My boss often has CNN on a monitor playing throughout the day at work. Well I’m sitting at my desk and suddenly I hear a familiar voice. I look over and The Amazing Atheist is on CNN. “How the hell did TJ get on the news?” I asked. My boss and his friend just laughed. They didn’t know who he was, and perhaps I shouldn’t have opened my mouth and given it away that I did.
CNN was having a segment on “Atheism in America.” TJ was their atheist, and then they had a panel of hostile guests there to rebuke the atheist. After the first guest started going on about how much he respects the soon to be ex pope for fighting against secularism and radical Islam, I put on some jazz and turned up my headphones.
Listening to that fake discussion with TJ as the representative of all atheists was just going to make me rage. I also really don’t want to have the religious discussion with my coworkers. I’ve long since realized it’s not productive to try and have conversations with them on religion, the intricacies of foreign politics, or anything for that matter. They’ve never really been outside of South Carolina and they get all their news from CNN and Fox.
Anyways, so CNN picks the most combative, scruffy looking atheist they could find, put him in front of a camera and then has a panel of respectable looking, family loving, wholesome adults attack him and how his views are a danger to your children. It’s almost like attacking a strawman. Then CNN’s viewers just eat it up.
I feel the same way about anarchism. People’s mental image of an anarchist is probably some punk kid with a bandana over his face, throwing rocks at storefront windows and just “making things shit for the hell of it.”
Either way, I’m tired of having to live with these stereotypes. The sad thing is that I feel the public would be hostile even if we did have some “respectable, family loving, wholesome adult” person to represent us. The news agencies would most certainly frame the discussion in a negative light for the atheist or anarchist. You could have someone like Daniel Dennet or Noam Chomsky on as the representative and they’d still be hostile.
There’s really just this temptation to embrace the stereotypes out of exhaustion of having to fight them, but that’s not productive. The only way it gets better is to continue to fight them over and over again. It’s a war of attrition. That’s the only way anyone gains acceptance in a hostile environment. Ex. Black pilots in WWII or women in the workplace.
Still sucks though.