Often when we see the excesses of a given group—political, religious, or etcetera—we connect them with one end or the other of the given categorization’s spectrum. It is as if we pull out some graph paper, draw a straight line, and are convinced that anyone’s view can be plotted on it. A little bit left of X, a little bit right of Y…a bit more liberal than A, a bit more conservative than B.
And we lionize that thoughtful, considerate, and mystical class that falls right in the middle…you know…the “moderates.” (Although it should be noted that in this paradigm a moderate is a big fat zero.)
Sometimes thinking of viewpoints this way makes sense. Denominations are often connected in overall thought with differences only being a matter of degree and non-essential doctrines. The same is true with politics—is it not fair to consider Code Pink to the left of, but on the same half of the line, as Democrats? The Tea Party, albeit somewhat of an unruly son, the child of Republicans (perhaps with some Libertarian DNA snuck in)?
But what of organizations and viewpoints the great majority would find excessive? Where would you place skinheads? Anarchists?
The reason I ask is because I believe, at least with politics, part of the reason people choose to apply the linear paradigm is because they can use it to assign guilt by association. See a racist?! Clearly it shows the natural result of Republican thought!!! See an anarchist?! Those darn Democrats have struck again!
But are either fair? The anarchist example might be best. Should they be plotted around Democrats or Republicans? Given their other (likely) viewpoints and the folks they hang out with (e.g. at a G20 protest), it would seem fair to plot them left of the Democrats—on their end of the spectrum. However, given the Republican’s historical (but not necessarily constant or recent) commitment to as few laws possible and minimum government, shouldn’t it go (heading right on our graph paper) Republicans -> Libertarians -> anarchists?
Which is it?
I suspect most of us could easily expand our plotting to 2D…for example a Libertarian would be to the right and either above or below (depending on what the Y access defines). But would that really be be enough for every case? How about 3D?
I don’t believe so. I would argue some viewpoints, and definitely some people, exist in a totally different dimension. Their thought universe is wholly different than pretty much anyone else’s who has at least one foot in reality. To even speculate about connections to Democrats or Republicans is at best disingenuous and/or illogical, and at worst outright character assassination. There is no benefit; do we really believe if Democrats would tone down their language anarchists would suddenly embrace the rule of law? Or if the Republicans would stop their war-like metaphors skinheads would start embracing African Americans?
No, there is no benefit to connecting thought-outcasts with mainstream organizations other than to demonize our opponents. It isn’t an honest discussion, it is a strategic attack.
I have focused on the political because, I’ll admit, it’s easier for me to come up with examples…but it has theological implications.
To mimic Greg Gutfeld on Red Eye, if you don’t agree with me you are a Sabellian anarchist who is a closet member of the John Birch Society and believes in the Moral Influence Theory!