Tales from Facebook: The Idiocy of Social Political Media

September 10, 2012 Blogs, Former Pioneer Staff Print Print
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Gather round kiddies, it’s time for uncle Jeremy to yell about the problems in the world again. What shall we yell about today?

Politics. Yay! That subject that can make the veins in uncle Jeremy’s neck stand out and destroy his vocal cords as he shouts and raves for hours and hours. Fun for the whole family!

Joking aside, I’ve noticed a distinct trend lately in my social media. Namely, that a full 3/4 of my feed on Facebook is being filled with ideological grandstanding in the form of catchy memes and flat statements. Now, I love each and every one of you, but with a few exceptions (for people I know to be serious political junkies, or smart enough to stay out of it) I find myself driven to ask.

Did all of you sleep through civics!?

I mean really, there’s this, this one’s a gem, have yet another and oh, these are real crowd pleasers. What the bloody blazes are you people on?

Now before you get all grouchy, the reason most of these are pro-Democrat would be because I know a lot of Democrats. But to be absolutely clear, I hate both parties. But we’ll get to that.

So, this. Wow. This is idiotic on so many levels I could cry tears in such abundance, and expressive of rage so strong, I could use my tears as acid and melt a small country. That’s not a party platform, nitwits. That’s a list of nice things the Democrats have said they’ll do. This right here is the Dem’s party platform. Please note that it’s thirty-two pages long, and includes far more than that adorable little meme. For fun, here’s the GOP party platform.

So, when you post that meme, and then say you agree with the Dem’s party platform, it’s roughly equivalent to signing a cell phone or work contract, and only reading the page that says “have a shiny phone,” or “we’ll build you a dream house.”

Unless you agree with everything in there, don’t freakin’ say you agree with their whole platform. You might like elements of their platform, you might agree with a large part of it. But quite frankly, for all you know there’s a sub–clause that plans to give aliens the right to your firstborn in the event of an invasion. And you wouldn’t know, because you haven’t bloody well read it.

Onwards to meme numbers two and three! These represent what is perhaps the most infuriating part of inter-party warfare: nonsense statements, outright lies, manipulation, and pre-school name calling serving in the stead of rational thought and clear discussion about the issues.

Meme number two is a rather horrific little toy. It claims to depict a racist bias at the Republican National Convention, and a lack of such bias at the Democratic National Convention. The basic message, as some of the comments below the picture clarify, is that you are a racist pig if you vote Republican. This is a load of bull.

First of all, the pictures were most likely screen captures from live footage. The RNC had anywhere between 2,300 and 4,500 delegates and alternates present; the DNC has about 6,000 delegates over the whole event. That doesn’t include support staff, delegate staff, speakers and their staffs, and any of the host of reporters, bloggers, writers, pundits, celebrities, and all of their staff members and support crews. A freaking child armed with iMovie could find those shots.

And they mean nothing. Not one. Damn. Thing.

I can, right now go and find footage that, properly edited, would present evidence for: Obama being racist, Romney being gay, Mary Poppins being the Antichrist, and Barney the freaking Dinosaur taking out Rambo.

Seriously, think about all the YouTube videos that take lines from Harry Potter and make the dialogue depict a relationship between any of the male leads. It’s convincing if well done, to the point that someone who hasn’t seen the movies (I’m sure there’s someone, all right?) might think it was a scene from the movie.

And that’s editing video, where it all has to line up to lead the eye, where the sound has to match, where any one of a dozen little things can blows the whole game away. Still images? Dude, even without Photoshop or any of it’s knockoffs, just choosing the perfect frame to convey a message is child’s play if you know what you’re after.

Editing is a beautiful, terrible tool, and when it’s an edit meant to capture a single frame of a video, there’s very little that can’t be done. Especially if there’s a vast sea of raw footage to choose from!

Meme number three comes at the problem from the other direction. It asserts that rather than Obama being “stupid” for not “fixing” all the issues, rather the people that voted for him are stupid. The implication is that there’s no reason to bother with anything the Democrats are saying. Because they’re stupid. And who listens to stupid people?

