I have for the most part silently lamented over what I termed yesterday in reply to a friends publication as “competitive derision” ; this escalation of nastiness from people who have otherwise been welcomed connections or as this editorial outlet would describe as “friends” I have seen very smart people, people for whom I have great respect, sink past reasonable argument and the healthy exchange of thought, into intentional hurt, bullying, name calling and sadly disconnection and angered muting.
There have been some who have let us know they have had enough, taking a break, or as upset as I have been with the banter. I think it is wise counsel for those who cannot tolerate the discourse or realize they need self-restraint to take a time out. Welcome back whenever you’re ready.
For weeks the heaviness of my heart has grown, knowing that the passion all you lot possess is wonderful, no matter which side of the fence you stand, but tact is lacking, respect has been abandoned and cheeky is favored over discussion.
I take this time out of my forced sabbatical and pause my paid writing not to condemn, judge or complain but to point out what are overlooked subtleties, as well as unload some of that heaviness with the hope of nothing but a consideration.
We are blessed to live during a wonderful time in history an era where we have a growing plethora of connective technology with thousands of media outlets, instant access to one another and information from all over the globe. Inside of all of the blessings lay responsibility, we cannot overlook that Social Media is more than a moniker, it is the definition of a powerful revolution, you have joined the press corps. What’s great is most of us have no formal training, no corporate editorial direction, no paid sponsorship, it is raw thought, from grass roots personal opinion and feeling, that has never been published, promoted or shared in such an instant broad way throughout our history. That same constitutional freedom of speech now attaches you as part of the unfettered press that requires responsibility, consideration and most of all veracity.
As part of my personal veracity, I read some historical perspectives of the press, enjoying once again some of the quintessential “Twainisms”. Commentary on newspapers that is still relevant when applied to the media outlets of today.
“It has become a sarcastic proverb that a thing must be true if you saw it in a newspaper. That is the opinion intelligent people have of that lying vehicle in a nutshell. But the trouble is that the stupid people — who constitute the grand overwhelming majority of this and all other nations — do believe and are molded and convinced by what they get out of a newspaper, and there is where the harm lies.”
– “License of the Press,” speech, 31 March 1873
Resonance certainly exists between Twain’s commentary on newspapers and today’s internet based media outlets, with the new cliché “it must be true it was on the internet” . I don’t agree in total with Twain, the crucial point is credibility. We, all of us are now a large portion of the media, in that we have to take responsibility for getting the facts right. That means digging deep, talking to a range of people to get the different sides of the story, and checking facts rigorously. We should not hesitate to root out and expose lies, hypocrisy, and corruption, but we have to be sure of the facts before doing so.
Credibility also means avoiding exaggeration or scare-mongering just to garner attention. Your writing, stories, shares, posts, tweets and replies can’t be based on sources with an ax to grind or knowingly false with the intent to provoke a false argument.
I understand that we are in the midst of one of the most polarized political seasons in recent history. Our leaders past and present also need to share in and exhibit responsibility in bringing a nation together and continue forward. With my previously stated heaviness of heart also lives contrary hope and wonder. Even amongst all the nasty muck and voracious commentary, there are shared nuggets of thought that I learn from every day. My hardline opinions may soften or harden based on facts or substantiated opinion of others. Knowing that as a collective the elementary school tactics will not cease, but hopefully develop to the place where the majority are responsible, civil, honest, and world changing.
We have been given, given for free, great tools, an elevation of our voices to a world stage and with it the responsibility to openly discuss our similarities and differences. Let us not be purposely divisive, avoid the cheeky bullish behaviors and deculturating commentary. Continue with a sense of consideration, not abandoning any of your beliefs or principals but to argue and discuss points in a way that minds may be changed. Pugilism is not persuasive discourse. If you are always on the attack you leave no room for listening, if your publication is continually offensive, overstated or lacking facts your credibility and in that your ability to change minds and promote your opinion is lost. At the same time, those in opposition might just prove something to you, they may change something you previously held true and you can’t be frightened of that possibility with automated conflicted commentary. Listen, research, understand and with truth, compassion, responsibility and great hope. Welcome to the fourth estate.
Whether you are a proponent or opponent of our previous president, his eloquence is irrefutable and the words in his last speech should resonant with any side and actionable by the same;
“It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy. Embrace the joyous task we have been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours because, for all our outward differences, we, in fact, all share the same proud type, the most important office in a democracy, citizen.
Citizen. So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when you own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life.
If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.
If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clip board, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.”
-Barack Obama farewell address 2017
Balanced in spirit, from our newly installed president words that should be held close, measured and goal-worthy; “At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”
-Donald Trump inaugural speech 2017
One last bit of Twain towards closing, while promotion of civility and responsibility has been paramount in my thought and sharing of thought here, there is an antithetical consideration for satirical commentary, tongue in cheek and subtle poking, just be kind and understanding. Substitute Social Media for “our papers” and this as well holds true today.
“Our papers have one peculiarity — it is American — their irreverence . . . They are irreverent toward pretty much everything, but where they laugh one good king to death, they laugh a thousand cruel and infamous shams and superstitions into the grave, and the account is squared. Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense. “
-Mark Twain’s Notebook