I was listening to Monette Richards and Steve Shives talking about #MeToo this morning while preparing for my class. It’s a good discussion, and I only objected to one thing: they talk for a bit about how social media, YouTube, Facebook, etc. was enabling a bold new wave of rotten people. I’m old enough to remember a time before any of those things, and before the internet even.
It was bad then, too.
But it was different. Case in point: look at the John Birch Society. They were thriving in the 50s — they were more mainstream then — and the 60s, and they were peddling some heinous, hateful shit, even without a YouTube channel. They were recruiting racists, they were putting together marches, they were setting up their own private conferences. Even as a pre-teen I was exposed to their horrid dogma (and was repulsed by it — you know you’re pushing bad propaganda when even an 8-year-old can see through it). They were a minority, but they were influential, in a very bad way, and they were more cloaked.
I think the difference is that back then, if you supported an evil organization, whether it was the KKK or the John Birchers, you would proudly tell them, but you didn’t have a bullhorn to announce to the public at large that you were signing on with the bad people. It was more of a surreptitious growth, just as damaging, but you weren’t seeing it flamboyantly displayed. Nowadays when you think the alt-right is just peachy, you openly support it with an upvote or repost on Facebook, or you leave an ugly misspelled comment on YouTube, and everyone knows, oh yeah, those assholes have another fan.
But the point is that those supporters were doing the same thing way back when. It was just quieter. Nowadays the big difference is that everyone is wearing big bold colors that declare where you stand. I don’t know whether that’s better or worse, because the awful reactionary conservatives were pretty pernicious even without their own Facebook fan page.
You can also wear big bold colors that say you are on the side of righteousness by supporting the conference Monette is organizing, Secular Women Work. Attend or get a t-shirt by donating to their kickstarter.