Why Political Arguments Are A Waste Of Time

April 7, 2011

We’re in the middle of another federal election here in Canada, and the one place I really see the rhetoric fly is on Facebook. Old friends, people I’ve known for decades, start flying their colours and getting into raucous debates about their political beliefs … and since most people are pretty sucky when it comes to expressing nuance, irony, sarcasm or with in print, arguments soon ensue.

I am going to share with you a Facebook exchange I witnessed this week between a friend who is a top-notch print journalist and a guy who used to be a journalist, but now works for Conservative politicians. I have redacted the names; I will call them AB and CD, which are not even remotely their real initials. Please note that I hold AB in the highest regard, while CB once bumped into my wife and kids at a Canada Day picnic, looked her up and down and said “I don’t do single moms” while I was standing right there.

This all started when one of AB’s other friends Facebooked that he thought Conservatives had ganged up to have his Twitter account closed.

AB: (Other friend) DARES to criticize Stephen Harper on Twitter and he gets his account SUSPENDED. Yes. You heard me. It was in response to this tweet: “Why is @pmharper’s staff spying on rally attendees on Facebook?” HARPER IS A DICTATOR!

  • Okay, that’s a bit harsh, but AB has never been known to be subtle. And she might even have a point. Anyway, this soon sparked a series of comments on her Facebook page, including this:

CD: What about the mainstream media creeping around the facebook accounts of political staffers, gee if the media spent as much time reading the Liberal Plaform and pointing it’s serious flaws as they do looking to tear down the Conservatives than maybe people could make an informed decision on election day instead of basing it on what the media choose to present to them.

  • Uh … Three problems here. One, do the “mainstream media” — an expression lifted from the Tea Baggers in the states — really have that much interest in political staffers’ Facebook presences? Two, what does that have to do with the original post? And three, if it’s a concern, CD, why not adjust your privacy settings? I am not Facebook Friends with CD, largely because of the way he insulted my wife, but I looked at his page today in the interest of research and discovered he doesn’t understand privacy settings, and also he’s gotten kind of heavy. Anyway, a new person chimes in at this point.

EF: Well, perhaps if the people don’t like what the “media choose to present them” then I’m sure the people have the ability to read the Liberal platform. Also, I think you completely missed the point here.

AB: He usually does…

  • That’s classic AB right there. From that point on, the thread descends into weird non-sequituring stupidity as CD deflects honest questions and comments with more Sarah Palin rhetoric, including cheap shots, nasty digs and personal insults, like my own “kind of heavy.” He then pulls the classic “if you’re against the war, you hate our troops” line with regard to his government’s ongoing shenanigans involving the purchase of fighter jets, calling critics of his government opponents of national defence. This came out of a conversation about Twitter.

CD: …. oops, sorry, I can’t tell you what he said, because he went back and deleted all his comments after someone else asked him to clarify his employment status with Conservative politicians, and someone else pointed out that he seemed to be having trouble spelling.

In the end, AB’s friend had his Twitter account reinstated, explaining that Twitter had received several spam complaints about him. The issue of whether the government is shutting down critical Twitter accounts by complaining was lost in a wave of whines from a typical one-party super-supporter who refused to address the facts, but chose instead to make personal accusations, twist the issue and try to bury someone’s legitimate concern in a wave of counter-accusation.

It doesn’t matter what party these people represent. It doesn’t matter what they believe. As long as we have this kind of U.S. style crap going on, we are not going to move forward. Elections should be about ideas, not personalities, and as naive as I know that sounds, I still cling to some hope that voters will see through the crap (as is happening in the U.S.) and start really looking at what has to be done. Cheap shots may win votes, and nasty tactics may win elections, but in the end, they hurt people and wound nations.

Did I mention that AB and CD used to date? Because there’s that, too.

Okay, that’s

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