The "Jesus Fish" and Leftist Ritual Aggression

And no, I’m not going to argue that a Seinfeld episode is emblematic of anything, so you can stop the internal monologue…

From Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals:

Rule 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage. It works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.

For most Christians, the “Jesus fish” (or ichthus symbol) is far more than just a small, plastic badge applied to the backs of their cars; it is a quiet, subtle and rather unassuming expression of their faith.  As an occasional cocktail mass-attending Catholic, I’ve always attributed the origins of the ichthus itself to Christ’s miracle of feeding the multitude, but according to theologians, it began as a secret symbol among the early Christians under the Roman Empire. Just when it first began appearing on automobiles and thus became an object of ridicule and mockery, I do not know.

Regardless of the origin, however, I began seeing the “Darwin fish” pop up on cars toward the end of the 1980’s, ostensibly as some sort of “enlightened” response. Just when exactly that began isn’t as important here as “why.”

In 1999, Tom Lessl, a University of Georgia Professor of Speech Communication, conducted a rather exhaustive study in which he roamed parking lots across the country, placing survey forms on cars displaying either variation. Lessl’s survey concluded, not surprisingly, that the attitudes of those who apply Darwin fish symbols on their cars show that while some are merely making fun of religion, many want to appropriate a sacred symbol and wreck it.

“In several respects, displaying the Darwin fish is the symbolic equivalent of capturing and desecrating an enemy’s flag, an act of ritual aggression, The Darwin symbol’s obvious emulation of a religious symbol gives it unique power to express ridicule in a vivid and symbolically pointed fashion.”

Meh. I’m old enough to remember wearing an “Ayatollah A**hola” T-shirt in 1979. Hence, I’d be a bit hypocritical to call anyone out for exercising some good-ole American free speech. Fifty
Americans were being held hostage in Iran, after all, right?

However, consider the responses Lessl received when he asked the Darwin fish people (::chuckle::) why they chose to respond to something so unobtrusive:

‘“The fact that 66 percent of the respondents identified Christians as their target audience is the key to interpreting these themes,” says Lessl. “The apparent desire to deride this audience seems to be just as important as any serious message they want to communicate.”

“I put the Darwin fish on my car for a number of reasons,” reported one respondent. “Mainly I did it to annoy the Christian right wing, since they are so fond of putting the fish/Christ symbols on their cars.”’

Another respondent put it more forcefully…

“It is my way of saying, ‘Creationists are [expletive] idiots. Get a [expletive] education. Humans are no better than chickens, redwoods, fireflies, earthworms, goldfish, algae or infectious salmonella, just because we walk upright and have opposable thumbs.’”

Leaving aside for the moment the ridiculousness of a plastic fish engendering such seething disgust, I don’t think it a stretch to assert that many liberals, lacking the willingness to tolerate an opposing viewpoint, now consider Alinsky’s Rule 5 the Alpha and Omega of political discourse. Whether it be an unobtrusive fish glued to the back of a car or a blog comment questioning why war is only illegal if the President is a Republican, the response is invariably personal, mocking and vitriolic. In other words, if they can’t persuade us with facts, they’ll deride us until we no longer wish to express an opinion.

I’m far from the first blogger to make this observation, so predictably, the response from the left is usually some snarky nonsense about “typical right-wing paranoia.” Nah. Just as elections have consequences, so do poor tactical decisions. Make of that what you will, but I’m sure Valerian Zorin would agree, especially after Adlai Stevenson tore him to shreds that memorable day in October of 1952
We’re just over 16 months away from Election Day. In the words of the immortal Bette Davis, “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”