I’m Confused by Facebook’s “Fact Checkers”

I’m Confused by Facebook’s “Fact Checkers”

Let me make it very clear from the start: I appreciate it when friends fact-check what I post. I don’t appreciate long, drawn-out, circular, unproductive “political debates” with people who think politics is a sport, but I do appreciate friends who keep me honest on those rare occasions when I post utter rubbish on Facebook. It happens to us all, sometimes.

Assuming we’re breathing.

A few days ago, I posted a link – a direct link to a primary source of information – Donald Trump, Jr’s own tweet that so comically led people to mock him for calling Governor Abbott a Democrat. Governor Abbott, as any Texan knows, is not a Democrat. He’s not much of a governor, either, but that’s not the issue right now. Here’s the original tweet, in Donald Trump, Jr’s own words (I’m including the image for those who don’t have Twitter, and if you click on it – assuming he hasn’t deleted it – it will take you straight to the original source.)

I live in Texas. I’d love to see Ted Cruz resign; he’s a disgrace. Wanting to “cancel” Ted Cruz shouldn’t even be a partisan matter at this point, and he should be thoroughly investigated for his role in the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. Three major Texas newspapers have called for Ted Cruz to resign.

Texans died during the winter storm and massive power grid failures in February. Texas Republicans and Democrats were fairly united on one thing: They were not impressed when Cruz fled the disaster area to the warmer climate of Cancun, Mexico. They weren’t impressed when he tried to blame his poor judgment on his 10 and 12 year old daughters, claiming he was “trying to be a good dad” by taking them to Cancun during a school break. They were even less impressed when his wife’s texts, complaining of the bitter cold and inviting friends to join them at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, at just $309 a night, were “leaked” by a friend. Apparently, no one wanted to be seen traveling with them during the pandemic.

It seems that Ted Cruz didn’t learn anything about damage control from Paul Ryan’s photo op in a soup kitchen, or from Trump’s tossing paper towels at Puerto Ricans after Hurricane because he staged his own.

Anyway… here’s where the “fact checkers” come in: They marked my post “partly false.”

It’s important to understand that the only thing I wrote was a sarcastic, “Who knew Gov. Abbott was a Democrat?” as an intro, with a direct link to Donald Trump, Jr’s own tweet. I certainly did not claim that Governor Abbott was a Democrat. And I only linked to Donald Trump, Jr’s own words. I’ll cop to sarcasm and snark, here, but not to lying:

So, how is this “partly false”? Here’s what they have to say, when you click “See Why”:

Had I written a whole news article claiming that Donald Trump, Jr was an idiot who truly believed that Governor Abbott was a Democrat, as opposed to being an angry weasel who cannot write a proper sentence and shouldn’t be allowed to wield an apostrophe, then I could see their point, too. I certainly wouldn’t argue that Donald Trump, Jr. was an eloquent rhetorician who brilliantly expressed what he was trying to say in his tweet. I also wouldn’t argue, as some have uncharitably done, that he looked high when he posted it. He clearly needs the likes of writer Alexis Tereszcuk to decipher for us mere mortals what he was trying, inadequately, to say.

But apparently, it’s not my annoyance over his laughable ineptitude and misuse of the English language that bothered the “independent fact checkers” Facebook uses. It is mind-bogglingly weird that they seem to be fact-checking Donald Trump, Jr’s own tweet, in his own words, to say that he didn’t mean to say what he clearly said and still hasn’t bothered to delete.

I’m assuming he’s allowed to delete his own tweets? He is a private citizen, right – not a government official using Twitter to conduct official business, as his father and so many other politicians seem to think is appropriate? He could say, like Britney Spears, “Ooops, I did it again!” and write whatever the hell it was he actually meant to write. That is, if he didn’t mean to write what he did write, rather than…

It’s like one of those Escher drawings.

