5 Ways the Internet Convinced Me Not to Vote
Raise your hand if you've ever had to block a friend or family member on Facebook because they couldn't resist spamming your wall with political bullshit. These people have never seen a political image macro they didn't immediately share.
See, I've never been into politics, but as I get older, I find myself trying to pay more attention to it because it directly affects my children. I'm a part of a very large group who know enough about politics to distinguish the president from the guy who sold us our truck nuts -- but ask us to debate specific bills or name our state's senator, and we break down into a fetal position, clutching our knees and rocking back and forth until we pass out in a pool of our own urine. And where do we turn when we want to learn more about our government? Our sensible, rational peers on the Internet. I mean, if we can't trust our friends and family and Twitter followers to cut through the biased bullshit reporting of modern news, who can we trust?
And, after a solid year or so of listening to the well-thought-out views of the people on various social networking sites and message boards, I have decided to never talk or think about politics again. Why? Well ...
People Prowl Around Facebook Waiting for an Opportunity to Scream Political Slogans at Us
Let's try an experiment that takes virtually no effort. Go to your Facebook page right now, and without an explanation, announce that you have switched political sides. Now close out the page and don't return to it until you finish reading this article. That's it. No more work required.
I can tell you right now what the majority of you are going to find when you return, depending roughly on the age and number of people on your friends list. Supporters of the party you just claimed to switch to will pipe up with a friendly and celebratory "About time you wised up!" They'll be followed by those who will act as if you have personally offended them by turning traitor. From there, completely without your input, the entire thing will devolve into a downward spiraling political debate. The longer you wait to chime in, the worse it will get, until people start blocking and unfriending each other in a butthurt ragequit on par with sheltered MMO players. If they could, they would teabag your corpse on their way out.
"Fuck you. You deserve to die for your views on taxes."
Because it is a game. These people have an arsenal of ready-made talking points, and counters to their opponents'. And they're always looking for a chance to play -- even the most casual mention will make them hunch over their keyboards and hear RPG battle music in their heads. Offhandedly, you point out, "Oh, wow, it looks like a few politicians are fighting for a big raise in minimum wage." Which is followed by "Yeah, while they're at it, why don't they just replace the flag with a swastika, and pool all of our money together into one big community pot? This isn't even America anymore. It's Nazi Germany."
Wait, what? Where the fuck did that come from?
Perfectly logical in every way. Nope, nothing ridiculous about that at all.
It came from a bullshit debate tactic that people picked up way back in middle school, when they first learned how to verbally bully each other. It's taking an argument so far to the extreme that even if the other guy backs off and offers to meet somewhere in the middle, the argument still leans toward their side. "Yeah, you're right -- we're not living in Nazi Germany, but you get my point, right? That handing out a boost that large will fix a temporary problem, followed by a catastrophic explosion in price hikes for products and services? And it causes businesses to back off of hiring new people. You can't fix the economy by boosting minimum wage by that much in one shot."
"Oh. Yeah, that's obviously the point you were going for -- I totally knew that from your first reaction, comparing our country to a genocidal army." And that's the problem: People start flinging sarcasm like that Silence of the Lambs semen scene, and it just doesn't translate well in text. Especially when it's planted in a serious debate. So as you're likely to find in your current experiment, the sarcasm turns into angry rebuttals, then into drunken, rage-fueled insults. I'd love to see the statistics of how much the use of the block feature skyrockets as elections get closer and closer.
Yep. We live in this world. All of us.
They Don't Support the Candidate They Like -- They Only Bash the One They Hate
Maybe it's just the people I have on my friends list, but out of all of the political posts I've seen on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, I can't recall a single one that listed the pros of their candidate of choice. Everything I've seen has instead been phrased as a scare tactic against voting for the other guy. It makes sense, I guess, if they're treating it like a game -- it's always more fun to attack than to just heal your own character.
Holy shit, I had no idea! That was a close one -- people almost voted for him!
So according to that photo, Mitt Romney strong-armed his way into our government, then giggled as he took jobs from innocent people, then used that extremely successful political tactic to work his way up to running for president of the United States. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that anyone who shares this photo will be ever so slightly biased toward Democrats, and therefore is not the most trustworthy, neutral source for the average person seeking political education. Now before you go screaming, "HE'S A ROMNEY SUPPORTER! SET HIM ON FIRE," understand that I'm not. As of right now, I don't know who I support -- that's the point. It works both ways:
Holy crap, that is totally real and not Photoshopped in any way!
I may be stretching, but I'm thinking the person who made that couldn't be forced at gunpoint to say a solitary good -- or even neutral -- thing about the Obama administration. The views of both of these dipshit photos are so cartoonish in their statements, it ruins every other thing the creators have to say on the subject. Now here's the kicker: The social networking sites I mentioned at the beginning of this point? Those aren't filled with my friends and family. In other words, they're not like-minded people sharing like-minded thoughts. They are fans from this very site -- fans of my column. True dick joke connoisseurs. They come from every socioeconomic class. They represent every major religion, including none at all. They come from every political sect. Yet, they all do it, and I see three main reasons why:
A) It turns their voting preference into a movement. Something they can fight for.
B) It garners instant attention and response.
C) We've been conditioned to view every important thing in life as "good guy versus bad guy."
Their guy is obviously the good guy, and the other is the villain, so when talking about them, they give them villainous qualities. Mitt Romney steals jobs and fights the handicapped. Obama is a terrorist and criminally faked his citizenship in order to rule the world. "I'm sorry, but I just can't bring myself to vote for a guy who willingly sends innocent children across the sea to their deaths. As far as I'm concerned, he's a murderer, and he deserves to rot in prison."
That is exactly, literally what he believes. No exaggeration at all there.
