Doing the Same Thing Long Enough to Tire of It

Man running on a treadmill

Sometimes the pattern is so obvious we can't believe we didn't see it. Hell, we may have participated in it for years without more than a vague sense of what we were doing! It wasn't that we were completely oblivious to what we were doing. We may have sensed that something was wrong, but we kept at it anyway. It sometimes seemed like we had little choice. At times, it felt like a moral duty.

What's the pattern I have in mind? It involves pointing out egregious examples of our opponents' bad behavior. "Look at what those Christian extremists are doing now! Can you believe it?" We'd hope that this would lead to action of some sort, knowing that it rarely does. We'd wonder why others didn't see the threat for what it was. 

Atheists do it, focusing on Christians who attempt to impose their beliefs on others. Christians do it, focusing on atheists who seem hostile to Christian privilege. Liberals do it, taking aim at conservatives who want to return us to the 1950s. Conservatives do it, aiming at liberals who they perceive as undermining society. Everyone has their favorite targets, and there are more than enough targets to go around.

What does it get us? Money and influence. It seems to be a preferred method of fundraising. That's why all the secular organizations do it. And that's why the conservative Christian groups do it too. It is also a favorite tactic for activating one's base. Left-leaning and right-leaning groups do it for this reason. A riled-up base is more likely to take political action.

Suppose I write a post here at Atheist Revolution. Now suppose that a member of a conservative Christian pro-Trump group sees it. Why would they see it? Because they would be monitoring some atheist sites to keep tabs on the enemy. They've discovered that doing so can be useful.

Once they've seen it, it is easy enough for them to use it in service to their goals. They take a line or two out of context and sound the alarm. "Look at what those evil atheists are up to! They are trying to destroy America!" This works. Their readers aren't going to read the source material. The alarm will be enough for them because it confirms what they think of atheists. Atheists are evil, and we all hate America.

Conservatives have been boasting about their ability to trigger liberals for several years. They should take pride in this because they do it well. They put something out there will the goal of provoking liberals. Liberals always take the bait and respond in predictable ways. Conservatives then use the responses to show their supporters what liberals are like.

In recent years, some liberals have tried their hand at a similar approach. From what I've observed, most aren't very good at it. But the fact that they are trying must mean that they're finally aware of the tactic. I'm not sure if that counts as progress or not.

There's something about this pattern that feels like being stuck on a treadmill. We discover the latest objectionable statement or action from the other side. "Hey look, Trump is hawking bibles again!" "Did you hear that he's pledging a religious citizenship test?" Even if we don't aim to raise money from it, we may feel compelled to raise the alarm. People need to know about this!

What would it look like to get off the treadmill? Would it have to look like apathy, or could there be another way? We will never be able to control what our opponents do with the content we create. We could stop creating content, but they'd find it elsewhere or manufacture their own.

We can control what we do with the content they create. We don't have to keep doing the same thing. We could explore other options. It would be great to find some that didn't feel so repetitive or that didn't lead to us feeling stuck.

Image by FitnessStore112 from Pixabay