Monday, June 18, 2018

Public Views

Today we are dealing with the question of “the great divide”—how we handle putting our views “out there” in public.

Since I’m right about everything, it’s no big problem for me to spout my views. Okay, seriously, I handle it by saying exactly what I think and try to back it up with facts (remember back in the old days, when facts meant something?) I write letters to the editor of both the NY Times and the Chronicle and I freely post my opinions on social media.

I have never had to deal with a flame war, but I have had to moderate some very divergent opinions on my Facebook posts. I refuse to unfriend people whose opinions differ from mine because then not only will I not know what they are thinking (yes, I use the word "thinking" loosely), but the opposite is true as well. If I unfriend them, they won’t ever see my posts. I want them to see what I have to say. I want to argue with them. Maybe I won’t ever change any minds, but at least people know where I stand. They know I have strong opinions and that I am not afraid to air them.

That last statement says something very important to me. I think fear drives a great deal of what goes on in the country today. I constantly read opinion pieces discussing why we are in such a perilous internal war, about why he-who-shall-not-be-named got elected, why people are so angry. I have my own ideas about it. I think fear drives a lot of the division, and I think that fear can be traced back to 9/11. Many of our supposedly brave citizens reacted with abject terror to that event and the fear has been growing unrestricted ever since. To understand the stupidity of that fear, consider how many more people die every year from poorly monitored guns than died on 9/11. How many more people die of opiates; how many more die from smoking; from automobile accidents.

So, if I’m right, it means the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 won. They won by dividing the country into those who let fear guide them and those who are not afraid of “the other.” The other consists of: people without the same religious beliefs; people with a different skin color. But it also means scientists; journalists; questioners; people who refuse to follow blindly. Fearful people are afraid to step out of line. That's a dangerous problem, and I intend to fight it. It may not be judicious for my professional life, but I think this time in our country is more important than my career.

Just like gun owners who proudly proclaim, “They will take my gun when they pry it from my cold, dead hands,” I proclaim, “I’ll shut up when they tape my mouth closed, tie my hands behind me, and drag me offstage.


Paul D. Marks said...

Terry, I never understand people who defriend others because they disagree with them. It makes no sense to me. I disagree with a lot of things. But people have a right to their opinions. I've done posts about this on the other blog (SleuthSayers) that I write for. -- I don't expect to change people's minds and they're not going to change mine most likely. But I don't understand why we can't just agree to disagree or argue things out without shutting people out.

Karen in Ohio said...

Terry, I have learned a lot from you, and from how you conduct your Facebook conversations. It's not easy to keep from getting angry sometimes!

I started discussing politics online in 2000, during the run-up to the election. AOL, in particular, had a busy politic-oriented message board. Something strange started happening: posters were pasting in the same weird, mostly untrue, comments, over and over again. (One example: lies about John Kerry's military career)

One commenter, when I asked him off-page how much he was being paid, actually told me they were getting ten cents a post, and that was later verified by a second source. I think this initiative (I'm pretty sure it was spearheaded by Karl Rove), which has only just come to light with the Russian interference in the last election, changed the face of American politics. Between that kind of obfuscation, the misleading "reporting" on Fox and RT, and the yelling and spittle-spewing of conservative talk radio hosts, many--including dear friends--have gotten completely skewed views of current events, political and otherwise. It's no wonder so many are deeply convinced that Barack Obama was born in Kenya.

I have unfriended people in the past, but stopped doing so a couple years ago, for the same reason you have chosen. I figure mine could very well be the only dissenting voice their world will hear. My goal is to present facts as clearly and with as clean a provenance as possible.

Terry said...

Karen, thank you for being out there on the front lines with me. It's more important now than ever.

And Paul, I agree with you about not unfriending. As you say, everyone is entitled to their own opinion....but they aren't entitled to their own facts.

Bottom line? Push back every way you can.

catriona said...

I applaud you, Terry. I don't hide my morals from social media. And I do engage respectfully (enough - I'm no Michelle) with people who disagree, as long as there's the slightest chance they're speaking in good faith. When people start trolling, or - more usually - reveal that they were trolling all along - that's when I roll my tent and leave.

The trouble now is that the disagreements often aren't about policy or opinion or values. There's a movement, quite gleefully open about its aim, to enrage and exhaust people by lying, cherrypicking, distracting, gaslighting, then finally laughing at the exhaustion.

And it's only Monday.

Unknown said...

I agree with Catriona, it's more a sport for some than a discussion. I've read comments going back and forth on all sorts of topics, dialogues that grow from nasty to downright hostile, and over the silliest things. The one time I tried to get political, saying something about Trump on FB - that was pre-election - I got lambasted by dozens of extreme right-wing strangers. Where did they pop out from? I didn't even hashtag the bastard. So generally I keep my nose out of it, in case I get mad and say something I'll regret - but that's got to change. I applaud you as well, Terry, for being vocal and setting a good example.

Lyda McPherson said...

I've taken a page from my son's playbook. On FB I'm somewhat apolitical. However on my Twitter account there is no doubt on my political leanings. This goes to RM Greenaway's experience regarding random responses from complete strangers on FB. It also confines the trolls (Catriona) to a specific social media environment. I also find that a Facebook DM response is effective. I'm able to support or debate in a less inflammatory arena and it feels more like a conversation rather than a screaming match with random voices shouting from the fringes. I tend to express myself more effectively in an electronic one-on-one. So that's me. I'm not quiet. I'm selectively loud. And, Terry, I look forward to your posts. I like to know where people stand!

Susan C Shea said...

Good discussion. I agree with Catriona and RM that there are FB commenters who are just responding for 'sport' or as Karen discovered, for money. Those posters are a waste of time but I don't unfriend them because they're not listed as friends, they're just lurkers. I unfriended a woman who was so foul-mouthed and so virulently a hater that I didn't want to give her a platform with my peeps. Other than that, I just keep on keeping on and hope that the people who read my books will switch to my author page if they don't like my politics.

Terry said...

Sorry it's late. I've been on the road to Redding, where we have stopped for the night on our way to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Catriona, what I do with those trolls, who often post reams of words that add up to nothing, is post a one-line, like "You're wrong." Occasionally it leads to a more realistic discussion, but usually not. I actually have right-wing friends with whom I have hearty disagreements. I keep hoping they'll see the light--but then they think the same of me.

As for saying something I'll regret, not politically. I stand behind my opinions. That's not to say I can't change my mind, but I don't regret rethinking.

Danny Gardner said...

I concur with all of you. I've always discussed the Bulls first threepeat, and how they lost every year in the playoffs to teams with far less talent. Michael Jordan comes into the locker room at halftime, Phil Jackson left for a bit, and he threw a 5gal Hinckley & Schmidt water cooler bottle at Horace Grant. He tried to pull Scottie Pippen's jersey off. He screamed for ten minutes about how he was sick and tired of losing to weaker teams because none of those guys could take the hits, the fouls, the rough stuff with him. Every expletive in the book. Phil returns with one minute before game time. Everyone is silent. They take the floor. It's championships that season on. I want my colleagues in anything to bring it to me like that locker room at halftime.

Then there are the walls. Seems there is always an endless supply of bricks and mortar to build walls between each other once someone says something we don't like, uses language to which we are sensitive or frightens us a little. Myself, I'm alright with it getting messy if I can trust that person's resolve to sort through it until we clean it up together. I don't tune people out. I believe in evil far less than I believe in cowardice unchecked. Call me whatever you want, so long as, at the end, you're calling me your partner in solving an issue. That's just me. No bridge is too far for those who want to open their eyes.