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Five Minutes with the Average Voter

Phil Eiger Newmann, The Arena, 2020.

1,431 words

Any belief, no matter how desperately well-intentioned, in the efficacy and wisdom of democracy depends on the fundamentally flawed notion that the average voter is anything loftier than an easily frightened and brainwashed lab rat. There’s a quote famously misattributed to Churchill about how “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” And then there’s everything Mencken said about democracy — all of it bitter, all of it true, and all of it focused on the idea that the average voter is a gullible boob who should barely be trusted to tie his own shoelaces properly.

My interest in politics has nothing to do with matters of policy and strategy and everything to do with human group psychology — specifically how no human group seems able to cluster together for more than five minutes without designating an enemy group that must constantly be degraded, spat upon, blamed for all the world’s ills, injected and disabled with a fatal dose of guilt, and ultimately exterminated.

To pretend the Left and the Right — which are immaterial and ultimately indefinable terms with no fixed meaning but that at least in America at the end of the year 2020 tend to metastasize around the terms “Democrats” and “Republicans” as if they aren’t two arms on the same monster — don’t mutually engage in this sordid practice of scapegoating, shaming, dehumanizing, and punishing the other side is to ignore almost everything that people from these two ill-defined groups say online.

If there’s a palpable difference in the levels of one side’s nastiness and censoriousness, it’s usually only an indication that the worst offenders are the ones currently in power, and that’s how people in power behave. As Lord Acton once noted, power breeds assholes.

With its zero-frills HTML design that seems not to have changed one code bracket since 1995, Craiglist is the average person’s idea of an average website. It’s a good place to find a cheap weight bench or a used bookcase — I’ve found both on Craigslist. It’s also where I found my dog, a Boston Terrier/Boxer mix who was a little too rambunctious for the family that bought him through a breeder. Craigslist used to be one of the Web’s most popular websites — I’m certain I saw it hovering amid the Top 20 as recently as five years ago — but seems to have slipped ever since its very public self-purge of all the free “meet me at the dumpster behind Walmart for a quick blow ’n’ go” hookup ads in 2018.

Craiglist still has a “politics” section, where people who are looking for a used carburetor for a 1999 Dodge Ram can leave their political opinions like so many rodent droppings. Apart from the occasional public service announcement, the separate “rants and raves” section is indistinguishable from the politics section presumably because politics are the only thing that people tend to rant and rave about anymore, so I took a gander at both.

Online political behavior seems to consist largely of intensely miserable people attempting to exorcise their misery by pointing out someone else who seems even more miserable than they do — and hoping that the accusation sticks so that they can finally feel good about themselves. Not only do people never tire of screaming at each other, they also never tire of watching everyone else scream at one another. None of this is good.

Perusing Craigslist’s “politics” and “rants and raves” section for more than five minutes quickly becomes another tedious example of the pitfalls and idiocies of ingroup/outgroup psychology.

Those on the other side are the Real Haters. The other side is The Greatest Threat To America. The other side is a Clear and Present Danger. Our side represents the “real” America that the other side seeks to exterminate. Our side is the only decent side, the only one that values democracy. Their side consists of easily brainwashed terrorists, liars, cheats, and criminals with NO conscience. We are well-informed, while they are all low-information voters. They are disgraceful and disgusting trash, and it’s time to take out the garbage. They are the real racists, but since they are liars, they will never admit it — and why would you trust a lying racist, anyway?

We all know who the bad guys are here — and it’s NOT us. It’s THEM. We are good and they are evil. And because this is a highly moral universe rather than a cold, gaping void that couldn’t give a shit if we all dropped dead next Tuesday, our side will ultimately win. We will dance in sunny daffodil fields while they burn in hell.

Here’s what one side says about the evil other side (all citations from Craigslist are reproduced exactly the way the atom-splitting genius who pecked them out typed them):

Planned Parenthood is the biggest genocide in human history and it is little more than a Satanic sacrifice center. It doesn’t get more Satanic than that. They also love devilish homosexuals which is an abomination in God’s eyes. They are communists and communists are anti-God Atheists some are even Satanists. The Democrats are lawless drug addled lawless domestic terrorists and they also love pedophiles as we saw with Gavin Nuisance governor of Californication that signed a Bill allowing evil male faggots to rape boys as young as 14 and not have to be on the sexual predator list when they are clearly demon possessed sexual predators like the whole of the Demoncratic Party.

