December 13, 2018

America's Radical Centrists

“The idea of radical centrism is not new. The label was claimed by a variety of theorists and politicians in the late 20th century, including Anthony Giddens, an advisor to then-British prime minister Tony Blair who championed a so-called “Third Way.” In 2010, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert capitalized on public exasperation with polarization by staging a “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.” The well-attended Washington, D.C. event was supposedly aimed at skewering both sides of the political divide. But having covered that rally for a Canadian newspaper, I can attest that, hilarious as the satirical signs on display may have been (“I may not agree with you, but I’m sure you’re not Hitler”), these weren’t true centrists. They were bemused upper-middle class college-educated leftists who loved watching late night news comedy. The demographic I saw at MythCon was poorer, angrier and more ideologically disenfranchised.

Over 20 years of covering conferences of all political flavours, I’ve gotten pretty good at reading a movement based on the people who attend the meet-ups. I’ve seen everything from traditional conservative think-tank gabfests populated by Alex P. Keaton types to Israeli Apartheid Week events organized by white people who wear kufiyahs.

But the attendees at MythCon didn’t look like any of these crowds. In appearance, they seemed more like the apolitical introverts and subculturalists I see at the board-game conferences I attend in my spare time, or the nouveau-hippie seekers and spiritualists I find manning kiosques at new-age medicine and Truther conventions.”

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