Thursday, September 17, 2009

Uncivil War: of Facebook, Race, and Republicans

M, an acquaintance from high school recently posted a query on Facebook the other day about political discussions using that platform. He had been "unfriended" by someone who disagreed with his politics. This person had posted that she agreed with President Carter that much of the antics we are currently seeing on the right and even in the Republican party are motivated by race. M apparently disagreed via online comment and was then summarily released from Facebook friendship. His question is: can you only comment on other people's political posts if you agree with them?

Perhaps Facebook is not the best place to discuss politics. In my few months of use I have noticed that interactions there tend to be more civil than anonymous Interweb back and forth. But when it becomes uncivil it can become personal and damaging to real relationships with "real" people. (Not that real relationships can't develop on the web, but I tend to assign much higher value to those that are with people we have at one time interacted with in the flesh and blood world.)

Now I don't know exactly how the interaction that resulted in the unfriending went, but I have to say that in the current amped up climate I am not surprised that it would lead some folks to cutting others out of their social networking circles. And to be honest it is not just the current political climate but one of simple online sanity. I have hidden the updates of one particular "frienemy" whose constant uninformed anti-Obama posts I find galling. So I just don't subject myself to them anymore. Problem solved.

But I do want to address the toxic political climate and the question of racism on the fringe right wing of American discourse. First of all, I don't personally think that all or most of the criticism of Obama is rooted in racism. I haven't heard anyone suggest that all such criticism is so inspired; that is a straw man set up by the right. But can anyone deny that racism does play a part in all the nuttiness we are currently seeing from the likes of Glen Beck, Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, and some of the 9-12 protesters carrying signs of our president dressed as an African witch doctor?

I read John Bohrer's column on Huffington Post yesterday that says it very well. The nut jobs would have been coming up with wild ass conspiracies regardless of which Democrat took the White House. But Obama's race is icing on the cake. Here's the kicker: "People like that have always been around. They will always be around. What's different is that a political party has never adopted them before." That's the scary part. Some of these nuts are advocating secession and violence against the government. And they are being courted by the Republican party.

I am personally concerned that we may see another Oklahoma City. I am almost certain that we will see more wingnut-inspired violence like that which occurred at the Holocaust Museum. That these people are being encouraged by the right wing media echo chamber and even some elected officials is especially concerning, as it grants them legitimacy and broadens their reach. The mainstream used to mostly ignore these folks. The GOP seems to be less and less mainstream by the day. And all the nuttiness has drowned out legitimate criticism. To say the least, this is not good for the republic.

Venting: this is not how we are supposed to do things in the United States of America! Obama and the Democratic Congress are doing no more than exactly what they campaigned on and were elected to do by the American people. If you don't like it, get someone else elected and change it. In the meantime make your views known peacefully. But don't carry your guns to town hall meetings and poison the political discourse with ridiculous made up charges involving birth certificates and death panels. Because when you do that we can't have a conversation at all.

I put a lion's share of the blame on the right wing media. Fox News and talk radio allow the right to live in their own universe with their own facts where our president is a racist and an evil clown secret Kenyan Muslim socialist bent on taking away our freedom, indoctrinating our children, and killing our grandmothers. I know some of my family receives their information from these sources and I am angry at these folks for filling their heads with this craziness. No wonder we're unfriending each other. We're not even on the same planet.

Edit: I hope it is obvious that I do not mean to imply that all listeners to right wing media are prone to violence. I think it is a small percentage but we are creating an environment where violent extremists can draw succor from and be encouraged by the bloviating, fear-mongering, race-baiting, and conspiratorial nature of what passes for punditry on the far right.
Test. So can I really post to blogger through SMS?