I sent in an appeal, but only as a matter of principle. I told Lead Stories that I truly don’t care if they ever remove the “False Information” overlay – it’s funnier this way, and highlights the inadequacies of social media’s attempts at automated content moderation. I would applaud their efforts, but there is still so much truly dangerous misinformation being spread online about COVID19, so much racist, misogynistic, hate-filled garbage, so many fake and fraudulent accounts, so many bait-and-switch advertisers – just so many other, more important things that Facebook deliberately ignores despite repeated reports, that  I wrote, “it calls the credibility and worthiness of your own efforts into question, when there is so much more false information on Facebook, dangerously misleading bunk on Facebook, that I submit reports on, and am told, “This does not violate our Community Standards.”

 

We Are All Essential

We Are All Essential

Asking, “Who is essential?” is the wrong question.

Declaring, “I’m not essential,” is the wrong answer.

We are all “essential” to someone, even if our work is not essential – today – to the continued functioning of our civilization. The question of who should get the COVID-19 vaccine first, and in what order thereafter, is a question for virologists, epidemiologists, and medical ethicists. The correct term is “essential worker” – not “essential person.” Essential workers are the people who take care of the rest of us – who allow us to not go out there and risk close exposure to a deadly pathogen. But if we are not “essential,” then what are they risking their health for?

Adjectives should no be carelessly applied, or turned into nouns – just as people and immigrants are not “illegals,” we do not have some class of humans called, “essentials.”

The media does no one any favors by asking, “Who is essential?” Given they seem determined to fill the airwaves with their blather, 24/7, they could spend an extra second on, “Who is classified as an ‘essential worker’?” or “Which jobs are considered ‘essential’ when determining how the vaccine will be distributed?”

The CDC does a decent job of outlining the plan: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations.html

Eager as I am to get vaccinated, I wouldn’t put me at the head of the line. Not because I’m “not essential” but because I’m not out there working in the medical field. I’m not a first responder who is likely to encounter people stricken with COVID-19. I’m not trucking food and toilet paper and PPE cross-country, every day. I’m retired, and I have no school-aged children living at home, but I’m not old enough to be in the high risk age groups. I’m overweight, but not “morbidly obese.” I’ve had cancer, but that’s in the past. My immune system is fine. I’m glad I’m still too young and too healthy, overall, to be in the first group slated to receive the vaccine. Patience has never been one of my virtues, but .impatience is hardly a risk factor for COVID-19.

I’d put my grown children and my grandchild ahead of me, too. Every parent knows that elementary and secondary school is a breeding ground for germs, and those germs get shared more liberally than unwanted carrot sticks from a sack lunch. They’re brought home more reliably than a math worksheet. University students can, for the most part, follow directions and protect themselves, but what kind of a life is it to hole up alone in your dorm room like a mole rat and experience college life via Zoom? I used to joke that having kids in public school was how we develop immunity to “nuisance” diseases, like the common cold. But I remember lining up at school for a slew of required vaccinations. It wasn’t a choice and our parents remembered the devastating effects of smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, tetanus, and polio too acutely not to consent to our receiving those shots. Fortunately, most people my age don’t have first-hand knowledge of any of those things, thanks to vaccines.

There are a lot of negative and untrue stories out there, concerning vaccines. I’m not going to argue with the anti-vaccination crowd, but participating in large-scale vaccination is one of the prices to be paid for living in civilization with other humans. There are many more lives saved because people took a chance and put their faith in science, rather than risk death by microorganism when there was an effective way to prevent it. I’m one of those people. I’ll get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they’ll let me – to reduce your risks, as well as my own.

But even if I have to wait until March, it doesn’t mean I’m “not essential.” And neither are you. Don’t let the news media convince you otherwise.

A Different Kind of Grief

A Different Kind of Grief

Mourning the loss of an imaginary friend

Sometimes, we have to let go. Just as Facebook introduced us to “Friend” as a verb, we are learning to “Unfriend,” and even as it breaks our hearts to do it, it brings peace of mind. And freedom.

For years, we have agonized over cutting ties with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors over their problematic social media posts. It would be unloving, unkind, and overly harsh if we cut people out of our lives every time they make a mistake, or say something thoughtless or unkind. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone…

I don’t believe that social media makes monsters of “nice people,” though. It often reveals a side of us that we’ve not been taught to conceal, online, as if “online” were an imaginary country, populated by imaginary friends. Like Vegas, what happens online, stays online.