Don't get me wrong, if a guy has a habit of pushing little kids out of passenger jets, then yes, we need to know about that. It could possibly interfere with his job of protecting Americans. But I'd also like to know at least a tiny bit about their accomplishments. By the time you sort through all of the sarcastic photos and bullshit rhetoric, it feels like neither of these assholes is suited to run a gas station, let alone a country. And let's be honest -- common sense dictates that neither of these people is a dumbass who tripped and fell into a nomination out of blind luck like a goddamned '80s sitcom. They have legitimate qualifications -- what are they?
It Has Nothing to Do With the Candidates, and Everything to Do With Their "Team"
So let's say that you're one of the 25 percent of voters who are still up in the air about which candidate to support. Like maybe you're waiting to see the freestyle skateboarding competition so you can base your vote on who does the most wicked kickflip over a homeless guy. You ask your friends for their input, and you start hearing everything we've talked about so far in this article. Two minutes into the conversation, you realize that they're not talking about a candidate ... they're talking about a party. They ask which one you follow, and are shocked when you tell them you don't know.
"Choose your spirit animal, youngling."
And if I sit here and talk about how weird it is that we're expected to distill all of our hundreds of opinions on various subjects down into one of two flavors, and how crazy people are to go along with it, most of you will agree. And for a whole lot of you, your agreement will sound like "That's right! Those Republicans ARE too devoted to their stupid party! Why can't their beliefs be arrived at independently through logic, like us Democrats?"
You find yourself thinking that your "side" is never wrong, and the other side is never right, or at the very least refusing to admit it if so. You know, for fear of losing the game. It's the same mentality as a sports fan who yells at the ref to buy a pair of glasses every time he makes any call that's against his team. The dad whose shitty, spoiled little bastard could never, ever commit a foul.
"Oh, come on! You know for a goddamn fact that you can't get that bill any further than the House!"
I truly believe that if people had never heard a single thing about Republicans or Democrats, and they were asked a hundred questions about their personal beliefs, morals, economic views ... you couldn't place them securely into one side or the other because they'd share large chunks of beliefs and values from both parties. I think most people would fall somewhere in the middle, and just lean one direction or the other. Then again, I'm a dumbass who knows nothing about politics, so take that as you will.
For instance, I get like four words of that. The rest is just letters.
They Just Have to Drag Religion into It
Fifteen religious debates just broke out from simply reading that header title. Another 150 will break out after every sixth word you read. Every last one of them is cock punchingly stupid.
I don't think I've ever seen a political debate that didn't quickly break down into "Christian versus everything else." Hardcore Christians chime in, claiming that certain candidates don't deserve a nomination because they're not Christian. Atheists protest that no facet of religion should ever, ever be a part of politics in any form. And the second this happens, all talk of the remaining 90 percent of politics gets thrown out the window -- economics, the military, foreign relations, education ... what does any of that matter when voting for this candidate will cause you to go to hell? After all, the man is a Muslim!
"Oh, shit, he's going to bomb us all! Run!"
"Wait, did I say Muslim? I meant Mormon!"
"Oh, shit, he's going to show us one of those family commercials! Run!"
I know enough about politics to know that religion, like it or not, does in fact play a part in policy because it's a core part of the moral makeup of the people who create the laws. I understand that it's a point worthy of discussion and debate, and it's going to get heated a tenth of a second after it starts. But not every goddamn political discussion has to break down into that. The second that happens, it turns off the majority of the people who were at one point interested in the conversation, but now have to hit the unsubscribe button because they know how this one is going to end: with the Christians talking about the Last Days and the coming jihad, and the atheists warning about oppressed women and a return to the Dark Ages. Meanwhile, everyone else's eyes are rolling so far up into their heads, they can visually inspect their own brains.
And all of it happens because ...
They Try to Make Every Issue Insultingly Simplistic
The image macros ... holy shit. This is where everything just completely breaks down for me. You'll notice that I've peppered this article with some of the stupidest, most short-sighted bullshit floating around in blogs -- the Internet's septic tank. Sadly, it took virtually no work to research because the Net is absolutely saturated with it. It's what we get when we have an armchair political activist who A) thinks they're witty and funny and B) desperately wants people to notice that. So they break a point down until it's indecipherable, add some scathing sarcasm and hold the end product up as a virtual picket sign.
You got me. I know exactly who I'm voting for now.
I understand this is the Internet, where if it can't be said in 140 characters, it's not worth saying. And I understand that shit doesn't go viral based on how true it is, but on how worked up it gets you. The bias on the Internet is heavily weighted toward short, inflammatory bullshit. And every single piece of it makes us dumber. Here's the deal: If all of your positions on the major issues can fit on a bumper sticker, there's a fantastic chance you have no fucking idea what you're talking about.
And who exactly is this shit supposed to convince? It's like the Internet is actively trying to prevent political education by going so far in one direction that their end result just obliterates any kind of credibility their original point was trying to make. No, you're not helping when you post crazy bullshit like this:
Oh, shit, he's a felon? How did we let an oversight of this magnitude happen?! Get that man in prison!
And no, you haven't converted a single voter by posting ridiculous pictures, comparing a candidate to the most evil human to ever walk the planet:
Oh my God, they're both pointing! Why is he still allowed his freedom?!
Maybe this is what politicians wanted all along -- for us to give up on the system. For us to buy into the chaos and mudslinging so that they didn't have to. I mean, seriously, if you can't fling shit at your opponent without getting it all over your own hands, isn't the next best thing to let your supporters do it for you (don't forget to check on your Facebook experiment)? No, I want no part of that. I'm out.
Wait a minute ... they just won, didn't they?
John has a Twitter where he regularly shows people his boobs.
For more Cheese, check out 5 Terrifying Online Trends (Invented By the News Media) and 5 Reasons Today Isn't Going to Suck.