October 3, 2012

The Problem with Election Years, Dishonesty and Facebook

When I was a writing major at the University of Pittsburgh, there was much discussion in many of my classes about integrity and honesty in journalism and writing. As a creative nonfiction major, brutal honesty was important.  Since you have the “creative” part though, there was always the question of how creative you could get without losing the integrity of the piece. This commitment to honesty is a big reason why I have yet to write any kind of nonfiction memoir.  People I write about would hate me. I tend to see people for who and what they are. Most people don’t like that kind of honesty.

Often, when I am relaying the events of my day to Mr. BBM, he will say, “You really need to write a book about this.” But I don’t. I don’t even blog about it anymore because everyone I know reads this blog. I’ve offended people by what I’ve written even when I’ve been genuinely complimentary. Simply put, I just can’t win; but regardless, I always stand behind what I write and what I think. Agree with me or not, you always know where I stand.

Which brings me to what I really want to discuss, the lack of integrity and honesty in writing these days. There doesn’t seem to be any fact-checking anymore. Writers can throw together numbers and half-truths to make any story they like. There are no consequences for writing something that’s not truthful, unless you consider a “consequence” being booked on every national TV show to gain more publicity for yourself. It’s for this reason that I absolutely despise election years. Facebook statuses becomes less about “what you are doing” and more about what political statement you can make without really making a statement. Of course, some people are blatant about it. Most of these people have been hidden in my news feed because I need to keep my blood pressure under control;  many are not even respectful about it. For example, my favorite offensive statement of the political season: “Anyone who votes for Romney is stupid and/or racist.”  I’ll be voting for Romney and I’m neither of those things.

Others post links to various biased b.s. and then get upset when you post something contrary that happens to be factual. The other day someone posted a picture of low gas prices that said something to the effect of  “just kidding-these WERE the prices when Obama first took office” on their Facebook feed. A comment quickly followed about gas prices under George W. Bush. I had a feeling it wasn’t an accurate statement so I looked it up out of curiosity and came across several articles, one an article that looked at gas prices for every President since Carter. The article then broke down the percentages that gas prices rose or fell under Carter, Reagan, Clinton, both Bush’s and Obama. I posted it. It happens to be interesting. A person replying after me said that he was a registered Republican and that you have to look at a bunch of different areas and to keep an open mind. He cited the stock market stats. To be honest, I had no idea what any of those numbers meant so I asked Mr. BBM about it and went “hmm, ok.” There was no argument. It was three people stating opinions on a picture of gas prices, a picture that was an obvious political statement. Then what happened was this. . . the person who posted the picture said she didn’t mean to be political (It was a picture of gas prices and had the word “Obama” in it. . . um, ok) and that people should chill. Her father then commented on our thread of articles and told us all to “get a life.” Not a single one of us had said anything even slightly disrespectful to each other or about anyone else. There was no argument. Then another post was started about how wacky people are (me and the other two commenters apparently) and someone said something to the effect of, “Wow, how did that get so out of control?”

Blink. Blink.

Um, have they ever watched a show when Ann Coulter or Alan Colmes happens to be booked? Our posts were wacky? Out of control? No, actually they were  rather pensive and respectful of each other considering that we are only weeks away from an election and obviously don’t agree with each other. And wait a second, didn’t the owner of the page post the picture to begin with? I found myself wishing Facebook had a “Hide this person until after the election” button. Instead I decided it was time to bid this “friend” adieu. When you bait people, and then get ticked that they are having a discussion about it, and then try to back away from the fact that you even posted it when it still lives on your wall, that’s just odd.  How did I even become friends with someone I barely remember from school anyway? It made me gain that much more respect for my friends who allow polite disagreement on their pages; in fact, some people even encourage it. This political season is ripe with controversy right now. And if this doesn’t also prove that I really need to spend some time weeding my FB “friends” and with my heavy bag, I don’t know what will. Things like this probably shouldn’t tick me off as much as this did. Frankly, I’m tired of all the political nonsense.

On the eve of the first debate, I can’t help but think about that  Jim Carrey movie “Liar, Liar.” You know, where he is compelled to tell the truth and only the truth? Wouldn’t it be nice if that happened on debate day with both candidates? If I operate under this same premise, it’s probably wise that I stay off my Facebook news feed tomorrow through the first week of November. In fact, maybe longer.

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