But that’s not true, is it?

Real People

I know people who claim they’ve received death threats over anti-racist and anti-misogynistic posts they’ve made on LinkedIn. I believe them.

I know people who can no longer suffer in polite silence at the dinner table, and who probably won’t be attending the annual family holiday gatherings, because they have come to realize that the people they thought loved them unconditionally really do believe that gay people — like them — are aberrant and ought to die.

I know people who sincerely believe that, when it comes to police brutality, it’s just “a few bad apples” on the police force, and we ought to show unquestioning support for the police. Yet these same people think all Black Lives Matter protesters are thugs, rioters, and looters. They cite that one Black friend who pretends to agree with them, for the sake of peace, as evidence that they are right.

I know people who think women are to be cherished — until they open their mouths to contradict a man or to have the audacity to tell him, “No.” Then it’s open season to condescend to them, to berate them, to make their lives hell on the job, online, or at home, or to beat them into submission.

I know people who believe strongly in freedom of religion. Unless you’re Muslim. Consistent with their view of Black Lives Matter protesters, these people are incapable or unwilling to distinguish between the faith and theology of Islam and the radical terrorist organizations springing out of theocratic, Islamist nations like Saudi Arabia or Iran. In truth, terrorism rarely springs out of something as simple as religious ideology, and it is never universally supported by the people of any nation. Phil Price, writing for Homeland Security Today, summarizes some of the findings in “Terrorism and Ideology: Cracking the Nut by Donald Holbrook and John Horgan”:

The authors argue that rather than being a direct, intellectual and theoretical basis for a terrorist’s commitment, ideology paints a bigger picture. It creates a climate and feeds a narrative where social and personal issues can be harnessed, such as anger at some perceived injustice, a sense of identification with a group — real or fantasy — and a belief that a particular organization can deliver results or salvation — political, collective, or personal.

It seems logical to assume that if people, and nations, felt heard and cared for by other people, and other nations — if they believed that anyone truly gave a damn about redressing their grievances — we would not have so much conflict and terrorism in the world.

I know people who are angry and belligerent when they are required to wear masks during a pandemic — despite the fact that their mask protects others from a potentially deadly disease, and others’ masks protect them. Many of these same people, though, think it’s their business — if not their God-given duty — to control women — in everything from how they dress to when and how they can obtain birth control or reproductive healthcare or abortions. Some of them blame women who seek abortions for engaging in “irresponsible sex” and would not lift a finger or agree to their tax dollars supporting her and her child(ren) after she gives birth.

What they may not realize (or conveniently choose to overlook) is that many of the women seeking abortions are married and have one or more children that they are struggling to support. According to the Guttmacher Institute, “Some 75% of abortion patients in 2014 were poor (having an income below the federal poverty level of $15,730 for a family of two in 2014) or low-income (having an income of 100–199% of the federal poverty level).” Still, few are willing to consider that the best route to decreasing the abortion rate is not to criminalize a woman’s reproductive choices, but to make changes in society that would make abortion seem unnecessary in all but the most dire medical circumstances.

Politics and Morality

“Let’s just agree to disagree.” That works — if what we’re disagreeing over is whether pineapple or anchovies belong on pizza. You eat pizza your way; I’ll enjoy mine my way. If we have to share the pizza, we ought to be able to compromise — perhaps to agree that, for now, we’ll skip the pineapple and the anchovies, and just enjoy a cheese pizza and good conversation. That’s resource allocation and diplomacy.

But the central issues of the day run deeper than a difference of opinion. They’re not about whether to paint the police station burnt umber or café au lait.

A good friend of mine once said that she believed politics was “religion manifest.” Politics speak to our core values. And no political party is perfection; each side speaks to the values of the like-minded, but 330,150,668 people will never sing in unison. The best we can hope for is harmony, and peace.

