Sunday, October 14, 2012

Facebook and Politics

I've noticed somthing about Facebook that I think illustrates the way people think in light of their politics. It's election season, and that means a lot of Facebook statuses talking about it. I have friends -- both real friends and the Facebook kind -- on both ends of the political spectrum. Which means that, by definition, my friends and I all don't agree on politics.

But I've noticed that when it comes to Facebook friends, who they plan to vote for informs how they react to others' politics. There's been a solid uptick in statuses lately that hew to some variant of the following: "I can't wait for this election to be over. Some people spend way too much time on Facebook talking about their candidate. Does anyone really think they're going to change anyone's mind in regards to how they vote? Can we all just agree to stop talking about politics and stick to posts about kids, gardens, vacations, and things like that? You know -- important things?"

I've seen some version of that post by four different poeple in the last month and half, by my recollection. That in itself isn't all that interesting. What's interesting is that, based on other posts they've either made, liked, or commented on, it's pretty clear who exactly they'll be voting for in November. In every case I think it is safe to say they'll be pulling the lever for the status quo. Which is fine, of course. Everyone who is eligible to vote has a right to cast the vote for whomever they wish -- even if they're completely wrong.

No, what makes this interesting is not who they're voting for, but rather their preferred reaction to reading -- or presumably becoming aware of the gist of, since I don't think there's a law that says you have to read everything a Facebook friend posts -- political statements that don't gibe with their own views. Let's take a look at the options available to a Facebook user.

When you see that someone has posted a status or link on Facebook that you don't agree with and/or don't want to read, you can:

(A) Read it anyway; since if they're your friend and took the time to post something the least you can do is take the time to read it.

(B) Skip over it and look for more posts about waterskiing cats and lists of reasons why music today sucks.

(C) Wonder why you were ever Facebook friends with that person in the first place and unfriend them.

(D) Attempt to influence what other people feel comfortable posting on Facebook by calling for moratoriums on certain subjects.

Now, I don't think anyone in history has ever chosen option (A), and that's okay. Option (B) is what I usually do, though there are times I will read it if it looks like a useful link (i.e. not say, the Daily Kos or Democratic Underground. I may be an occasionally incredulous reader of Salon, Slate, and the Huffington Post in an effort to keep my horizons broadened, but I'm not crazy). And I will admit there are times when option (C) is sorely tempting.

At no time have I ever seen option (D) taken by a conservative friend though, and I think that's telling. There's a certain air to liberalism that seems to imbue adherents with the feeling that their cause is so just, their ideology so pure and self-evidently right, that it's only natural to try and shut other points of view down. We see it on a large scale when there are concerted efforts by leftwing groups to get Rush Limbaugh off the air. We see it when companies don't have the right viewpoint. And we see it at perhaps its most repugnant point when people don't vote the way people of their ethnic group are expected.

Back on Facebook, this tendency to argue that politics should just be left out of the sphere of acceptable topics is undercut by a simple search of the authors' timelines. In my personal experience, it's not hard to find examples of those same people liking and commenting on statuses and links from people who share their leanings. And hey, that's fine. But it's pretty disingenuous to turn around and play the "can't we just talk about kittehs?" card.

I talked about liberals being imbued with a feeling earlier, and I think that inadvertently got to the heart of the difference between liberals and conservatives. Liberals feel. They see inequality in the world and think, that's not fair. If people would just work together and sacrifice, we could get rid of hunger/poverty/homelessness/want/need/lack of iPhones for all. The problem is that that deep feeling is always steeped in the same foundation: but not me.

Occupy protesters marched around (then later, when they got tired, camped) shouting out poorly metered slogans about all sorts of injustices: the war in Afghanistan, Wall Street, the bottoming housing market, the inability of people with masters degrees in puppetry to find work. Among the homeless, the criminals and the people with nothing better to do were a lot of people who were spending a lot of time complaining that they wanted more and other people had it and why doesn't somebody make them give it to us? Take a look at this vignette from Occupy Wall Street that aired on the Daily Show. Watch the whole thing, as it's both funny and enlightening. But pay close attention to the 4:15 mark, when a man goes to great lengths to espouse the idea that everyone should have access to all the goodies life has to offer. Private property is evidently wrong because it deprives people of access to "the goods of life". Not his iPad though, because that's his. As he says, "I'm more against private property than personal property." In other words, "my stuff is mine, but other people's stuff should be made available to everyone".

That's not to say that convervatives don't feel, and it certainly shouldn't be taken as gospel that conservatives don't care about the poor or the homeless or the hungry. We just don't think government is the best way to address it, and that in that capacity to which government involvement is necessary, the goal should be to reduce the number of people dependent on aid. Instead, we seem intent on seeing how far the balance between those dependent on government handouts and those expected to pay for them can tilt until the whole thing collapses. The eminent sage Homer Simpson once declared that alcohol was "the cause of -- and solution to -- all of life's problems. Right and Left split that dichotomy when it comes to statism. The Right sees government as the cause, the Left as the solution.

So, to any Facebook friends who might be reading this, let me say, no.

No, I won't stop writing about politics, or posting statuses that make clear in no uncertain terms that I think our current president is far, far worse than George W. Bush on his worst day -- and W. doesn't exactly stand next to Reagan in my personal pantheon.

No, I won't stop posting links that point out all the ugly, horrible, racist things that liberals say and do. Precisely because your side regards it as self-evident that conservatives are racist by definition, as though proclaiming your support for Obama magically cloaks you from racism charges while simultaneously calling Stacey Dash an Uncle Tom (and far, far worse).

No, I won't stop posting links to malfeasence on the part of a press that frets over funding for Big Bird but can't quite bring itself to dig into Benghazi, Eric Holder, or the deliberate attempt to destroy a functioning energy base (coal and oil) for one that doesn't work no matter how much money we flush down the toilet.

If that means we can't be Facebook friends, I understand. I'll just have to figure out a way to overcome the loss of hearing about kids I've never met and cats I don't like (seriously, I don't see the upside to cats). I'll have to muddle through without your invitations to install Facebook apps that invariably infect my computer with viruses. Some of you I would genuinely miss, so I hope you don't dismiss me. But as for others, I'll take solace in the fact that I'll have one less "friend" telling me what is and is not acceptable to post.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ten Debate Questions I Would Ask Mitt Romney

1. What specific measures will you take to restore small business owner confidence in the economy?

2. What steps will you enact to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon? (NOTE: "no measures are off the table" does not count as an answer.)

3. How can the process of becoming a U.S. citizen be made easier for those immigrants who want to do it legally?

4. Will you sign a bill into law that makes warrantless wiretapping illegal?

5. What specific agencies would you work to eliminate from the federal government?

6. Would you support across-the-board actual cuts to the federal budget (i.e., no outlays excluded)? (NOTE: reductions in increases to budgets do not count.)

7. Would you sign a bill abolishing the current tax code and replacing it with a flat tax?

8. Would you sign a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a."Obamacare"), and if so, what specific measures would you endorse to combat rising healthcare costs?

9. What specific actions will you take to increase transparency in the federal government?

10. Will you pledge to never sign any bill that increases the debt ceiling?

Also see: Ten Debate Questions I Would Ask President Obama