to stand up for the under-represented and those too long held under the thumb of power grabbers. Black Lives Matter. Everyone has the right to be loved and respected, regardless of anything, as long as how they live doesn't hurt others. That also includes people who don't believe what you believe. If the 80's and Jerry Fallwell's Moral Majority taught us anything it's that acting like an asshole even if you believe you are doing the right thing, is still acting like an asshole. Many of my fellow artists, whom I like and respect have been acting this way.

Let's finally take a breath, and change the world with love, not venom and self-congratulating pats on the backs. 

There are many aspects of the 80's that were quirky and fun. The Moral Majority was not one of them. Let's leave that kind of mentality in the past.


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