Please allow me to introduce myself: I am a troll.
Allow me to rephrase that: People who disagree with me think I am a troll (one of those Internet troublemakers who venture into enemy territory). To some degree, I suppose they’re right, but I’m not so much a troll in the “intentionally offending as many readers as possible” fashion; rather I derive irrational amounts of enjoyment from poking holes in prevailing conservative arguments. Indeed, trolling in that sense is a sport that ranks pretty high on my list of favorite things, along with Asian food, cheesy monster movies, and modern Russian composers. And speaking of Russians, let’s talk about one of the far right’s favorite words they love to wield against the left: “Communism.”
I suppose I should make myself clear about that whole Communism thing. The Russian Federation is no longer a Communist state, nor are any of the former Soviet satellites, and only five official Communist states even exist (Cuba, China, Lao PDR, VietNam, and North Korea). Yet how many of us have been able to go a single day without a Republican cluttering up our Facebook news feeds, or haranguing us in real life about our “Communist dictator,” Barack Hussein Obama II? Show of hands? That’s what I thought.
In September 2008, a cursory search on Google Trends yielded exactly zero results for the words “Barack Obama” and “Communist.” However, the following month of that same year saw a meteoric rise in searches for those same terms. This, of course, begs the question: “If Obama was really a Communist, shouldn’t there have been evidence all along?” Of course, the Tea Party claims that evidence has been there all along, ranging from out-of-context YouTube clips to faux documentaries claiming to expose the president’s “real father.”
Obama’s opponents go to extraordinary lengths of illogicality trying to prove — once and for all — that our twice-democratically-elected president is actually a card-carrying Communist. Of course, they also think he’s a Kenyan, Muslim, socialist, Nazi, atheist, anti-Christ, reptiloid, myriad epithetic hybrids, etc., ad nauseum, ad infinitum. I plan on addressing only claims that he is a communist. As you will see, this is not too difficult.
Seeing that I am a college student, naturally I have my own personal copy of The Communist Manifesto, though I should point out that it isn’t dog-eared or covered in highlighter ink, because, well, I’m not a Communist. And before you start throwing empty vodka bottles at me, remember that Thomas Jefferson owned a Qur’an, slaves, rewrote the Bible, and still got his mug minted on a nickel. And for what it’s worth, I also have a copy of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (even though I haven’t plowed through it yet either).
Now I’d like to start with the pure, unadulterated definition of Communism, straight from the most American of all books, Merriam-Webster:
1 a : a theory advocating elimination of private property b : a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed
2 capitalized a : a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics b : a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production c : a final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably d : communist systems collectively
Do you see where applying this to current U.S. politics gets problematic? I don’t see Obama “advocating elimination of private property,” nor any system of common ownership. I’d even go so far as to say that none of you reading this post have had your property confiscated or have had to stand in line for hours just for a loaf of bread.
Besides this, there are religious issues as well that contradict the Tea Party’s “Communist dictator” narrative. Karl Marx said famously, in a quote we’ve all likely seen on everything from bumper stickers to t-shirts that “religion is the opiate of the masses.” As Eugen Schoenfeld of the Hartford Institute for Religious Studies put it, religion in Marx’s mind was “a false consciousness” and “the product of men, the product of those in power — those who control the productive process.” In stark contrast, Obama makes frequent reference to the Bible in his public addresses and written works, while rarely mentioning “non-believers.” Does this sound like the kind of person who would rage against all religious belief as a false human construct like Marx, Engels, Lenin, Mao, and the rest of their ideological ilk?
You should know that the impetus for this article was a recent troll trip I took to one of the more foreboding corners of the conservative echo chamber known as The Daily Beck. This right-wing Facebook page, which is currently hovering at nearly 10,000 fans, is actually a poor man’s homage to Glenn Beck (as if the lachrymose pundit could be more intellectually impoverished) and it brims with conspiracy theories that would make even Weekly World News (the good people who brought us Bat Boy) shake their heads in disbelief. This particular page is truly a part of the “shadowy place” that Mufasa warned us about. Only the bravest trolls go there, because only they are sufficiently equipped to survive the stings of stupidity and still be able to emerge with their sanity intact — and, hopefully, victorious in the struggle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
Here’s a screen capture of yours truly totally truth trolling (as Steven Kohlbert):
Convincing die-hard conspiracy theorists of the error of their ways is just not going to happen. However, what I try to do is to help those who aren’t yet die-hards to distinguish truth from hate-mongering fiction.
There’s a veritable horde of Facebook page owners like myself who specialize in this sort of thing, usually with an element of comedy involved to help lighten the load. Sure, some of their posts are intentionally offensive and/or vulgar. That’s not my style personally, but I’m not one to tell another writer how to, well, write. After all, what is a writer but someone who writes things in the hopes that other people will read them?
I may be anonymous on Facebook when I’m running my Steven Kohlbert page — which is a liberal version of television personality Stephen Colbert, who obviously apes a conservative narrative — I’m most definitely an individual with my own thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams and not some paid spammer in George Soros’s employ (I’ve been accused of being this by such luminaries as Joe the Plumber himself, in all his non-licensed glory). I haven’t earned a single penny doing what I do, and it looks like it may stay that way for the foreseeable future.
Honestly, as long as I can help people see through the Glenn Becks and Jerome Corsis of the world, that’s payment enough.