Meet Chris Shugart
There was a time when I had so little faith in political systems that I believed that anarchy was the only solution. But I soon realized that I couldn’t possibly be happy with anarchism unless I could be in charge of it. I concluded that our current system of American constitutional government with elected representatives and a system of checks and balances was the best it was going to get. As Thomas Paine correctly observed, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil.”
Being on the trailing edge of the Baby Boomer generation, I wasn’t part of the socio-political culture of the Sixties—too young to join the Grateful Dead; too old to join the Dead Kennedys. I was somewhere in between, mostly a spectator of the social and political changes taking place. As a latecomer, I never got the New Left. The liberal politics of young leftists seemed like an affectation; more a fashion statement than a political viewpoint. It was difficult to take them seriously.
In 1998 I read a book called Radical Son, an autobiography by David Horowitz. He was a prominent former Sixties radical who had become critical of his peers. Many of his views on the counter-culture movement seemed similar to mine. By this time I was writing articles, essays, and blogs covering social and political subjects as well as commentary on contemporary popular culture. Horowitz’s book inspired me to continue writing material focused on political issues. I wrote to Horowitz, complimenting him on his work and his philosophy. To my great surprise, not only did he respond, but he asked to meet me. We had dinner one night in San Jose, where he gave me a signed copy of his latest release, The Politics of Bad Faith.
For a brief time, Horowitz and I posted some of our views on a news group hosted by the University of Virginia. It was simply called “Sixties” and was frequented by D-list sixties radicals who had been active on college campuses and elsewhere from Berkeley, to Chicago, to Washington D.C. It was curious how quickly they’d get antagonistic any time someone disagreed with them. Clearly they weren’t accustomed to having their views challenged. I was struck by their intolerance of contrary opinions.
Today the Left suffers a great burden of irony and hypocrisy. While still posing as anti-establishment radicals, these pseudo-revolutionaries have become part of the national establishment they so militantly opposed back in those days of sit-ins, street marches, and ROTC building takeovers. The rebels of yesterday are the social and political status quo of today.
Thought Crimes, History and Evolution
The evolution of Thought Crimes starts back in 2008 during the presidential campaign. Just days before the election, Obama said that he was going to “fundamentally transform America.” What fundamentals was he referring to? The Constitution? Capitalism? Separation of powers? It gave me an ill and foreboding feeling. I couldn’t shake the idea that we were heading for bad times. And I wasn’t sure if there was anything I could do about it.
In 2009 I started a blog called “Tar and Feathers”. It served as a vehicle to express my objections and misgivings of a government that seemed on the verge of going completely out of control. It was the beginning of nationwide protests like the Tea Party movement and citizen town hall meetings where voters were voicing their concerns about where our nation was headed. Ordinary Americans across the country were gathering in numbers too significant to ignore. As if inspired by some collective Howard Beale moment, they’d become mad as hell, and weren’t willing to take it anymore. I considered myself among their numbers.
Being a professional person, I was concerned about the backlash I could get from liberals who might object to my overt criticisms. Conservatives unwilling to buy into the new administration were being vilified and attacked for their views. The mischaracterizations were hysterical and over-the-top. Otherwise decent Americans were getting compared to Nazis, the KKK, and accused of being racist anti-government extremists. In the eyes of many on the Left, we were a greater danger than Islamic terrorists.
These unhinged rants weren’t coming from obscure sectors of the left wing lunatic fringe. These views were coming from mainstream politicians and the media. They represented a blatant effort to muzzle anyone who would dare oppose them. I decided to post my blogs under the pen name Iratus Vulgas, latin for “angry mob.”
I didn’t like being anonymous. In 2010, my blog underwent an entire makeover. I changed it to reflect what I thought would appeal to a more mainstream audience and at the same time wouldn’t get me into hot water. I decided to rename my site “Uncommon Sense,” the title of a radio show I hosted a few years back. I thought I might be able to revive the essence of that show’s flavor and content. All I really wanted was a harmless little blog where I could hold a few truths to be self-evident.
Our government kept getting bigger as the citizen got smaller—more taxes, more regulations, and all the while less and less liberty. A lot of people didn’t seem to mind, as if they preferred it that way. I wondered if there was anyone in Congress willing to fight back. Meanwhile, we were turning into compliant servants to a political status quo that was becoming an immovable ruling class. I knew I couldn’t possibly be the only one who saw this. It was surreal and absurd. What could I do in the face of such madness?
In 2012 I took an odd detour into this Bizarro World of political lunacy. Logic and reason no longer seemed to apply. So I created a new blog called Radio Free USA. It was sort of an alternate history scenario modeled after the Nazi occupation of France in 1940—a high concept that was probably more suitable for a video game. I abandoned the project not long after I started it.
The legendary humorist and film maker Mel Brooks once said that the best way to fight evil is to laugh at it. I had an idea based on an adaptation of my previous Radio Free USA, combined with the satirical news of The Onion. I was inspired by a website called The People’s Cube—a hilarious mash-up of old-school Soviet propaganda as it might be applied towards American current events. In 2014, American Idyll was the result.
All the while I was still creating material for Uncommon Sense. Managing two blog sites is a lot of work. Coming up with content on a consistent basis was much too ambitious a task. It was time to reinvent my brand. I reviewed all I had done since 2008 and came up with my latest incarnation: Thought Crimes. I think it reflects my current views in the context of today’s socio-political landscape. How long will it last? Hard to tell.