The Big Tent Of Dangerous by Erika Raskin

Photo of people walking on top of a red and white circus tent
Photo by Mark Williams on Unsplash

Here’s what the Left—of which I am a dyed in the wool member—needs to understand: many adherents of ‘conspiracy’ theories aren’t crazy. I mean a lot are. But a lot aren’t.

Not yet, anyway.

Democrats have got to start acknowledging that a great deal of the distrust that is expressed about government and big-business is well-founded. There have been/are bad actors and institutionalized policies resulting in injuries, bankruptcies and deaths. Think Purdue Pharma and opioid addiction, for example. Or losing your house because of a hospital bill.

Categorically blowing off somebody’s pain and reality is not only dismissive—gaslighting sucks—but it threatens democracy itself.

We are hard-wired to seek out validation (thus, the cheery like button) so treating the concerns of our neighbors with indifference and/or derision will goad them towards something else.

Cue Q.

Those Steve Bannon-MAGA-loving fascists are standing at the ready to step up, affirm, recruit and exploit anyone with a grievance.

Like anti-vaxxers.

Dismissing this group out of hand is just dumb. You only have to turn on the TV to see wall-to-wall lawsuit commercials running against drug companies to understand the worry. (Many personal injury attorneys have gotten big rich off of Big Pharma’s unintended consequences and/or straight up greed.) Democrats must do a much better job of validating the basis for the apprehension and start conveying how the government is working to protect public health by monitoring, responding and safeguarding the oversight of the response to Covid.

Likewise we must jettison the self-defeating either/or dichotomies that have sprung up everywhere. Positions on things don’t have to be all or nothing propositions. Most ideas, reactions and beliefs exist on a continuum. And it would behoove all of us to stop with the overly encompassing red lines. Wanting a curated selection in little Hudson and Olivia’s school library doesn’t make a parent pro-dictatorship. Some tomes just are plain old inappropriate. One can affirm summer reading lists that exclude porn—while still believing that Amanda Gorman’s poetry should be featured right on the check-out counter. This is what rational democratic public policy is all about.

The absence of compromise is what anti-regulatory QAnon seeks to exploit. The group knows that discontent in one area can be fanned into discontent across the board. QAnon will abuse any and all negative experiences, suspicions and resentments. And soon even the people who were just hanging out near the rolled up flaps of the group’s big tent are that much closer to getting sucked in all the way. Then it’s cognitive dissonance time. (Which loosely translates to: in for a penny.)

As we have already seen, MAGA/Q victims are ripe for being profited off of (eg.coughing up their savings to pay for the border wall—which is sad) but also being militarized (which is terrifying).

We have all got to do better listening to and validating each other’s experiences. Failure to do so is not only fundamentally wrong, it’s wildly dangerous.

Erika Raskin
Erika Raskin is Streetlight’s fiction editor. She is the author of Close and Best Intentions. More of her words can be found at

Follow us!
Share this post with your friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *