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Chilling revival of the other N-word

The unfettered ability to express our thoughts so freely across the various social media platforms has evolved into an American epoch that never has been this blissful.

Ignorance is bliss right?

Language might be one of the measures by which humans separate ourselves from other animals, but that gap is closing and not because scientists have used grant funds to determine that our cats recognize their names.

Instead, it’s our diminishing public discourse that propels us “down” to the levels of those beings we have deemed inferior — despite the lack of evidence that any creatures large or small have spent hours willingly disparaging each other.

I mean, outside of those on Mr. Jones’s barn, you never hear a pig calling another pig something akin to a “liberal Nazi socialist” — a phrase I stumbled across recently in a Facebook “discussion” on the Mail Tribune’s page.

It was clear from the context of the back-and-forth that the poster had little comprehension of what constituted a “socialist” or a “Nazi,” and associated “liberal” with meaning all Democrats or, lesser still, all those who disagreed with the poster’s political stance.

Then again, while Orwell certainly hinted at such a thought-control device in “1984,” he didn’t give the residents of “Animal Farm” access to Twitter or Facebook.

Considering the rabbit hole we’ve descended through our own volition these days, there was no need.

Just as many don’t take the time to think before they speak, even less time is spent sending word salads from the brain to the fingertips. The keyboard is mightier than the sword, particularly when you can fire away from the shields of distance and anonymity.

It’s not just the angry outbursts that have led to this state of bliss. In our hot-take society, people are more than willing to act as oracles of wisdom about all sorts of controversial topics — socialism, antifa (would those who use the phrase as an epithet consider themselves “pro-fascist”?), white supremacy, white privilege, etc. — until their own words betray their lack of understanding.

We have allowed ourselves to come to this — a time in which self-appointed sages speak on subjects far removed from their own place in society as though a) they know what they’re talking about; and b) they haven’t looked in a mirror recently.

We like to explain things away: Address a topic, offer our ever-devalued two cents, then blissfully lean back from our screens satisfied that we have done more than just add to the problem by displaying our ignorance.

(Don’t worry, I get the irony.)

It’s easy to blame the internet, and with good reason. Still, those who feast in the fringes have become living, breathing portals of unfiltered hate ... rebooting themselves every day, slinging sludge against the social media walls.

Countless charges and counter-charges over all these combustible controversies — fans flamed by fraudulent flatterers and cynical seducers of some eighth circle of Hell — reduce the chance for civilized debate, until all that remains are the scraps of anger and the self-satisfaction of mocking others.

“We have met the enemy,” echoes a voice from the Okefenokee Swamp, “and he is us.”

In this forest of bandwidth trees, a name was given to the ultimate destination of this phenomenon — Godwin’s Law, a theory that postulates that every internet argument will ultimately dissolve until someone compares someone else to Hitler.

We are seeing that truism leap beyond the virtual world into our lives with greater frequency.

Not just in the neo-Nazi movements and white supremacist rallies, but in human interactions great and small — California students pose doing the Nazi salute over a beer pong board set up as a swastika; a theatergoer in Baltimore disrupts a performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” by yelling “Heil Trump!” from the balcony; would-be Holocaust doubters show up in Ashland at a memorial for the murdered victims of a Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

It has invaded our national politics. The president of the United States claims those in the Democratic Party are “anti-Jewish,” while a Democrat running to replace him (Beto O’Rourke) compares Donald Trump’s rhetoric about immigrants as something one would hear coming out of the Third Reich.

Then there’s this, posted on Twitter on Thursday:

“It’s mildly troubling that the president was born in 1946, and wishes his father had been German.”

The twitterer? Mike Godwin the creator of Godwin’s Law.

As social media scrambles to find a way to get the genie back into the bottle, it’s really up to us to police ourselves — to think a little deeper, to debate without finding joy in the jeering to at least understand the context of words we’re throwing into this swamp.

If not, then Pogo knew what he was talking about all along.

We’re just shy of two months from the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and it makes you wonder what those who stormed the beaches and dropped from the sky to beat back the horrors of Hitler — those who lived through and understood the evil that confronted them — think about how flippantly subsequent generations of Americans toss around the other “N-word.”

If we see Nazis lurking in the shadows around every corner, we might miss the one who eventually shows his face in the light.

Mail Tribune copy desk chief Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com.

Robert Galvin