Søren Kierkegaard wrote of “leveling,” the process by which the “public” forms the basis of all decisions without any individual accountability. True passion and originality are strongly discouraged, and should any heroic soul take a stance contrary to the status quo they are immediately ostracized. My recent experience with a Facebook ad for my anti-Trump novel Freedom City shows how the concept of leveling is even more pertinent now than it was when Kierkegaard published Present Age in 1846.
Take Facebook user “Chris Altman” (Note the not-so-subtle play on Altman—as in alt-right), who wrote about the fact that I published a book he disagrees with: “This mother fucker needs bout 20 yrs in Leavenworth.” Another troll named “Peter Gentile” (Note: Gentile means someone who is not Jewish) commented that my book “… only exposes the fact that the far left is an entire horde of violent irrational foaming at the mouth wack [sic] jobs.”
Perhaps ironically, behold Mr. Gentile’s profile picture:
Someone else called me “this Jihad.” Another referred to one of my fans as “nibba,” a racial slur I had to Google. I could go on and on.
My point is that my novel has obviously hit a nerve with the Trump public, at least. I feel a bit like a nail sticking out too far, not yet fully embraced by the progressive majority and exposed to relentless hammering from the far-right’s lunatic fringe, who have even taken to leaving me negative reviews, like the above one-star review, which so poignantly states, “The author is out of his mind! Trump 2020.”
As I never expected the MAGA crowd to embrace a novel that ridicules them, I truly don’t care if they attack me online. I’m more interested in the spectacle of leveling from a sliver of the public that clearly feels threatened and by the futility of any sort of compromise under this phenomenon. I recently read Present Age and have been tentatively exploring Kierkegaard’s philosophy as it pertains to faith. I am an atheist, as anyone who has read Freedom City would undoubtedly guess, but a dear friend has been helping me see the other side of it. Although I still have a difficult time having faith in something I can’t see, I love how she describes her own faith: “To live as if there is more than what is, to live for a better place… is to live in the faith that [quoting Martin Luther King], ‘The arc of time bends toward justice.’”
My point is that, within the context of an intimate relationship, one can explore even the most divisive topics with openness and civility. But such debates with the amorphous public are not possible, particularly when the critics hide behind pseudonyms and engage in hate-speech.
The fact that I am experiencing the public’s wrath is proof to me that I wrote something passionate and original, and this is something that no horde of trolls can ever take away from me.