RULES OF ENGAGEMENT I keep hoping to back off posting so much political content on Facebook, but so far I haven’t been able to because: (1) I’ve always been a political junkie; and (2) I’ve decided I need to be politically active until funding is restored for human services and higher ed. I intend to use social media, including FB, as a tool, and some of my posts to closed discussion groups will appear on my feed.
However, I’ve been mulling this over since January and I’ve decided: 1. I’m not going to share ad hominem attacks on anyone who is not a public figure, as defined by Times v. Sullivan as those who have “thrust themselves to the forefront of particular public controversies.” If you’ve run for office, you’re fair game. If not, you’re not. It’s as simple as that.
2. I’m not going to share memes that I consider misleading, slanted or insulting to rank-and-file supporters of politicians with whom I disagree. Unless a meme’s point is clearly supported by widely known evidence, I don’t like to post memes, period.
3. I’m not going to share posts from what I consider “Fake News” websites, and extremely partisan websites, even those, e.g. Daily Kos, whose editorial policy I agree with. If one cites a professional, objective source, I will make an exception in that case. But I’d rather go to the source and link it instead.
4. If any of my Facebook friends post material I consider objectionable, or demeaning to people of opposing political views, I will quietly hide or unfollow those posts. I have friends and family who share those views, and I don’t want them insulted on my FB feed.
So what am I going to post?
1. I will continue to post links to responsible journalism about public affairs from professional, objective sources like the New York Times, the Guardian, CNN; objective long-form journalism like the New Yorker; and respected magazines of opinion like the Jesuit magazine America, Christian Century, Rolling Stone or National Review.
2. I will post links to editorial cartoons, satire and humorous writing about public affairs. When the intent of these posts is not blindingly obvious, I promise to label them S-A-T-I-R-E.
3. I will try to balance my political posts with cat pictures, baby goats, flash mobs, trad music, Lutheran hymnody, humor, dulcimers and psalmodika (the plural of the funky little Swedish instrument I play), and updates from Appalachian Bear Rescue, Il Gattero di Aleppo (Alaa, the cat man of Aleppo) and other animal rescue agencies. That’s to try to maintain my own sanity, but I suspect others will appreciate it, too.
FB friends who were my students at Benedictine will recognize that these rules are an adaptation of what I’ve been doing since we started blogging in class 10 and 12 years ago. I fully intend to use FB as a tool for political activism, but I want it to be a relatively safe space (sort of like our classroom used to be) where people will not feel themselves under personal attack. I’ve endured too much of that myself, from those who consider me a “libtard,” a commie or a “snowflake,” and I don’t want to return the favor to folks I disagree with.
For a good example of civil discourse on a political blog, consult Capitol Fax, Rich Miller's Illinois politics and government blog at https://capitolfax.com/. At the bottom of each post, he has a comments field with this warning: "Inappropriate or excessively rabid comments, gratuitous insults and "rumors" will be deleted or held for moderation. Profanity is absolutely not acceptable in any form. "Sock puppetry" is forbidden. All violators risk permanent banishment without warning and may be blocked from accessing this site. Also, please try to be a little bit original."
Miller also has a link, labeled "All new commenters should click here before proceeding." The link takes you to a six-year-old post (June 17, 2011) headed "Question of the day," in which CapFax commenters give their advice on how to be civil and smart. The blog's readers include legislators, lobbyists, agency liaisons, political operatives and other participants in the legislative process. Their comments are uniquely informative, and their advice is good. Click here: https://capitolfax.com/2011/06/17/question-of-the-day-1201/.