In “The Bat, the Birds, and the Beasts,” one of Aesop’s fables, bats refuse to take the side of either birds or beasts in a looming war. The bats end up rejected by both sides when peace is made.
After 100 days of “A View from the Center” and 20 columns, I’m increasingly feeling like a bat.
The moral of the fable is that “He that is neither one thing nor the other has no friends.”
I certainly have few friends if you believe the comments posted about my columns on my Facebook page. For example:
I knew I’d get insulted as soon as I started writing opinion pieces for Facebook’s Bulletin. It’s the internet, after all.
What I didn’t expect was getting slammed for being both a socialist and a fascist for the same article. More than once.
As opposed to Aesop’s bats who are a minority in the middle of two sides that hate them, Americans in the center are the majority, albeit a mostly silent one. They just don’t make as much noise as those on the extremes.
And boy do the extremes make noise, sometimes through bots and others by creating internet profiles that hide identities. I have more respect for those who lob their grenades without the shield of anonymity.
The political attacks are frequent and, generally, not terribly creative:
“You are not center.” [I hear that from the right and left].
“You’re a GOP plant.”
“So, you are just another Fauci sheep.” [I’ve noticed hell has no fury like an anti-vaxxer scorned.]
“This definatly (sic) left wing.” [Many attackers don’t use spellcheck.]
“I doubt that you have any conservative friends.” [They often don’t bother to read the pieces, so you can’t expect them to research the author. This was especially funny to me, given that I am a Cuban-American who lives in Miami and is surrounded by conservatives at family reunions and elsewhere.]
The personal attacks also come fast and furious:
“You are not a journalist.” [I guess someone should have informed my employers at ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, Telemundo, Univision, Al Jazeera, Facebook, and the University of Miami.]
“Naïve.” [Nobody had ever called me that.]
“You are a mouthpiece for lies and propaganda.” [Prove it.]
“Liar.” [Give an example.]
“You seem a little dense.” [Even my four brothers haven’t called me that.]
“You have an overinflated ego.” [My four brothers have said that.]
“Self-aggrandizing hypocrite.” [Do they use a thesaurus?]
“Charlatan.” [They definitely use a thesaurus.]
The Laziness of Internet Polemicists
Almost all the attacks come in comments following my posts of the AVC articles on Facebook. Very few are posted on the AVC site. That, other data, and the comments themselves show that most of the critics didn’t bother to actually read the pieces.
More than 1,800 comments followed, along with 8,400 “likes.” The large majority of the comments involved attacks from the left and right. Few bothered to address any piece I'd written. Many seemed invested in political division and rejected the premise of centrist, common-sense opinion.
It confirmed that changing the opinions of those who exist exclusively in echo chambers is almost surely a fool’s errand.
How can I convince someone on the left that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan was a fiasco, when they argue it was a success because the U.S. did a great job at rescuing people?
How can I convince someone on the right that both parties deserve blame for the crisis on the southern border, when they slam me for highlighting Trump’s failures (along with Biden’s) because they say Trump isn’t president anymore?
Trump supporters think St. Donald can do no wrong. It’s the same for those Democrats who have canonized St. Joe.
Is Anybody in the Center?
Those who live near the extremes on both the left and right are blinded by their ideology and don’t see what most of the country sees. They have louder voices and drown out the majority. Unquestionably, the partisan politicians and pundits have succeeded at eroding the common ground that traditionally united Americans.
However, the moderate middle is still the majority, even if it is a mostly silent one.
I heard the mostly silent majority in the 8,400 likes to the AVC post. And some of the centrists, or those who believe a centrist point of view is important, spoke out as well.
One reader wrote: “I love the way Antonio Mora is being attacked for trying to be ‘center.’ The haters just gotta hate. It’s sickening.”
Another reader described how her travels throughout the country have proven that "we are more center as a country than the media would have us believe." She added that she "will continue to pray that eyes will be opened to those who still do not see that our power and strength is in our unity not our division."
Separately, I much appreciated a note I received from Richard Harris, a “Nightline” senior producer during much of its heyday with Ted Koppel. “There will be times when you lean right, and other times you lean left,” he wrote. “But your field of vision is from mid-court, midfield, or whatever your sports metaphor. And that’s what gives you authenticity in a land where right-wing and left-wing commentators pander to their base without ever suggesting the other team could have a point. You’re not stuck in that trap. Stick with it.”
Don’t underestimate the power of the moderate middle. It may speak softly, but it carries a big stick at the ballot box. Until now, centrists have succeeded at preventing the country from straying too far right or left, to the benefit of all Americans. I’m sure they will continue to do that, despite the doomsayers.
So, What’s the Future for AVC?
AVC's guiding philosophy will remain that there is no guiding philosophy other than common sense, the majority opinion of the American people, and respect for the U.S. Constitution and its principles (more here).
I will continue to approach issues of the day in a non-partisan manner, criticizing and praising both sides when they deserve it.
I believe Americans share common ground that can allow for compromise and bipartisan solutions.
To be clear, this is an opinion site. While I will be fair and objective in reporting facts and the opinions of others, I will take positions. They could lean left or right, just as the opinions of the moderate middle do.
And, if being in the center only leads to getting me run over from both directions, so be it. I’ll proudly be one of the bats.
Cover photo: A bat flying against a backdrop of a moonlit blue sky. (Khatawut Chaemchamras/EyeEm/GettyImages)
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