Social media and the news media have us believing that the minority of extremists that exist in the world are the majority and that extremist viewpoints are mainstream viewpoints. We have forgotten that our information is carefully and strategically controlled by Artificial Intelligence that is geared towards getting a reaction from its users in order to profit from their emotions. The news media operates in a similar fashion, giving the appearance that violence and dysfunction are commonplace rather than a rarity in the greater scale of American life.
All of these influences put together paints a picture of the world in the extreme but if you put down your phone, turn off the television and speak with the average person, you’ll begin to people for who they truly are; complex and moderate. From personal experience, I find that most people have the same desires, they just differ on the approach to get there.
What we misunderstand with the news media and social media is that they aren’t necessarily trying to create extremists, they are trying to gain a reaction to the idea of extremism. People don’t mind progression as long as it is moderate progression but when the progression appears to be extreme, they reject it. There is a reason why people use terms like “white supremacy” and “communism”, these are extremist ideologies. The people who throw these terms around want you to react, not adapt, because your reaction creates the most views, clicks and buys.
With this being stated, there is a way to present an extreme viewpoint that could be palatable if your goal is to garner support. In order to present an extreme viewpoint that is counter to what others believe, you typically need a tragedy of some sort or an extreme real world example to push people into your direction. For example, the phrase “Defund the Police” only works right after a tragedy, like the death of George Floyd, but it would have seemed ridiculous a month prior to his death. Another example could be the Patriot Act passing post 9/11 with the alleged idea of protecting Americans when, in many ways, it infringes on the rights of Americans.
This method works because people tend to become reactionaries when tragedy occurs and our lack of reason in extreme moments is our vulnerability. There is a reason why after a mass shooting there is a push for more gun control. People die every day from being shot but the people who are advocates of gun control within the government choose to use these tragedies as opportunities. I’m not necessarily stating whether it’s right or wrong to do so, it’s just a political strategy and it’s effective.
There could also be information that appears to be extreme only due to the mainstream information given. Extreme information, at least within America, always gets labeled as a “conspiracy theory” when it counters the popular narrative and pulls away from a moderate outlook. For example, in the Summer of 2020, there were theories spread by certain people online that the COVID-19 virus came from a Wuhan lab, now in 2021, it’s appearing that this former conspiracy is actually very possible. It’s now viewed as possible partly because it needed the slow progression of an investigation as well as the presentation of such information from people who are considered credible.
Whether it be extreme viewpoints or extreme information, the key to convincing people to accept such information is the delivery. There is a reason why people call the guy holding a cardboard sign and shouting at the sky “crazy” yet some would pay to listen to the same message from a man wearing a suit and speaking calmly. Delivery of message matters and the more extreme the message is, the more it becomes important. There is a reason why some of the biggest activists in the country are part of academia; they have academic legitimacy, they speak with a moderate tone and their vocabulary is precise. This combination helps the moderates of the world reconsider their stance and give an extreme viewpoint higher consideration.
As someone who considers himself “Libertarian minded”, one of the crucial misunderstandings that I believe some Libertarians have, especially the ones involved in the Libertarian Party, is that they don’t believe that some of their viewpoints are extreme to most people. I find that they also don’t take into consideration that most people don’t even know what a Libertarian is, thus allowing for others to define it for them because they failed to fill in the gaps.
What is a Libertarian?
Libertarians believe that, in politics, liberty is the most important value. Almost everyone wants freedom for themselves, but a libertarian also seeks to protect and expand the freedom of others.
When people are free, we can create a more just, more prosperous, safer, and better world for everyone.Libertarianism.org
Libertarian politicians don’t need to change their stance on certain ideas, however, they should be highlighting the policy ideas that are the least extreme to most people and using real world extreme examples to point out how their policy ideas would resolve that particular issue. Libertarians don’t need to become the diet version of another political party in order to gain support, they just need a new strategy.
In my opinion, 2020 could have been the year of the Libertarian with all the failings of the government and loss of personal freedoms for the average American, yet even for a small party, they failed to make this point during a year long extreme event. Instead of allowing the hardline Libertarians to argue about whether public roads should be privatized, why not highlight viewpoints and policy ideas that are palatable to the average moderate thinking American? Why not prop up rationally sound people within the party to convey your ideas? Preaching absolutism will only keep the status quo and cowering to the political establishment will only dilute your stance.
While I am not a card carrying Libertarian, I would love to see the success of a third party within America, especially the Libertarian Party. Everyone should know what a Libertarian is and what the party stands for while not allowing others to misrepresent their principles. I believe in many of the Libertarian viewpoints and I believe that if most people heard their viewpoints from a sound communicator, at the right times, with a reasonable message, it could cause an exponential growth to the party. Randomly yelling your ideas through Twitter like the crazy guy with a cardboard sign only causes people to wholly reject them and never give them consideration.