Enough with the Politicization of Everything

Jul 25, 2012
2:31 pm

Aurora. Anaheim. The Obama-Romney Daily Smackdowns. The death of Sally Ride. George Zimmerman now says he is Latino.

The stories kept coming and coming this week, and in an age where the news gets tweeted in seconds, it feels that within minutes of news happening, an entire industry (from the mainstream media companies to the smaller outlets to the "independent" outlets to the bloggers to the social media profiles that tweet a lot) has emerged: that of the INSTANT OPINION. Now we make everything political, it is either left or right, and everything is a fight that needs to be won. We are all political animals, but now it seems that we are all taking steroids.

See how I can outtweet you? See how I can use my followers to cause havoc? See how I can rile up my base, prove my argument quicker and therefore "win" the issue before you can even react to the news? This is what many online have become: a bunch of little partisan gangs, each protecting their own partisan turf and making EVERYTHING POLITICAL.

We were going to write more about this part of the mainstream (and mostly US) culture, but when we came across this column by Jeff Jacoby called "The Rush to Politicize Tragedy," we realized Jacoby made our points better than we did. In a tribute to the life of famed Washington Post columnist William Raspberry, Jacoby expanded his views about our mad rush to convince everyone else that they are wrong. He closes his column with the following:

But that’s a lesson Americans find it harder than ever to grasp. What Raspberry called “the open warfare that now passes as political debate” has grown ubiquitous. Every development must be given a politicized, partisan spin, preferably with an assumption of the other side’s bad faith. News cannot break without being instantly deployed as a weapon in the culture war. Forest fires break out, and partisans start sniping over climate change. An oil spill befouls the Gulf Coast, and the talking heads swiftly hurl recriminations about government regulation.

Nothing and no one is immune from exploitation. On Monday evening came word of the death of astronaut and physicist Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. Within an hour, Daily Kos writer Dante Atkins, a Los Angeles Democratic Party Central Committee member, had taken to Twitter to attack US House Speaker John Boehner and the National Organization for Marriage. “Just so everyone knows,” Atkins wrote, they “don’t think Sally Ride deserved to marry the person she loved.” Did she deserve to have news of her passing turned instantly into political ammunition?

The most recent obvious illustration of the rush to politicize tragedy was, of course, the political grandstanding that followed the carnage in Aurora, Colo. Particularly egregious was ABC newsman Brian Ross’s slanderous speculation on “Good Morning America” — on the basis of nothing more than a common name on a website — that the theater massacre might be the work of a Colorado Tea Party member. Ross’s recklessness was inexcusable (and ABC later apologized). But I found it nearly as dismaying that when I heard from five conservative friends about the atrocity in Aurora, the very first words each spoke to me were not an expression of horror or grief, but some version of: “Did you hear what Brian Ross said? The mainstream media is despicable!”

Politics is important. Without the peaceful clash of political ideas in the public realm, our democratic liberties couldn’t be sustained. Like anyone who makes a living commenting on public affairs, I understand that our political beliefs and our moral self-image are entwined, often quite emotionally.

But there are limits, or should be. "Sometimes There’s Nothing Wrong with Politicizing a Tragedy,” Time magazine’s Michael Grunwald wrote the other day. Yet when human sorrow becomes just another reason to impugn the politics of those we disagree with, how are we a better or healthier society? There is more to life than “delivering the hard zinger.”

It is interesting. When we cover stories that expose the hypocrisy of politics, some politicians and organizations accuse us of creating a feeding frenzy, when in fact, the vast majority of our most popular stories get popular because our community decides to share them without us riling up the masses. To paraphrase Barry Manilow, we just write the songs, if others like what we write, they will share them.

You see, even if we were the only reader of this page, we would still publish what we publish. And it doesn't matter anyway, since we still receive the same partisan comments from those same partisan gangs. We get the people who are DETERMINED to WIN and make us look FOOLISH. A few comments, a few tweets, and these profiles (most of them are anonymous and won't even use their real names) claim VICTORY!

It truly doesn't matter to us.

We founded this page and created our social media communities so that people can express their diverse opinions in a respectful and (hopefully) intelligent way. The GOOD NEWS is that the 99% of our readers and followers do. The tiny minority of critics fall into the left/right trap. If you have a different opinion, you must be a commie/fascist, a closeted Obamaista, a Romney-ite. It is so much more complicated than that.

We are convinced that this country is more nuanced than the false left/right dichotomy that rules our media. We truly believe that more Americans think beyond the partisan thinking that dominates our airwaves and now our social media streams. To those who think that way and try really hard to not fall into the partisan trap that media outlets want you to jump into, keep thinking for yourselves. Keep following your own beat, your own voice. Leave the partisan gangs to those who want to always "win." In the end, their quest to constantly fight everything and look at it in solely partisan perspectives will just limit their ability to actually impact people. These profiles are just preaching to like-minded people who justify their own beliefs because some outlet is giving them the "facts." The Internet has given many partisan voices credibility, because there are so many people who are programmed to believe that any situation can be seen in either black or white terms. Boring. Sheep-like. Open to being manipulated.

We prefer to be part of the gray area. That is why we rebel because maybe that is what we have always been. We have always been gray. Always challenging partisan thinking and behavior. It makes life more interesting and stimulating. Leave the little thinkers to overreact to everything because that is all they know.

Submitted by @julito77, Founder, Rebelde, LatinoRebels.com