Stop Saying “Fringe”!
Democracy was described by the ancient Greeks as a state where every enfranchised person could have a say on all matters concerning the state. Aristotle once suggested that a democracy could not be sustained beyond 85,000 people. Thomas Paine explained the natural progression of the Democratic village to the democratic Republic as a population gets larger and more diverse, and the problems to be solved by the governing body grow in number and complexity. I believe that the size and functional capacit of a democratic republic grows proportionately with advances in widespread communication (Not mere information) as well as the number of people in the state who have been fully enfranchised. In a country of say 250 million, people might seem impossible but with modern methods of communication, networking, organizing, etc., it was at least plausible. Prior to the last 20 years throughout the 3 branches of government were thousands of elected officials made up by the confidence of as many micro populations. This system at its most ideal ensures that the vast majority of citizens have at least someone in government with whom they share principles and priorities.
I say most ideal to refer to the fact that different groups of people have always been marginalized by even the most “woke” of elected officials. No doubt, far better scholars than I, more adept at social sciences, will have a much more nuanced explanation of the difference between a “marginalized” people and “fringe elements of a people” but for the purposes of this angry rant I have some simple observations.
Marginalized people are less enfranchised (both by law and by sickness of a culture) not because they make up only a small portion of the population (like a scattered population of lone, Appalachians living off of the land and off the grid) or because their views and lifestyles are such that they mandate their systematized excision from the greater society (like Amish or other religious communes). In both of these types they can live “outside” society without posing any threat to it. When we refer to marginalized people we refer to people either wholly or in part disenfranchised as a result of society’s sickness and not as a result of their small numbers or their beliefs. Their numbers can be great and as modern modes of information, communication, and organization improve, more people are able to demand enfranchisement, even if it means shaming an entire society — as needs to happen from time to time. With such modern means available they no longer have to scrounge up as many likeminded people as they can from their immediate surroundings. Now they can reach out and unite millions against their common plight. In fact even if their numbers are relatively small they can still find people who abhor persecution and injustice. I believe that this is a good thing. A Democratic Republic by its nature and for its own validation must be constantly engaged in the enterprise of universal enfranchisement. Wherever it engages in disenfranchisement, it is sick and doomed.
The problem we seem to be facing now is that in creating and advancing the tools by which marginalized people may empower themselves, we have also given that same power to those who we have in the past called “fringe elements.” Unlike marginalized people who are so by no fault of their own, fringe groups are small groups of people whose principles and mandates are hostile and even antithetical to the greater democratic republic. Groups like the so-called Proud Boys wish to fight for liberty and for “The Republic” by attempting to violently disenfranchise people that aren’t like them. It is like trying to keep a room cold by throwing more logs on the fire or having as much sex as you can to ensure your virginity. This sounds like madness because it is exactly that. Again such groups and enterprises are sick and ultimately doomed. The question we now face is, do we let them infect the rest of us with their doomed madness?
The concept of “fringe elements” refers to people who’s madness is transparent to the society as a whole. There are enough of them to notice they exist, but as their madness is understood, they cannot find enough people who would be willing to vote them into any office, or at least no higher office. In short “Fringe elements” of a party or population refers to those crazy people over there. And, because they are a small group there and not here, “fringe” also implies nonthreatening. 30 years ago an old man yelling “Jews are firing lasers from space” wouldn’t be a threat to the country if the only person that heard him was the mailman. Ignorant, paranoid people like this feel powerless and they are constantly looking for reasons to blame everything on the people they hate. People of color do not unite under their particular religious views, but rather under the fact that they are being disenfranchised (and worse) for no reason other than their skin tone. People who tend towards conspiracy theories are paranoid and bitter by nature and they seek above all any justification for their bitterness and blame for their weakness. In a random sample of, say, 328 million people, there are bound to be plenty of those. So before one says “well then how are they different from people being marginalized for their beliefs” let’s look carefully. Tens of thousands of people did not on their own decide that there was a cult of powerful Jews who secretly worship satan, traffic in child sex slaves, AND force world leaders and businesses to invest in clean energy for the sole purpose of closing your coal mine and putting you out of work because they think they’re better than you. No, unlike marginalized people they start with hostility. They are not united in their common interest of not being persecuted for their beliefs or race, but rather they are united in their desire to persecute others, to find any possible reason to turn whichever people they wish into secret evil monsters. “I don’t hate Jews for being Jewish, I hate them because they molest children and sneak dark people into the country to steel our jobs and turn my children homo!”
The point is you may want to claim that they are a group of people dispersed throughout the country who band together via new modern tools and weapons of enfranchisement. But they don’t seek people who believe the same content they do, they seek out people who hate and fear the same people they do. If it wasn’t Q-anon, it would be something else equally ridiculous. They rally behind anyone who validates their bitterness and gives them an excuse for their hatred and violence.
They were called “fringe.” It meant that they were the crazy people over there who have no power and pose no threat because nobody in their right mind would take them seriously. They are crazy, hateful, bitter, broken people, but while we’ve been laughing at they’re powerlessness, they managed to amass power.
Because of their desperation they are very easily manipulated and therefore a person can be voted in just by preying on their worst impulses. This made them an invaluable asset to anyone who prized power over principle. It started with dog whistles and grew into the runaway train it is now. The people who fueled the fires and fanned the flames for years (sadly that means the majority of the GOP) have slowly been replaced or taken hostage by those, born out from the flames that were fanned and the fire that was fueled. “Fringe” means no decent human in their right mind would believe what they say or threaten and as such they are not a threat. Marjorie Taylor Greene is not some nut over there. She, and others like her, are members of The United States Congress! By referring to them as “fringe” we underestimate their threat to the American People. More astoundingly, and perhaps more horrifying, by even entertaining a debate over whether or not she should be ousted, is to explicitly state that being irrational and lacking decency towards their fellow citizens are not necessarily disqualifying for a person hired to assist in our constant struggle to make a “more perfect union.”
Stop saying “they’re just the fringe elements,” or “those crazies over there. Make no mistake, those crazies are very much over here now. They are hostile and antithetical to the conditions necessary for a free democratic republic to occur. And the more we tolerate it, the more we are complicit in this cultural infection.