I am a child of the Midwest.
Around these parts, the default constructor for people is “wingnut”. I was raised in the proud tradition of the Assemblies of God - a name many of you may recognize as associated with some of the derpiest hardcore creationist/Dominionist names out there. And you would be right. For most of my early life, I was subject to an intense campaign of fearmongering, that God had His metaphorical trigger finger on the “Punish” button if I made even the slightest mistake or wavered even slightly in my beliefs. And what beliefs they were: Young-earth creationism, Dominionism, American exceptionalism - yes, this was actually taught in churches alongside traditional theological concepts. Patriotism, conservatism, and religious zealotry were intertwined into a massive right-wing hairball of doctrine that was drilled into our heads from an early age, alongside reminders of how God punished sin and unbelief. We invented “putting the fear of God into someone”.
It will come as no surprise, then, to hear that my formative years were spent absorbing information from conservative icons such as Rush “Pompous Windbag” Limbaugh. Fact-checking and independent thought were discouraged; talking points were taught alongside theology, and while churches - and parents - gave lip service to the idea of testing their theology, in practice it was good old fashioned guilt-tripping that suppressed inquiry and free expression. People just didn’t look at you the same if you expressed doubt, or if you asked too many questions that didn’t have obvious by-the-book answers. As a result, climate change denialism and other anti-science beliefs were widespread, and yeah, I subscribed to them all. Even as a science geek and a budding engineer in my own right, I still didn’t grasp the idea of critical thinking or figure out how to test reported “facts” to determine their veracity. In fact, I even wrote my senior term paper on the conspiracy theories around the JFK assassination, unable to comprehend how utterly without merit the claims were.
You can certainly see the direction this is heading. We’ve all seen the very public saga of Chuck C. Johnson, wingnut extraordinaire, on this very site. Before that, many of you are also aware of the equally public meltdowns of Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and the anti-Islam crowd several years ago. There are many lesser minions in the same vein, former members here who simply refused to bend when given a choice between sanity and derp. Like the proverbial lemmings following each other off a cliff, they plowed straight on ahead, preferring the comfort of their familiar world - even as ruled by fear and imminent danger as it is - to the idea of changing and admitting they were wrong about something.
There, but for the grace of God, go I.
My wingnut tendencies were tempered somewhat by going to public high school; many of my friends were homeschooled. When I graduated, I went to a private Christian college, but unlike the strict conservatism and brainwashing/fearmongering of my youth, questioning and free expression were encouraged there. I met many fellow Christians who had radically different beliefs, but we all worshiped the same God and debated vigorously with knowledge rather than “because God said so”. I learned how to do my own research and how to approach with skepticism, but most importantly, I learned tolerance. Over the course of those 4 years, my indoctrination was broken down and replaced with proper critical thinking.
This is when I found LGF. At the time that I was brought into the lizardoid fold, LGF was still a very conservative place, but similar to my college experience, it was a place where free thought was encouraged and people debated with knowledge, rather than bare assertions and talking points. When Charles made public his break with the political right in 2008, it was an easy choice for me; I had long since lost all of the conditioning that preyed on the fears the right-wing nutjobs express. When it came time to decide between following my other lemming friends off the cliff or pulling back, I chose the hard way, the unfamiliar way, because I finally realized that it was the right way.
The conclusion you guys can draw from my little soliloquy is this: Fear is the driver of all things wingnut. Amazingly enough, people can grow comfortable in that fear, learn to depend on it, and unless you can break through and show a better way that works without fear, they will never leave it. The end result is living in your mother-in-law’s basement writing racist, sexist garbage trying to get yourself noticed. That’s right, Chuck, I’ve lived in your world, and I get you. And I feel sorry for you.