And here’s what that evil other side says about the one side that just called them evil:

trump is the devil incarnate (hellville city)…trump is the antichrist , liar , cheat thief , untrustworthy , disloyal coward, unhelpful , discourteous , antichrist ,depressed unhealthy ,arrogant , pridefull , unthrifty , dirty mobster , devil incarnate.

Because this is the Internet and people are talking about politics, there are also the never-ending volleys of insults, an endlessly bitter round-robin of attacking the speaker rather than his ideas. Oh, you don’t agree? Get a life, you ignorant, miserable waste of human flesh. Man, are you a fucktard. You’ve been brainwashed, manipulated, and spoon-fed a steaming pile of manufactured crap. Pull your head out of your ass, stand there, and be quiet, please. And while you’re at it, why don’t you read a book one of these days?

And then there are the memes, the discursive equivalent of jock itch. Every once in a while there will be something of relative “substance” — a headline and the first couple sentences of an article lazily screencapped and pasted onto Craigslist — but mostly it’s some dumb picture with a dumb headline barking at you in the intensely overused Impact font.

From the right side of the peanut gallery comes a picture of Biden waving at a graveyard, thanking all those that voted for him. A hammer and sickle are superimposed over a valley of skulls to remind everyone that Communists are the real killers. Democratic luminaries lurk behind the jail bars that have been Photoshopped over their faces. A cartoon depicts Ruth Bader Ginsburg and George Floyd meeting in hell.

For the Left — STILL — it’s the monomaniacal fixation on Trump, the Hitler That Never Really Was. A dog peeing on a Trump yard sign. Trump in an orange jail suit posing for a mugshot. Trump grabbing Lady Liberty by the pussy. Trump compared to Manson. And Hitler. And Satan. A quarter-million dead Republicans who would have voted for Trump if they’d worn masks. A woman sitting on the toilet shown from her calves down, panties near her ankles, and Trump’s face on her toilet paper. A picture of a Klansman with the headline “70,000.000 RACISTS VOTED FOR TRUMP.” A fat naked Trump dragging a GOP elephant down into the ocean’s depths. Graphics comparing the MAGA hat to the swastika and Rebel flag.

When all is said and done after this lockdown ends sometime over the next 1,000 years, we will awake to discover that they’ve robbed everything from us except for the ability to scream at one another.

Politics is the art of managing people — through persuasion first, and if that doesn’t work, then by force. The reason that politics will always seem silly is that people are unmanageable.

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  1. Posted December 10, 2020 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    I recall that folks posting on Craigslist in both the for sale and, uh, “socializing” departments would sometimes use the same phone numbers for both ads. If you didn’t make clear you were after the 2003 Subaru Impreza in your first text, you might be on the receiving end of unsavory images or questions.

    I have to wonder just how much cross-pollination exists between the gloryhole ads and the rants and raves. I suppose we’ll never know.

  2. Vehmgericht
    Posted December 10, 2020 at 5:12 am | Permalink

    A witty and acute piece from Mr Jim Goad (always a pleasure to read).

    I suspect it is the same wherever one goes. Most voting-eligible persons are under-educated, ill informed and handicapped by all manner of irrational beliefs and cognitive biases. The idea of mass representation is that somehow these errata cancel each other in the sufficiently large average. I think the complacency of that axiom has admirably been demonstrated recently.

    What can be done? Plato diagnosed the ills of democracy in the Republic some centuries ago. A system of voter qualification (so-called timocracy) to bolster common sense and ‘skin in the game’ seems attractive, but the devil is always in the details and implementation. Perhaps the savants here at C-C can provide some suggestions?

    By the way, may I take a moment to praise the artwork of Mr Phil Eiger Newmann? — it is very fine and droll — worthy of his great predecessor!

    • Posted December 10, 2020 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      The way I read it, timocracy was more like the very oppressive feudalism and hyper-preparedness that the Spartans were doing.

      To answer your question, going back to literacy tests might help. Maybe they could put in some Civics 101 questions too, the kind of thing one gets on a naturalization test. A few very basic economics questions would help, like “What happens if the government prints a lot of money to cover its expenses?” Also, anyone on government giveaway programs (AFDC, subsidized housing, etc.) will have their voting rights suspended during and up to a year or two after. That would disincentivize politicians from buying votes.

      • Vehmgericht
        Posted December 10, 2020 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Yes you are quite right about timocracy: my schoolboy error.

  3. Memebro
    Posted December 10, 2020 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    Speaking of Craigslist “personals”, it is utterly dumbfounding how quickly our cultural metamorphosis occurred in the 2000teens. Circa 2005, a lonely, horny, celibate man had few places to turn to find a prostitute (outside of the seedy street corner on your local “strip”.) Craigslist filled a niche, but it was still mostly meth addicts and crack whores, and mostly black women.

