The War against Facebook
Students should not make a point of complaining about political reality
Over the past two weeks, the presidential and vice presidential debates have set the political arena on fire, with commentators, news reporters and viewers following and assessing almost every nuance of the 90-minute back-and-forth between the parties. Whether or not we are even willing to hear them, it seems the election season surrounds us with body language experts, ironic third-party fanatics and partisan supporters who are quick to project their own meaning onto every word and action. After all, it is the spirit of election season.
But also in keeping with the spirit of the season, there is another, growing group this time around: the self-entitled body who dubs politics as “beneath” them. They do not pick sides because sides are vapid attempts to buy into the machine, they insist that “we’ve never had a real democracy,” and they claim that those who participate are just a bunch of phonies anyway. I call them Facebook elitists.
Now, the difference between being a regular elitist and a Facebook elitist is that when you show your dissent through Facebook and want to let everyone know how you can see through the political machine, you package it as a “Eureka” moment. The thing is, every one of those statements has been made before. In fact, the original “Eureka” moment is known to have occurred some time in the Paleolithic Era, when a Cro-Magnon realized that the mammoth blood campaign portrait in his cave was just a picture of the head caveman’s rival with a mustache drawn on it.
“Ungh” he said, which historians have since roughly translated to “I can’t stand how politicians today mindlessly attack one another instead of engaging in an actual intellectual debate on policy issues.”
But whether you are in a cave or the White House, the thrill of the race has always been the factor that separates politics from just government. The candidates are assessed on their performances, their charisma and the extent to which they appeal to voters in any way. It only makes sense that we would judge politicians on just about anything, because we judge peers, friends and coworkers on just about anything.
And unlike the Facebook elitists, I am okay with that. Blind partisanship and superficial judgements do not compare to a perfect world where politicians would actually be figureheads for policy changes, but dismissing it as “politics these days” is a bit of a stretch — even for the Internet. The truth is that this “dirty partisan game” was played by many past American leaders: for example, John Quincy Adams accused Andrew Jackson’s wife of bigamy, whose side ended up hurling back some adultery charges of its own. So the hype tonight over what color the candidates’ ties are, the inflections they use and what their spouses are wearing is not only relevant, but inescapable.
By the looks of Adams and Jackson, you could even say we have cleaned up.
So when are we, as a generation, going to get over the obvious statements about how any political race — presidential or not — is inherently dishonest? It is not exactly news that politics is rough and usually a theatrical scheme to represent one’s party over anything else, and we are all past the point we were supposed to have figured this out in high school government class.
What’s more, just because you recognize the obvious fallacies in the system does not mean you are too good to contribute to it. And yet, the more Facebook statuses I see about how another person has “cracked the code,” the more I worry that this will turn us into an apathetic group who actually does not care about what happens to our government. Meeting the inconsistencies of political fairness with apathy — however enlightening — seems to me like an immature approach. If anything, the political arena is full of “enlightened” people who use it for what it is: a method of pushing policies past the bias that’s built in.
So while watching the debate tonight, remember that you are not the only one that gets riled up over the fact that both Romney and Obama are shallow party figureheads, misrepresent the American people and would cut off their left arm if it meant that they got to become president. Instead, watch the debate for what it is meant to be: an inaccurate representation of a much more complex mix of events and circumstances. I, for one, plan on becoming outraged at the relative sizes of the debaters’ lapel pins, finding malicious subtext in their rebuttals and using my personal bias to place one morally above the other.
Denise Taylor’s column appears Tuesdays in The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.