There is no “perfect” candidate. No candidate of ideological purity. No candidate that represents us, and our opinions, all the time. And if there were, we would never vote for them in sufficient numbers to elect them to the office of President.

We choose the best we can, with the information we have at hand. And we judge one another for that choice. Sometimes, too harshly. Sometimes, not harshly enough.

I would urge everyone to vote — but before voting, to research the proven track record, not just their pretty, ideological words or the mud-slinging accusations lobbed at their opponent. What have they done that is consistent with your core values? Does it reflect their own claims, their pretty words?

I would urge everyone to vote in accordance with their values, not with the “herd.” Ignore the polls, the statistics, the speculation on the odds. What does any of that matter when you mark your ballot? Just vote.

Loss of Our Imaginary Friends

I believe the sadness we feel over alienation from family, the loss of friends, and the severing of social media connections isn’t grief at losing the person. They haven’t died. What’s died is the notion that they were ever who we believed them to be. We see the layered veneer peeled back — we see the whole self they’ve not brought to the office. And it hurts, sometimes.

We feel grief at realizing they were fictional characters in our heads. That they were not “better than that.” And that those fictional characters, our “imaginary friends,” have died. We want to believe that we can rewrite them, fix the flaws we only just now realized they had. We can’t.

I fully believe that without the space to screw up, to apologize — sincerely, to make amends, to be forgiven, and be allowed to try again, people will not bother to grow and change for the better. We don’t kick our children to the curb every time we’re angry with them. We shouldn’t do it with people we care about, either. They’ll lick their wounds and find validation and acceptance within their echo chamber. But no one is owed unconditional acceptance of the unacceptable, just because we like and admire other things about them.

Sometimes, we have to cut each other loose, and mourn what never was.

Anti-racists: Don’t Lose the Focus!

Anti-racists: Don’t Lose the Focus!

This is my daughter, and I could not be prouder of the young woman she has become:

Already, racists are trying to spin this into another nonsensical, blame-the-victim narrative, saying, “But Blake had a KNIFE!” Well, sure. In his car. On the floorboards, apparently. I guess that means I can be shot by police in my front yard, because I have a huge chef’s knife in my kitchen. I sometimes carry sharp, crochet scissors on a crocheted chain around my neck. I’ve even brought those on board an airplane – does that make me a terrorist! Got me – I’m a wannabe yarn bomber!

For crying out loud, people. Anti-racists want law and order, too – which means that they want everyone’s Constitutional rights to be upheld. When police shoot an unarmed black man in the back, seven times, but hand out water to a teen carrying an assault rifle – who shot 3 protesters with it, killing two – and lets the kid go, there’s a problem. And if you can’t see that, you are a big part of that problem.

I read something this morning that struck home:

It’s a privilege to be educated on racism and not have to experience it. Black folks having hope when it comes to racism ain’t about Black people these days, it’s about making White people feel good about finally taking their blinders off after decades of ignoring our suffering, maltreatment and their history of neglect.

Hope in 2020 is asking Black folks to hold their breath waiting for White people to make the decision of our lifetimes and the lifetimes of our Black children and grandchildren.

Hope is asking us to wait on White people…again.

View at Medium.com

So, this is one “privilege” I’d urge my white friends to exercise: Sign up for my friend Sharon Hurley Hall’s Antiracism Newsletter: https://antiracism.substack.com/ – in addition to her own insightful articles on racism and shadeism around the world, including her terrific “While Black” series, which should be required reading for corporate America, she will be sharing great content from other anti-racist writers. I have known Sharon for – well, near as we remember – eight years, now. She is also a talented freelance writer and editor.

 

Anti-racists: Don’t Lose the Focus!

Enough is Enough: The Slacktivism Won’t Cut It

What Do You Stand For?

“Why can’t we all just get along?” sounds good in principle, but only works when we’re dealing with differences of opinion – like which football team is best, Pepsi or Coke?, or whether grunge is better than rock or classical music. Calls for “more love, less hate” sound wonderful – who doesn’t want that? But if we don’t rise up, stand up, speak out, and take action against the oppression of our fellow humans, if we don’t stand up against police brutality and the killing of innocent people (or at least people who are innocent of any capital crime), if we don’t stand up against authoritarianism, then who are we? Can we even call ourselves “Americans” anymore? Didn’t that used to stand for something? Didn’t that “something” used to include a proud, staunch opposition to fascism? I am glad that most of the Greatest Generation cannot see the futility of their courage in WWII in some of your faces, words, and inactions.

