Why Our Work Matters

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party.

And if they need a little help in that direction, a little demagoguery won’t hurt.

Thus, we’re getting all sorts of “silly season” protests over speech. Gays want to stop Dr. Laura’s TV show. Cops want to fire The Boss.

If you can’t get the people you hate banned, you can at least make them hated. You can denigrate them, dehumanize them, and dismiss them with tactics like bumper stickers abound with sayings like “Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Republican” and “Visualize a World Without Liberals.”

The idea is always the same: to use the political process to sow fear and hate of the other, to move your voters into line, and to get one more vote than the opposition. By November, all this will be at a fever pitch, and you can bet that lots of web sites (as well as TV shows and songwriters) will be in the crosshairs. Then it will fade, hopefully, and most likely the same old people will go back to doing the same old things.

The goal of the fever is to build simple majorities that nudge policy in one direction or another. The danger is that people will actually take the demagoguery seriously, and take actions aimed at physically destroying those whom the politicians have dehumanized.

Our politicians are not the worst offenders in this area, of course. Jefferson was termed a revolutionary Jacobin, Lincoln a gorilla, and Roosevelt a communist. The danger comes when the passions overflow, when people die because someone in power told them to kill.

When that happens, only time can bring the truth to light. That’s what makes the web so important to the whole century now dawning, because while it’s possible to muzzle a newspaper or a broadcast, the web remains free so long as there is one person, somewhere, who can connect to it and get the word out. And there is no statute of limitations on truth.

I mention this today by way of introduction to a new web site that has nothing to do with business, but which might help you understand why the business we’re in is important.

That site is Leofranklynchers, put together by historian Stephen Goldfarb to describe the killing of shopkeeper Leo Frank in 1915, an event at the center of the Alfred Uhry musical “Parade.” The show, which won a Tony Award, had a brief run in 1999 and is now on tour.

But the event itself still divides Georgians, and many prominent Atlantans were shocked to find their ancestors on Goldfarb’s list.

My point here isn’t to take a political stand, but simply to point out the web’s power to unearth anything, good or bad, and bring it to our attention. The web is, and will remain, a great enemy to hate and amnesia. That, if nothing else, makes what you do worthwhile.

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