How Not to be Partisan

Good for more than just politics!

Okay, so without getting into any specifics and starting any real fights, we can all say that the 2016 is… something. It is definitely something to behold. That said, in more than a couple of ways – it is no different from any other presidential election that I have personally witnessed. As with every time, there are people who are blindly on one side or the other.

Before I go any further, let’s get clear on what ‘partisan’ means. Merriam-Webster defines partisan as “a firm adherent to a party, faction, cause, or person; especially :  one exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance.”

partisanship

I don’t know about you, but I see these people in a lot more than politics. How many times have you seen this?

Football fan: (on ref’s making a call against his/her team) “What? How could they do that? Are they blind!? What game are you watching, ref?”

Same football fan: (on ref’s making a call for his/her team) “Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about! Good eye ref! Stop complaining jerk, you got caught fair and square!”

Or:

Movie geek 1: “Marvel’s the best! DC movies are so stupid by comparison! I mean, Batman killing people? Give me a break!”

Movie geek 2: “DC movies rock! Marvel movies are so stupid by comparison! I mean, Iron Man killing people? Give me a break!”

The "fanboy" mentality exists in a lot of places. In my experience, it serves to create a division where none really exists.
The “fanboy” mentality exists in a lot of places. In my experience, it serves to create a division where none really exists. It is also an advertiser’s dream: people passionately defending the product… while never being paid a dollar.

In these cases, however, the stakes are less high. For all our fandom (and I include myself as both a sports fan and movie fan), the consequences of each matter little to our everyday lives. I mean, sure – I will be sad if the Red Sox never win, or if all Godzilla movies start being terrible, but my life will still go on relatively unchanged.

Politics is, unfortunately, different. Of the three things mentioned, it is the one that impacts our lives the most. What decisions are made can influence the quality of the food we eat, if we have a job, who our neighbors are, where is a safe place in the world to travel – the list goes on. Like it or not, politics matters.

And in that regard, this:

Person A: “Hillary Clinton never does anything wrong! Trump is the worst!”

Person B: “Donald Trump never does anything wrong! Clinton is the worst!”

Becomes not just annoying, but dangerous. America is a democracy, meaning that everyone is (in theory) made equal by the right to vote. So, a person like the one mentioned above has just as much power as those who spend weeks researching, analyzing, and evaluating the candidates.

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Partisan thinking can also cloud issues, obscuring what is really going on to instead favor a certain narrative. It can elevate relatively meaningless issues, while distracting from topics that could affect many people.

So with that in mind, let’s all do our parts to stop partisan thinking. This simplistic notion that one is immaculate while the other is garbage is rarely applicable to the complex construction that is actual life.

Here are some steps to avoid Partisan thinking:

Always remember, in most cases – you do not know the subject personally. 

As a Patriots fan, I love Tom Brady. Why would I not? The man wins a lot of games. That said, there was some… unpleasantness a while ago, concerning air in footballs.  Without getting into it anymore than that, let’s talk about this defense:

“Brady would never do that!”

As a Patriots fan in New England, I heard this a lot. And, while I personally air on deflategate being more of witch hunt than a legitimate investigation, I always found myself saying:

“How do you know? Do you know him personally?”

We hear a lot in the news about people we’ve never met. How these people are reported also matters. Tom Brady becomes Tom – like we’re on a first name basis now – Secretary Clinton becomes Hillary, Mr. Trump becomes Donald – it goes like this. The effect is to familiarize the viewer with someone they are not really familiar with.

Yeah, sure - may sound like a good idea... but what experience does he have? What made someone make this? "I like his show so he should run the country" - is that the thought process here?
Yeah, sure – may sound like a good idea… but what experience does he have? What made someone make this? “I like his show so he should run the country” – is that the thought process here?

So going forward, let’s try not refer to people we don’t know by their first names – at least in politics. This can help give some needed perspective, distance from the stranger we sometimes defend like a brother.

Get News from Multiple (credible) Sources and Remember that not all Media is Created Equal  

Have you ever heard the saying “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they all stink”? If so – throw that in the mental garbage. Forget it like it’s the seventh time you visited a restaurant. This saying is far more popular than it deserves to be, in part because it is a load of crap.

Imagine this: you get sick. There’s an ache in your stomach that won’t go away. Finally, after weeks in pain, you go to a doctor. That doctor prescribes a  medication, as well as making several suggestions to your current diet habits.

Then, on your way out, you meet a guy in the lobby who says: “Oh man, cramps huh? I read about that on Facebook – you gotta start hopping for five minutes every day.”

You have now received two opinions, but they’re not like assholes – they’re like rocks. One is a precious gem, the other is a fossilized turd.

This is a roundabout way of saying: be careful what you read on the internet. While that example sounds silly, it can be seen over and over again online – especially when it comes to politics. One person takes a blog and puts it against a well-researched news article OR someone takes a poorly vetted news article against the analysis of an expert.