I Need a Good Answer to This

Why is it wrong to judge all police officers by “a few bad apples,” but okay to judge all Black people or all anti-fascist protesters by the few agitators who riot and loot and distract from the message that “Black Lives Matter” or that hopeful belief that we are opposed to authoritarian dictatorship and fascism in this country?

Consider this: No one but the fascists gain anything when violence and lawlessness break out. So – who’s provoking the violence?

Defending Rights & Dissent, a civil liberties group, cataloged known instances of First Amendment abuses and political surveillance by the FBI since 2010. The organization found that the feds devoted disproportionate resources to spy on peaceful left-leaning civil society groups, including Occupy Wall Street, economic justice advocates, racial justice movements, environmentalists, Abolish ICE, and various anti-war movements.[122][123] During the effort to violently target Occupy Wall Street, the FBI and the DHS conducted their operations against activists in coordination with banks, the local police, and the New York Stock Exchange.[124]

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO

What Will It Take to Make You STAND for It?

If the meek inherit the earth, it will be a scorched and uninhabitable planet. A Pyrrhic victory, indeed. Don’t just stand on the sidelines. Pick something concrete and constructive – and preferably positive – that you can do to effect change. Feeling lost? Unsure of what you can do? Join the club. Do some digging. Here’s are some ideas: What to Know About Portland’s Crackdown on Protesters and How You Can Help.

Get Your News from Eyewitnesses, Experts

I’d like to believe we have a “failure of leadership” in government, today, but I think that the opposite is true – we have masterminds orchestrating this Chess game, hoping you won’t notice until they smile and whisper, as they slip the noose around your neck: “Checkmate.”

Please click through and read the links.

Immediately, there was a piling on of people trying to discredit and smear the victim. But eyewitnesses and video taken at the scene tell a different story. Don’t get all your news third-hand. Don’t even take just my word for it – this is why I say, “Click through. Read.” Just try to be sure your sources are presenting the FACTS accurately. They can have a different opinion, but beware when they start to alter facts.  Everyone has an agenda, here, and it’s time to figure out what yours is and who you stand with – but most importantly, why.

Sure, Garrett Foster was open-carrying an AK-47. He said some things about people who opposed the BLM protesters – called them “pussies.” He confronted the car driver who gunned him down – because that driver drove at high speed into a crowd, and Garrett was protecting his quadriplegic wife, who he’d been taking to the nightly protests for about 50 days. Now, these Trump supporters are saying, “Well, he deserved to die.”

But apparently, they had no problem with this:

What are they protesting? Public safety measures to slow a deadly pandemic. Not actual murder of citizens by the State. No, they want to go back to bars and restaurants. They can’t figure out how to cut their own hair. So they try to intimidate a woman Governor who is literally trying to save lives in the state she governs.

This thread (read the whole thread) from a man who’s very knowledgeable about guns, and proves there is such a thing as a responsible gun owner (we see far too few of them – it’s easy to forget they exist):

Even standing firm against nonsense on your favorite social media platforms helps, some – but don’t let it stop there. Make those posts public; share, so that others – inclined to be silent in order to keep the peace and not risk losing friends – may feel courageous, knowing they are not alone.

View at Medium.com

I cannot find it in me to be conciliatory about this, anymore. If we can’t push back, with facts and firmness, on family and friends, when they are drinking from the trough of nonsense, there’s no hope for change. I can only imagine how crushing it was, for Europeans and others who did nothing but wring their hands as Hitler and the Nazis rose to power in the 1930s. If you imagine you’d have handled things differently or better, now’s your chance.

