“I had to wonder why this writer would feel satisfaction in tearing people down and skewing the truth.”
This point I think is the center of your argument. I think it begs the question why anyone writes such stuff. The answer is multifaceted: 1) It sells; 2) It stirs things up and people talk about it; 3) It is much more difficult to write something positive (even, I’d argue, a piece like you’ve written here!) and have that writing find an audience or readership who take it to heart and comment. One of the things I learned at seminary I’ve never forgotten. A history professor taught a course on American Civil Religion, a topic which purports that there is a Unitarian “Americanized” Christianity behind all public discourse, and one that holds the Constitution in as high regard as Holy Scripture. Anyway, the professor was telling us that Americans are at heart “Protestants” (even Catholics, he said), because many of us are the descendants of primarily Europeans who fled, or who had “protested” over and against whatever rule they had to endure in the old country. The point I think was that many people define themselves by what they are against.
If I had more time, I think I might write something about the topic. Because I find it particularly enlightening in the way public discourse has evolved, both in the political sphere, but also within the new phenomenon of the Internet and social media. People dig the “bad” or the “controversial” or the “put down” essay because it makes them feel as though they are protesting. I believe it’s more empowering for people to point to that which is not them, rather than to look to the good — even a rational critique, which is a take you are apt at writing — because it helps them deny how powerless they feel in their lives. Nicely done, Brandon. You’re a thoughtful guy.