    FFW to 2020 and white, middle class, college girls are using phone apps to find “sugar daddies” to pay their college tuition, and your neighbor’s 19 year old daughter is probably selling her nudes on “OnlyFans” and making a few grand a week without having to get an honest job.

    • threestars
      Posted December 10, 2020 at 7:12 am | Permalink

      To borrow an Easter European expression, the devil’s not that black. A remarkably few Only Fans whores make that much money a week. Just like with YouTubers, it’s generally the upper echelons of OF whoredome that manages to gather most of the wealth. Although you can argue that the distribution is far more even on OF.

  4. Till
    Posted December 10, 2020 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Regarding the purging of the personals ads on Craigslist, I have to wonder how much violence would go down if prostitution was legal and without stigma. I’m agnostic on the topic, but I do kind of lean towards the idea that a lot of issues in this country, including an obsession with all or nothing politics, stems from a great sexual frustration.

  5. SleazyMoney
    Posted December 10, 2020 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    If I did not know your name on the byline was enough to get the post blocked and possibly my entire account deleted, I’d post this link all over every social media I participate in. Which is exactly Twitter. Oh hell. I’ll do it anyway.

  6. Sandra Lynn
    Posted December 10, 2020 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Like the always ahead-of-his time Mr. Goad, I’m also beginning to see the wisdom in stepping away from from this sticky situation where the press and social media insist that you acknowledge and respond to the “political” aspect of things (like gender roles) that, in a more sensible time, weren’t remotely political.

  7. Corey
    Posted December 10, 2020 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I should be used to it by now but I’m always amazed that people think universal suffrage is a good idea.

    • 3g4me
      Posted December 10, 2020 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      The founders (whom I do not idolize and who made plenty of other messes) did not. Original rules limited the voting class to under 10% in the original republic, if I recall what I’ve read correctly. But lawsuits and courts started increasing that category almost immediately, both who could hold office and who could vote. First religious requirements, and property requirements, and educational requirements were all found ‘unconstitutional’ even though they were individual state-based. Those fantasizing about emplacing franchise restrictions now are ignoring the fact that in the demographic age, nothing matters except race.

      • Corey
        Posted December 10, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        Oh I agree completely. The system I find myself in isn’t anywhere near what was intended.

  8. E. T. Ashworth, III
    Posted December 10, 2020 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    “…discursive equivalent of jock itch.”
    I’ll still be chuckling at that when I am on my deathbed.

  9. Mac
    Posted December 10, 2020 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    When I lived in the city many years ago I ended up having to get a new cellphone and I didn’t keep my old number because the charge to transfer it was exorbitant. The region where I live there’s two area codes, they’re segregated by urban and rural even though they both cover the same county. When I got my new phone I didn’t have the option to choose the rural area code and my new number must’ve been cycled through a few dozen burner phones before I had the misfortune of getting it.

    I had tricks, crackheads, angry rival drug dealers, debt collectors, angry baby mommas and pretty much every type of vibrant calling and texting my phone from two in the afternoon to two in the morning every single day. My number was also apparently one digit off from some fellow who makes his living selling stolen goods on Craigslist, all of these people would doubt that I’m not actually the person they’re trying to get ahold of. Once they accepted that I wasn’t the person they wanted to talk to they would start demanding I hand the phone to Jamal, because he was clearly dodging them and hiding behind me because he suddenly didn’t want to sell those subwoofers anymore, apparently. It didn’t phase them one bit that, when I was frustrated enough to answer the phone after fifteen calls in a row, it was a non ghetto White guy explaining that this number has a new owner. I changed my voicemail to a very short and simple statement that made it clear that I was not Tyrone in the most blatantly White way possible. They still left angry messages demanding Deiondre call them back, still had black women leaving threatening voicemails claiming that they 𝘬𝘯𝘦𝘸 Jaheem was hanging out with that dirty hoe Latrina.

    Ultimately I ended up driving fifty miles away from the city to pay for a new number with the rural area code because I couldn’t take it anymore. It’s one of those little things that is so revealing as to the nature of how wildly different these people are, that’s to say nothing of my experience working construction in the hood rebuilding the free housing and infrastructure that these people destroy like clockwork. I could write a book the length of War & Peace with comical stories about that. Though I doubt I could get a book published that features negroes too impatient to drive two blocks around a construction site plowing their cars through orange barrels and immediately dropping twenty feet into a dilapidated sewer from the 19th century- as humorous as that may be.

