Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Silly Season

According to Merriam-Webster, the silly season is:

1:  a period (as late summer) when the mass media often focus on trivial or frivolous matters for lack of major news stories
2:  a period marked by frivolous, outlandish, or illogical activity or behavior

It also refers to the period leading up to an election. Alas, here we are almost a year and a half before the next presidential election, and the Silly Season is in full swing. As of today, there are 16 Republican candidates who have thrown their hats into the ring. On the Democrat side, in addition to Hillary and Bernie Sanders, three others have announced their intention to run for the office. (Source: NY Times.) You can't turn on the news without hearing a story about what one or the other of these candidates has said or done today. Usually that's followed by a group of talking heads--all with a political agenda of their own--discussing the item ad naseum. They don't add any new facts. They merely reinforce their own political bias.



A few months back, I wrote a post titled Twitter is My News Channel. In it, I decried the lack of reporting by traditional news outlets and pointed out that Twitter and Facebook often had the news ahead of radio and television. Unfortunately, social media is not immune to the Silly Season. In fact, Facebook makes the phenomenon I wrote about in April look like reporting by Edward R. Murrow.

Lately I've noticed people posting and commenting on links without ever reading the original source material. Unfortunately, the links are headlines which are merely clickbait, something outrageous to make the reader of said headline click on it to go to a web page where, hopefully, the purveyor will be able to sell you something. Reading the article is secondary. Why are the headlines clickbait? Because they often do not represent the actual body of the story. In fact, often, buried somewhere half-way down in the column, the story will contradict the headline.

A clickbait headline will read something like "Candidate John Doe Says I Drowned Kittens!" When you finally get to the original quote, it says something like: Candidate John Doe said today, "If I drowned kittens, I'd never be able to live with myself." But on Facebook everyone will be decrying the cruelty of John Doe, setting up petitions to have him banned from the election, and sharing this clickbait with everyone they know.

I'm one of those rare people who believes she should know what she's talking about before she opens her mouth, so I do read the original articles. If that article doesn't make sense, I use Google to try to find additional information. I want to know the truth.

I also want other people to know the truth, so, if and when I post a comment, I'll add links to the information I've found, assuming others will want to read that as well.

Silly me.

I forgot the part about them not reading the original article to begin with.

I try to avoid getting embroiled in political discussions on Facebook. I'm a registered Independent and have no particular loyalty to either party. My loyalty is to the truth and to the candidates I believe will represent me best.

Unfortunately, this past week I fell victim to clickbait. I couldn't help myself from trying to counter the vitriol being spread on one thread. The response was immediate and harsh. I forgot for a moment that people are more interested in reinforcing their own beliefs than challenging them.

There's a reason writers are encourage not to advocate a particular stance, whether that be in politics or religion or social issues like gay marriage. Usually, this is because a publisher doesn't want their writer losing sales because some readers have the opposite opinion. In my case, it's because it takes too much time and energy to try to prove my point. I'm not Don Quixote.

I'm going to redouble my efforts not to get involved in political arguments this Silly Season. Most of the candidates will fall by the wayside. I'll make my choice in November of next year. Quietly. I'll resist the temptation to read every bit of clickbait. I have books to write.



Credits:
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/silly%20season
fuzzy-mascot.jpg Copyright Piotr Siedlecki via http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=109069&picture=fuzzy-mascot
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