Even humanists, despite our commitment to critical thinking, are susceptible to disinformation campaigns, especially when we aren’t fully up-to-speed on the latest scholarship and are unaware of the campaigns calculated to use us to advance in-humanist agendas. By better understanding the playing field, we can avoid being co-opted by the far right. Here are ten signs you may have inadvertently accepted right-wing talking points, which need not be a reprimand, but rather a call to action to do your homework and overcome these misperceptions.
10) You don’t trust mainstream media and academia because you believe they’ve fallen prey to extremist ideology.
This is a core invention instilled to invalidate reasonable and science-based attempts to counter other right-wing arguments. It’s a flat-out lie that the media is pervasively liberal, but yes, students become more liberal with the more schooling they experience and have done so for generations. That’s not the liberal bias of academia, it’s the progressive conclusions most folks come to when accumulating a broad base of knowledge.
9) You fear that easing the voting process is opening up our system to rampant election fraud.
Realizing that increasing the number of people who are eligible to vote will hurt their chances of being elected, far-right politicians and their ilk are doing all they can to build barriers to voting, especially for marginalized people who understandably won’t vote for them. That’s why voter ID and other such practices are being imposed across the nation despite the shortsightedness of this approach—undercutting democracy isn’t a good long-term strategy for any movement.
8) You think the word feminist excludes/antagonizes men.
Feminism is the advocacy for political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Modern feminists recognize the need to elevate marginalized gender identities and the intersectional impact of race and gender. If you think feminism implies anything else, that suggests you’ve accepted sources for your information that are not credible.
7) You think all lives matter is more important to emphasize than Black Lives Matter.
While we humanists would love to live in a world where race didn’t negatively impact people’s life opportunities, we don’t live in such a world today, nor is that aim about to be realized. So, to return the call to finally recognize the equal value of Black lives with a bland gesture to just recognize everyone’s importance is a failure to see the world as it is, and likely a position pushed on you by the far right.
6) You believe it’s a strategic error to work with (insert left-leaning group) even if you agree with their aims.
In an attempt to divide and conquer, while stirring up their own base with hyperbole, the far-right tries to build a case that the left is overrun with extreme organizations that want to break down family values, assault their religious liberties, and hobble America’s potential. They also attempt to defame anyone or any group that associates with organizations they don’t happen to agree with. Instead of buying into such polarization, we should ally with progressive, mainstream, and even right-leaning groups that share our aims on any given initiative.
5) You’re afraid “cancel culture” will be coming for you next, even though you try to be respectful of all.
Another casualty of polarized politics is the constant attempts by one side to undercut the credibility of the other, something that’s existed in politics as long as this country has been dominated by two political parties. “Cancel Culture” isn’t some new phenomenon only utilized by the left, but a fabricated term that’s an attempt to dismiss often valid concerns raised about harmful behavior. Those who try to be respectful of all and aren’t captive to fear or bigotry need not fear as they endeavor to make positive change.
4) You fail to see the harm in questioning the validity of transgender identity.
What’s the difference between a member of the Flat Earth Society and those who seek to continuously question transgender identity? Both question facts people have long accepted for years, but the latter are contributing to a deadly environment where transgender people are facing bullying, harassment, rape, and murder over their identities. While it’s not a one-for-one analogy, I remember how demeaning it was when articles in the ‘90s would refer to nonbelievers as “so-called” atheists and had talk show hosts try to convince me that I was deluded into thinking there is no god. Let’s accept people’s self-identification when it isn’t harming us or others.
3) You are convinced that most folks seeking to defund the police want anarchy.
The fact that anarchists exist, and always have, doesn’t validate the right-wing claim that there’s a sudden widespread movement afoot to completely abolish the police and not replace existing systems with others that offer even better protection and community services. Very little research is needed to see how bloated policing budgets have pushed law enforcement officers into work they aren’t well suited for. And the militarization of our police forces has opened the door to unnecessary harm. For those single-mindedly focused on tactics or language—this movement for reallocation and reform needs your support more than your critique.
2) You perceive immigrants and undocumented people as a threat to your livelihood.
While more of a perennial myth than a new one forged by the far right, we see fear being stoked that immigrants and undocumented workers are after other people’s jobs, are burdens on taxpayers, and are contributing significantly to crime waves. Accurate research into these questions makes it clear that in most cases our nation’s businesses are desperate to employ these workers to cover unfilled positions, and that they disproportionately relieve, not add to the burden of government support, and account for significantly less crime than other groups.
1) You fear that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is sweeping our public school systems and corrupting our children.
Critical Race Theory is an academic approach developed in the 1970s to investigate how racism is perpetuated through the law and review racial justice strategies. However, it suddenly became a key talking point when the far right, including deep-pocketed libertarians, invested millions to counter what they saw as threats to their position. Don’t be used by far-right funders to support their fabricated crisis. It’s worth remembering that fake news originally referred to false news stories but, in the age of Trump, it’s now used to label anything totalitarians around the world don’t happen to like, such as CRT in this case.