And if you do nothing else, at least commit to voting against fascism in November. Make sure all your friends are registered to vote, too, and drive ’em to the polls if you can’t vote by mail. This goes for you Americans, and for those reading this from other countries where authoritarian rule is on the rise – vote like lives depend on it. Because they do.

 

 

How Not To Support Your Candidate

How Not To Support Your Candidate

You hear it all the time – “Trumpanzees,” “MAGAts,” “Bernie Bros,” and similar labels.  These refer to followers of a given political personality who exhibit certain behaviors – aggression, rudeness, intolerance for other ideas, and a tendency to shout others down.

As the administrator of a large, partisan page on Facebook, it’s been fascinating to watch people’s behavior over the last few weeks.  Because the page is basically a Barack Obama fan page, a significant plurality – if not a majority – of the readers of that page are supporting Joe Biden in the Democratic primary this year.

And boy, oh boy, do they get mad that I and another administrator are Sanders supporters.  A funny thing happens, too:  these folks will come in screaming about the rude, obnoxious “Bernie Bros,” and then say things like this:

Sanders is a huge ******* baby and would continue to run regardless… we should vote Sanders? **** that.

That was immediately after an article was posted with the headline “Bernie Sanders Says He Will Drop Out if Biden Gets Plurality Coming Into Dem Convention” – the exact opposite of what this user wrote.

I could copy and paste all day to get the word count up, but it would be boring and repetitive.  The point is, these are Biden supporters, and they’re very rude, aggressive, and obnoxious.  “Vote Blue no matter who (except Sanders)” is the prevailing mode of thought.

These are just examples relating to one candidate; anyone could pick any candidate and find the same behavior.  Some Warren or Clinton supporters will jump immediately to accusations of misogyny; some Sanders supporters will start the conversation with accusing other people of being sociopaths lacking empathy; some Trump supporters will immediately go to accusations of treason.

Are any of these people garnering support from their candidates?  Are the candidates themselves responsible for the behavior of their followers?  Are these people even really followers, or are they trolls or other dishonest actors deliberately trying to make the candidate they’re ostensibly supporting look bad?  Let’s get some answers.

Is Aggressive Advocacy Effective?

My (admittedly anecdotal) experience strongly suggests that this is a hard “no.” Furthermore, in many cases I’m not convinced that’s the true purpose of such comments.  Setting aside the question of “bad actors,” I think it’s critical to remember the context in which you see most of this behavior – message boards, social networks like Facebook or YouTube Comments, Twitter, etc.  Social media being what it is, it seems like many of us are more interested in saying things that will gain approval for us within our own echo chamber, than in constructing a compelling argument in favor of their candidate.

This bears out with the Biden supporters on that big Facebook page – not once have I seen “I support Joe Biden because I believe his policies are better for America and this is why.”  It’s just a litany of insults against Sanders or Trump, and if you’re lucky you might get a recycled bullet point or two in favor of their candidate (e.g. “Trump says what he means, no filter and no apologies!” “Biden isn’t a radical socialist who wants to give everyone free stuff!”)  I can’t credit the “first thought” response that most of us will tend to have – “boy, these folks sure don’t know how to make friends, do they?” – because frankly I don’t think most people are that ignorant.

A person engaging in this behavior is not trying to convince the person they’re arguing with that their candidate is superior; rather they’re trying to convince fellow supporters of their own passion for and commitment to the candidate.  That subset of genuine commenters of this nature aren’t engaged in an exchange of ideas; they’re demonstrating how hard they’re willing to fight for their cause, to gain the approval of others who share it.  As a result, it’s probably of little value to point out the self-defeating aspects of the technique; the writer is accomplishing what they intended, it’s just that their intent isn’t what we tend to think it is.

Trolls and More

There’s also the critical question of how many of these comments are legitimate in the sense that they’re made by individuals participating in a conversation and expressing their genuine feelings.  I’m convinced that many of these people aren’t advocates or supporters of the candidate for whom they appear to be lobbying.

