The Silly Season is typically identified as a time when news media outlets have little of note to publish or discuss, and so pontificate on frivolous fluff pieces that are regarded as so trivial as to be “silly”. I think it should be expanded to encompass not just news media, but social media as well. And nothing seems to bring out the silliness better than politics. It seems to bring out the worst in people.
Nothing seems to be so divisive these days, as the constant self-indulgent and abusive political vitriol that fills our feeds these days. We have self-appointed “activists” who consider it their goal in life to brow-beat anyone who disagrees with them, ridiculing them as ignorant fools who don’t have enough sense to see the error of their ways. They claim to be open to honest debate, and back up their beliefs with statistics gathered from “fact checking” websites without bothering to examine the facts and arguments themselves.
This is an issue for both the right, and the left. Whether it’s abortion, gay rights, gun control, or healthcare, there are arguments on both sides that can be statistically “proven”, even though their conclusions are at direct odds with one another. One person can go to a “fact checking” website that they use and pull arguments that say that mandated healthcare is saving the nation. Another can go to another site, and “prove” that it is destroying our economy. One person can present arguments showing that gun deaths are on the rise, while another can show how they have been dropping for more than a decade.
So what’s the problem? How can all these arguments be based in fact, yet remain so diametrically opposed to one another? Could it be that the sources that people use for these arguments have their own political agendas? Could it be that a fact checking site that has worked closely with a political candidate in the past, might be inclined to support the views of that candidate in the future? Could a site that is funded by a right- or left-leaning businessman, tend to weigh in on the side of their funding?
But surely not! After all, facts are facts! Right?
Well in the immortal words of my old Journalism teacher, “…a meeting is a meeting, but a rendezvous is a whole ‘nother animal.” In other words, there is a power in how you present things and in the words you use. I think this lesson is what first taught me to think for myself, and to inherently distrust those who claim to have the “truth”. It taught me the value of critical thinking and research. To find the root of a matter for myself, rather than simply accepting that someone else has done a good job of it, and can be trusted to have a proper answer.
It works in writing, and it works in life.
It saddens me that so many people are content with the divisiveness spewed by politicians and activists… content to sit back in their chairs and sling cute little memes at one another. “Oh, you don’t like The Thing? Tell me how you fought against it when “your” side was using it!” I’ve seen so many of those stupid little pictures of Gene Wilder with “arguments” on both sides of the political aisle. And I have to admit that it pisses me off a little that Gene Wilder’s image, someone who I really like, is now forever tarnished by such childishness.
So how about we try something different? Something less Wilder, and more Wyld Stallyn. Let’s be excellent to each other. Because the political idiocy gets us nowhere. People who are entrenched in their beliefs aren’t going to be swayed by little pictures with clever sayings on them. And they sure as hell aren’t going to be changed by people screaming at them about how ridiculous their beliefs are.
…And they likely aren’t going to be changed by a little blog post written by yours truly. So go, have a great day. Be safe.
I’ll be over here tilting at windmills.