Most of what I read about politics lately is blatantly dishonest or at least badly misleading. There’s been a trend toward this — especially among True Believers of every side — for a long time, but it’s getting worse. Most people like to read this dishonest or misleading material, and they eagerly spread the graphic “memes” demonizing those who disagree with them. They love for someone to make them angry.
As a result, I’m not entirely sure what I have left to say about politics right now.
I moved away from an exclusive focus on politics almost from the beginning here. I started out talking about politics because I had worked in the field for so long. I had some things to say that were different from what the mainstream was saying (and different in focus from what was being said by other libertarians or anarchists). But my heart quickly led me to talk more and more about what I considered “real life” and less and less about partisan politics.
Although the numbers I see for readers has held up rather nicely, I’m not sure that it’s worth the investment of time for the small impact it might have. I don’t want to waste my time writing what becomes the equivalent of room noise in a world where social media and blogs are filled with angry voices catering to the worst in human nature — with lies and disinformation in the service of partisan propaganda.
I’ve been struggling lately with what I want to say here. I’m disgusted enough by politics that I find less and less that I want to comment on. When I do, I sometimes feel as though I’m just going through the motions. Part of that is that there are fewer and fewer people who want to hear honest discussion. But another part is that the polarized and ugly political climate is leading to things that are not only nasty, but that I consider dangerous.
Here’s an example. Here are four posts from a “friend” on Facebook in Arizona Monday night. (I’m “bleeping” out the profanity that was spelled out.) Here’s what was posted:
OBAMA SUCKS LITTLE BITTY MUSLIM C****
i CAN PITCURE TH E NEW PRESIDENT OF iRAN sKULL F****** oBAMA IN SHORT ORDER
LETS TAKE A POOL [sic] HOW MANY C**** DO YOU THINK OBAMA HAS HAD IN HIS MOUTH OR A**
Please post like or shar if you agree……..OBAMA CAN SUCK MY JUNK……….
Not everyone has sunk to that level, but the partisan hatred is so bad today that many people are de-humanizing one another. They don’t just disagree with each other. They hate each other and see the other as less than fully human.
This example happens to be a very ugly (and extreme) example of a Republican taking a verbal shot at a Democratic president, but it works the other way, too. It takes a number of different forms (on both sides), but the common denominator is a de-humanizing of “the other.” There’s a serious degree of condescension and superiority. As I’ve said before, most people judge their own side by the best among them, but judge the “enemy” by the worst among them.
In an increasingly polarized environment — filled with hate and with people who honestly don’t care to understand those who disagree with them — I’m not sure what I have to say.
When I first started publishing this site nearly two and a half years ago, I quickly learned the sort of “red meat” that would get people sharing articles and sending my reader numbers up. On a good day, I might have thousands of readers. It’s still a pretty small audience, but pretty decent for an unknown political website.
But I learned something about myself along the way. I learned that I didn’t want to write that sort of material, even when I agreed with it. That bored me. I wanted to write about things that I thought were worth saying — things that might make people think about ideas they hadn’t thought about before, even if they ended up disagreeing with me.
Instead, I’ve noticed a different pattern. Many people share my stories on Facebook (and on Twitter to a lesser degree), but they only share things they already agreed with — and they’re being shared with people who already agree, too.
I’ve become increasingly disgusted by the pattern of what passes for online discussion. It’s not a matter of honest people trying to understand each other and trying to come to conclusions that everyone can live with. It’s mostly a matter of people who are certain they’re right trying to bludgeon others with their superiority.
Where do I fit in an environment where that’s the most common pattern? Am I introducing anyone to a different way of thinking? Am I sparking conversations among people who are honestly curious about new ideas? Or am I just providing the occasional lightning rod for people to argue about, interspersed with less-popular things that I find far more important, but which most people don’t care about?
I’m honestly not sure what I have to say at this point. I know I don’t want to be part of the mean and ugly system that simply makes people angry, but I’m not sure what there is beyond that. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently, but I still don’t have an answer.
I’m more interested in the things that matter to me. I’m interested in creating art, exploring love and experiencing the beauty and wonder that this life has to offer. Those things don’t have much to say to politics. They also don’t attract the kinds of audiences that the political nastiness attracts. I’m honestly not sure what place I have in this new media world.
So for now, I’ll just let you know how disappointed I am with the world of partisan politics and I’ll tell you that I’m much more interested in real life.
That’s Charlotte at the top of the article, by the way. She’s part of my real life. And I have to say that I like her — and her feline siblings here in my home — far more than I like most of the people who I have to share this planet with.
What does this mean about what I have left to say? I’m honestly not sure. I’m still thinking about that.