In my academic work in communication and political science, much attention was paid to propaganda, disinformation, and misinformation.  Perhaps some of you will be familiar with the “COINTELPRO” scandal of the late 60’s, but for those who aren’t:  “COINTELPRO” (an acronym for “Counter Intelligence Program”) was “was a series of covert and, at times, illegal projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting American political organizations.” (Wikipedia).  One of the key aspects of this program was that the infiltrators themselves were eventually found to be the instigators, not merely participants or observers, of much of the radical and illegal behavior engaged in by the Black Panthers and other groups.

Using this same basic notion combined with the world of political manipulation in the post-Atwater, post-Rove landscape of the US, it’s not hard to imagine the operatives of a given campaign deliberately acting out as though they’re fans of a given personality or political figure, just to perpetuate a negative perception.  This tactic has been remarkably effective, and naturally becomes more so when taking into account the basic reality that any large group of people is going to have a few jerks in it.

This leads us to the question…

Are The Candidates Responsible?

If my readers are engaged in violence or aggression even though I never suggested they should be, is it my fault?  It appears that people think so; Sanders has repeatedly denounced this behavior in public, yet every day I see another story asking why isn’t he doing more to stop them?

As with any sort of public-facing work, it can be challenging to deal with the reality that some people are going to see things in your work that you didn’t put there.  I’ve faced this myself as a musician, writer, and so forth; people tend to see and hear what they want to see and hear, even when that’s not what’s being said or shown.  This is unfortunate, and destructive; one need only consider the case of Nirvana’s Curt Cobain and the psychological impact he felt in realizing that many of the people buying his records and tickets to his shows were the same sorts of people he started off railing against, as he openly discussed in their song “In Bloom” among other places, to begin understanding how frustrating this can be to the people whose work becomes misinterpreted and distorted as a platform for the very things to which their work stands opposed.

It’s very easy and convenient to blame the politician, the songwriter, the actor, for negative reactions to their work.  This is especially true if you have a vested emotional or financial interest in building opposition to that work or that person.  In the end, though, it’s just not logically supportable.  When you can point directly to that work, for instance the constant referencing by Bill O’Reilly to abortion doctor George Tiller, who was eventually murdered, then there’s an argument to be made.  In a case like Sanders, however, this is much more difficult; he hasn’t urged anyone to break things, to be rude and aggressive, and so forth.  Quite the contrary; he seems to avoid verbalizing ideas that could fit with his ideology, like “tearing down” the establishment or “eat(ing) the rich.”

It takes quite a stretch to imagine that anyone genuinely supporting the principles Sanders has espoused of justice, progress, and equality having a genuine appeal to misogynists and xenophobes.  Blaming anyone for the behavior of others simply doesn’t hold up to logical scrutiny in the absence of clear evidence that behavior was provoked by the person you’re blaming.

What Can You Do?

These observations leave us with a final question: as a genuine supporter of a given candidate, what can you do to be truly supportive?

My best advice is to always try to advocate for, rather than against.  If you’re supporting Joe Biden, referring to Sanders supporters as “spoiled children” isn’t going to get you very far.  However, laying out solid reasoning for your support just might.  If someone says Biden has been unsupportive of LGBT rights, for instance, you can counter with the very true observation that he basically forced President Obama’s hand on the issue by publicly supporting gay marriage before Obama did.  If someone says “Bernie Sanders hasn’t done anything,” you can point out that he’s done a great deal but most of it hasn’t been in the form of sponsoring legislation – declaring “Gay Pride Day” in Burlington, VT in 1983 for instance, or being one of the leading voices in the fight to raise the minimum wage – an effort that has been quite successful.

Don’t waste energy talking about what someone else doesn’t or isn’t or how they’re bad; talk about how what you support does and is and how it’s good.  Avoid being argumentative and getting drawn in to personality conflicts; focus on your goal and the positive, affirmative ways you can approach it.  Rise above the rancor and show confidence and strength in your beliefs and your position.  Remember: nobody’s the villain in their own movie.  The people you’re arguing with are just as convinced of their righteousness and validity as you are.

If you keep these things in mind, you can avoid becoming part of the problem, wasting time and energy in pointless argument, and doing more harm than good to your cause, whatever it may be.