Tribalism Pt. 2

“If you aren’t with me, you’re against me.”  Hopefully most people would find that to be an absurd line of reasoning.  Yet, we see it put into practice by so many people.  Particularly lately when tensions are high between political ideologies.  At this moment everything is affected, and it quite possibly will only get worse.

I’ve said many times before on this blog that it isn’t the writer’s job to pander.  An author is a conduit which the characters use to tell their story.  In my previous blog, I focused on how media is often seen through the lens of politics.  I did address that sometimes authors use their medium in order to push an ideological agenda, but for the most part I feel a lot of times people are simply reading into stories and getting offended over nothing.

It is time to address the fact that there is legitimate political pandering in not just books but television, music, and movies.  This contributes to the paranoia that everything is pushing an agenda, whether that is the intent or not.  When this happens, there isn’t just a bias, but too often the message is, “If you don’t believe or think like me you are evil.”

To avoid the misconception that I am adhering to political conspiracy theories, I will simply say that often only one side of the spectrum is what’s represented most.  When this viewpoint is represented, it also more likely takes the more extreme point of view of this ideology which is “if you don’t believe like me you are a terrible person.”  Yes, I know there are people who think like that in EVERY belief system.  This is merely a general observation I’ve witnessed.  This isn’t productive, nor what fiction is about.  Obviously, the beliefs of the creator come through into the product, but it shouldn’t be overbearing or pandering.  Subtlety is almost always the best approach in fiction when trying to get a point across, that is what all of us writers must remember.

Tribalism and the effects on fiction

It’s no secret there are deep divisions in American culture, especially politically.  Maybe it’s just my perception but it appears that everything is suddenly seen through the lens of politics.  While that isn’t to be completely unexpected, after all people read things through a worldview.  However, right now there appears to be less nuance and more, “believe like me or you’re evil.”  This is seeping into fiction.  Television, movies, and books are labeled with assumptions based on who ever is consuming the media and many times they are wrong.

I’m going to say up front that I do not adhere to the philosophies of either Republicans or Democrats.  I find them both deeply flawed for different reasons.  I feel this needs to be stated just in case someone attempts to accuse me of taking sides, since reading into things is a common practice on the internet.  Now that that’s out of the way, both parties have built of tribalism around them, while painting the other side as evil.  Yes, evil.  Not misinformed, not simply disagreeing on important issues, no evil.  The chasm between Liberalism and Conservatism has grown so much that neither side can even agree on the basics.  Around politicians that craft these ideas there is the rest of the country who mostly either adheres to one side or the other.

This tribalism doesn’t end at the polls or while determining which candidate to vote for.  It often overflows into media.  Readers start to have a visceral reaction to books because there are perceived ideas from “the other side” while authors cave to pressure to pander to their audience and fall into the trap of becoming too political with their works.  Tensions have been rising, especially after the 2016 election, and continue to escalate, almost as if people are looking to fight with those who believe differently.

In my next post I will continue this topic.  For now, I think all of us need to consider the implications of tribalism and vilifying those who believe differently.