Well, if that kind of thinking takes hold, there goes any hope of fixing anything. Politicians really don’t work well together, mostly because they don’t actually work that often. 90% of their job is selling themselves for the next vote coming up. And when they do work, the best way to get noticed is to raise huge social concerns, then offer sweeping plans that may or may not work to fix these issues. Or, better yet, block such an initiative from a counterpart in the other party.

But since the House and Senate have to agree to some extent to get anything done, we the people are fairly screwed, because they spend so much time playing games “for the good of the nation” that they don’t actually solve very many of the issues they are constitutionally bound to deal with.

And no, throwing one of the parties out wouldn’t do jack for us either. A single party in power would essentially be a oligarchy. The platform, every little nick and ding, would probably get passed, there’d be little competition, and very little ideological discussion or growth. More parties might help in the short run, but then they’d just form coalitions and factions. Which, as I think about it, would at least be entertaining to watch.

The second, implication, by the way, if the obvious one that anyone who votes for Obama is a nitwit that should be strung up by their heels and shot for having the audacity of putting an incompetent in the White House. I’m not even going to get into this, because I’ve covered it a little before. But to lay this one out in brief, it’s not actually the President’s job to fix anything. That would be Congress’s job. Don’t believe me? Here: have some links. Go check. I’ll wait.

Read all that? Well, then it’s probably been a couple of hours since you’ve been here, at least. So I’ll move on now. One more to go.

These polls, which take advantage of the model set out by the wonderfully useful Change.org, essentially call for potential voters to come and “stand by their candidate.”

Oy.

Let’s kick this off by clarifying something. And then you can go bloody well look it up yourself. The people do not elect the president. The people have next to nothing to do with electing the president. The president is the representative and executive of Congress. We can elect congresspeople, which is great. Seeing as how they’re actually the one’s in charge, and all. But while we might nominate candidates, the delegates selected by Congress choose the president.

So, “your candidate” is pretty much some guy you don’t really know who’s being chosen by some other guys you don’t like to do a job you don’t understand. And those polls are asking for two things: first that you walk up to these guys you don’t like, and tell them how great this one guy you don’t know would be at a job you know next to nothing about.

Second, as long as you’re backing a guy you don’t know for a job you don’t understand, why not kick in a few bucks so he can convince a few more people to come tell his prospective bosses how great he’d be?

Oh, and the way they ask you to “sign your name?” That’s nothing to do with asking you to show your party pride, and everything to do with getting you on their mailing list. Once you’ve told these people you hate how great this guy you don’t know is, the guy’s people will bury you in reminders about how awful that other guy is, reminders about how great this guy is, and hey, we’re a bit broke again, spare a $5?

Long story short, and in summation: if you honestly believe that the soundbites you pick up from press releases of politicians saying what they think you want to hear are the sum total of what the party backing them wants, you are a moron. Before you back a party’s play, go friggin’ find out what you’re backing, you numbskull.

If you believe the best way to ensure quality information flow about the nation’s issues is through lies, manipulations, insinuations, and insults you are missing the point. You might actually go find out what it is that you’re arguing for or against. You might check your numbers. And above all, you might recall that “I know you are, but what am I?” is the fallback tactic of seven year olds.

And if you believe that signing petitions and then spamming same to your friends and family serves any purpose but to offer dubious recommendations from the average person and line the pockets of the party circulating the petition, then you are delusional, and should probably just go lie down.

Now. For the love of all that’s holy: take at least thirty seconds to sit and seriously consider whether or not you know what a given social media post means, and whether or not you can actually endorse it. If you can make it through that, then click share.

Or you could just mindlessly share everything you find politically amusing. Because there’s nothing funnier than watching the lot of you express the opinions that have been force fed to you, and thinking yourself smart for holding them.

Disclaimer: The opinions and views expressed in this blog are the opinions of Jeremy Cloud and do not reflect the opinions or views of any other Pioneer employees.

To contact Jeremy Cloud, email communitywriter@occc.edu.

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