    This comment is only vaguely related to the article, I know, but every time Craigslist is brought up it immediately conjures up memories of psychotic negroes relentlessly calling and texting my phone. I find it funny now in hindsight so figured I’d share.

    While I’m at it I might as well indulge in my very own Costanza tip jar moment. Earlier this month, in between spending the vast majority of my money buying up things that I’ll eventually lose in a tragic boating accident after Biden takes office, I donated some crypto. My desire to not be seen as ungrateful for this website outweighs my tolerance for being gauche, why I’m mentioning it. If Trump had won I would’ve donated twice as much but sadly that didn’t happen so time and money is of the essence right now. I pinky promise that I’ll donate more once my frenzied panic buying ends next year.

    Also, I’m just kidding about buying things and going boating next year, that’s just my excuse for not donating more. In reality I’m just terrible with money, I get seasick during boating accidents, I love the idea of the federal government taking away property from citizens at gunpoint and I genuinely look forward to having housing projects built in my backwards Redneck neighborhood- think of the cuisine!

    Merry Christmas!

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted December 10, 2020 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      Thanks so much for your support and this very entertaining comment.

      Merry Christmas!

  10. Inverted Idealism
    Posted December 10, 2020 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    This article started so strong, but then it went nowhere besides plastering my eyes to a cesspit I had already been blissfully trying to forget. The ending seems like a baleful punchline. I was enthusiastically with you on this train until I found there was no destination besides a halfhearted gesture/swipe towards the “plandemic” …. I would like to have seen where this essay could go if you had actually taken the time to develop a thought rather than center on misanthropy. Perhaps that’s not your style. Curmudgeonly misanthropy certainly doesn’t look unreasonable in light of today’s events, but it doesn’t make for a life affirming or inspiring outlook. I remember a time when I liked people more and didn’t care as much about their politics, and when we all laughed more. I would like us to design a plan to live in that kind of environment. I really don’t even care if it’s “white” because as this site all too often makes clear, white people have enough failings and have a big hand in all these disappointing trends. Perhaps we should let the future be the future, not fixed on an idealization of our past or what we are. Things have changed and if we want to survive, enjoy it, and give our kids a chance, we need to adapt and overcome. As you rightly point out, allegiance to either current political party/”side” is a loser’s gambit for anyone who cares about that goal.

  11. Ray Caruso
    Posted December 10, 2020 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Just because two groups mutually accuse each other of being evil, that doesn’t mean one side isn’t right. “Liberals” are malignant nihilists who take the side of evil, falsehood, ugliness, and filth on all issues, all the way, all the time. Everything they claim to be a problem—COVID, global warming, police brutality against blacks—is no problem at all but a pretext to destroy civilized society. Conversely, they blithely dismiss all the real ills of the world or claim them to be good things. Among these are the darkening of America, feminism, homosexualism, transgenderism, black crime. Now they have brazenly stolen a presidential election because they couldn’t wait for the demographic changes they have engineered through mass non-White immigration to give them the permanent majority they so crave. There are such things as right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and evil. To pretend otherwise, to throw one’s hands up in the air and cry out, “Why can’t we all get along?” is mentally lazy and morally weak.

    • Weave
      Posted December 11, 2020 at 4:44 am | Permalink

      I am relieved someone read the same article I did. The concept that both sides suck equally is painfully incorrect. The folks I know who go about with that attitude strike me as trying hard to be above it all and better than both. At best they don’t contribute to the good and at worst they prevent people who would contribute to the good from doing anything by making it seem worthless.

      • Dan
        Posted December 11, 2020 at 5:48 am | Permalink

        I agree, and after a few paragraphs couldn’t stomach even skimming this nonsense insinuating a moral equivalence between the Left and Right. It’s beneath more of a reply.

        • Reality Check
          Posted December 11, 2020 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

          I agree, this was dissapointing to put it extremely mildly..

  12. Buttercup
    Posted December 11, 2020 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Most of what is written here with sarcasm is entirely true.

  13. timber
    Posted December 11, 2020 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I pledge $100 to CC if Goad redeems himself with a solid take on the Vanderbilt female kicker who was coronated like an Apollo astronaut after muffing her historic kick bout 20 yards. The QB said male players were crying on the sidelines. One of the funniest things of all time…ever. And there is no equivalency and there can be no reconciliation between the people making fun of this and the people who hate the people who are making fun of this.

    • Stephen Phillips
      Posted December 12, 2020 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      That was great. Decades of gender affirmative action destroyed in 1:37 seconds. …

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