Note: I originally posted this on another social media website.
To preface my commentary, I’d like to say that I enjoy reading the political discourse of the person I’ve referenced. He should have his own dedicated media. He’s smart, well-versed, and interested in many things. For a private citizen, his opinion carries far and wide in the United States. His presence on the internet is a net benefit to everyone.
Unfortunately for us all, it’s considered bad form to level any criticism against the things or people we enjoy. The person in question recently got it a little bit wrong, though.
A popular political commentator posted an incident in which he became outraged regarding a personal attack on one of his social media posts. I didn’t read it before it was deleted. Evidently, it was a targeted personal attack with outright untruth in it. He says he came within an inch of deleting his social media account. He mentioned that it’s essential that we remember that real people are behind the posts and that reputation is worth defending. He felt personally attacked and demeaned – and also that he’s sued people and corporations for such behavior.
He’s right, of course.
He’s also wrong, in a way that he would never give an ear to.
Some people spend an excessive amount of time tearing at public figures, politicians, and celebrities on social media. It’s true that some of this is customary and expected, especially when your public presence is part of your job. (Doubly so when you’re being paid by the public.)
You have to look at your own hypocrisy, though. Whether you hate Donald Trump, evangelical ministers, Democrats, or Catholicism, you have to realize that you are torturing real people. While it’s true that they often deserve harshness for behavior or opinion, it’s equally true that you’re guilty of tearing down another human being.
That we justify such tearing is a dark path. We can become forgetful of the fact that a person is on the receiving end of our ire, anger, and hatred. It’s how such sentiment can amplify and result in actual harm as we fail to disengage in the relentless accusations and anger. Over time, we become so distanced from interpersonal interaction that we always step over the line of acceptable human behavior. People observing us lose sight of the norms that keep us as we ratchet up the volume and insults. Soon enough, we’re all shouting, instead of focusing on the best idea.
Politics is a realm of trolls and anger. When we dive into the subject for our own entertainment, education, or benefit, we become part of the culture of hate that we supposedly despise.
If you delve into the quicksand of politics, you must be willing to subject yourself to the same mistruth, innuendo, and scorn that you might heap onto a (deserving) subject. Words written on the internet are just words, after all. They have no power except that which is granted to them. Whether people believe such content is beyond your control. I’m no better at immediately suppressing my anger at untruth directed my way; in my defense, I’m only a visitor to the political stage as I comment. For those who own their own platform, they can simply delete and block the offenders as they step forward.
In Trump’s case, he deserves a mountain of scrutiny. Most politicians do. If I were to become an elected or appointed official, I would deserve scrutiny and criticism for misbehavior.
But if you’re going to use Trump as a focal point of mockery and ridicule, you have to cede the point that he’s human, with human family and friends. Yes, he, of course, signed up for criticism.
On the other hand, so did everyone who uses him as subject matter for their social media and political fodder.
It’s hypocritical to devote much of your day to ridiculing public figures of choice and then recoil when someone takes liberty with your life.
In case you missed it, I’m guilty of the same behavior.
I think most of us are, even as we find discomfort in our ability to creatively interact without resorting to personal attacks.
If we attack human beings in the public eye, it’s hypocritical for us to become angry when others do the same to us. It’s a tough lesson. Most of us are simply lucky enough to avoid such scrutiny as we go about our day.
I don’t have a satisfying conclusion or a neat bow for this post.
I assume it’s okay to share imperfect ideas, worded imperfectly.
P.S. I still do not like Tom Cotton.