When it comes to news sources, please look for the following:

  1. Articles that are sourced (and not just back to their website of origin.)
  2. Organizations that can be held accountable (I could, for instance, write an article about how Gary Johnson is a Nazi space dragon. He could sue me for libel but it is unlikely – if CNN wrote that article, expect an apology and a lawsuit.)
  3. Organizations that employ journalists from multiple sides to provide opinion.
  4. Don’t stop at just one source – everyone misses facts, everyone makes mistakes. A consensus of reporting helps to determine what is real and what is “an exclusive ground-breaking scoop.”

true-pr-quotes-from-us-presidents-and-one-thats-fake-by-prdotco-4-638

These four steps can go a long way to prevent one from sharing an article that is partisan trash. There’s a couple other vital goals to keep in mind:

Question your Friends

What I mean by this is, just because you want it to be true doesn’t mean that it is. There was an excellent quote from Former President Bush this year:

bushquote

This is often seen online, especially on Facebook. I know that I personally have been guilty of this in the past. When reading an article (or even seeing a headline) that contradicts, one of the first responses is to argue against it. When seeing an article that supports our views, just click “like” and move on.

In truth, we should be as careful with fact-checking our allies as we are our ‘enemies.’ No party has a monopoly on the truth or on idiocy. Pushing garbage hurts everyone. It undermines the credible arguments while reinforcing the partisan stereotype that the other side doesn’t know what it’s talking about.

No side is always right. Get used to that way of thinking.

Be Aware that Everyone has an Agenda

I plan to address this particular point more thoroughly in a later article, but for now I will state this. How often do you see one party attacking the other? It happens a lot, right? This is especially true in an election year.

Huh, it’s almost like both sides want their candidate to win. Go figure.

Having an agenda is not always a bad thing. Often times it is as basic as what I just wrote. Democrats aren’t evil for wanting their candidate to win – they’re just being good Democrats. Ditto for Republicans, Libertarians, and Green Party members. Are there exceptions to the rule: obviously, but let’s keep going.

The problem with agendas are when they are not front-and-center, or when a person is putting forth a false agenda. Here’s an example.Unfortunately, it’s time to get political.

Let’s talk about WikiLeaks.

On the surface, I personally love the idea of WikiLeaks – an independent organization that operates outside the ‘law’ of government to make sure that citizens are not kept in the dark to shady practices. In the pursuit of transparency to the public, I can get behind that idea. Of course, it’s not as simple as that, other factors (personal safety, privacy) also play in – but the basic idea of WikiLeaks is sound.

Yet WikiLeaks is not pursuing this noble goal. If, as you’re reading this now, you’re saying “ugh, he’s a Hillary supporter” don’t turn off your brain to me yet. The fact is that WikiLeaks is being fed information by the Kremlin. This has been proved by organizations not involved in the election process.

Does this mean that WikiLeaks is publishing lies against Secretary Clinton. Maybe? Probably not. Yet here’s the rub: one can lie by omission.

Personally, I am for exposing the flaws of a two-party system, but WikiLeaks isn’t doing that. They’re focused solely on the Democrats – solely on the DNC – solely on its relationship to Hillary Clinton. The emails of Sanders and O’Malley staffers are not being made public.

Neither are the emails of the RNC. Neither are the tax returns of Mr. Trump or his campaign emails or his complete medical history.

If the point of WikiLeaks is to expose the average citizen to the mass corruption going on in government – all of this should be fair game. Instead, we are being fed a very narrow sliver, all while being told it is the full pie.

It is very easy to judge a glass house when all the others are still made of brick.

Imagine how perception might change if we could see the private emails of every candidate's campaign in this election.
Imagine how perception might change if we could see the private emails of every candidate’s campaign in this election.

So while WikiLeaks is likely not lying, they are pushing one agenda while claiming to support another. They are not an organization for transparency, they are an organization pushing forward data against one major candidate while completely ignoring the other one (and all other minor candidates). This is not in the spirit of openness – this is biased theft.

A less extreme example is King of Kong. While a very entertaining documentary, the editors twisted the narrative to promote a sense of drama - rather than lay out the facts as they occurred.
A less extreme example is King of Kong. While a very entertaining documentary, the editors twisted the narrative to promote a sense of drama – rather than lay out the facts as they occurred.

On that cheerful note:

Be Skeptical of Conspiracy Theories 

I love reading conspiracy theories, heck I listen to Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know often. That said, in my opinion, most conspiracies require a level of competency and cooperation that does not exist in humanity (particularly among people with egos). In addition, they also require the ignoring of certain facts (usually contradictions) in support of connections – some of which can be arduous at best.

This picture is the most famous one of the Loch Ness Monster - it was also long ago proved completely fake. Yet millions are still spent in pursuit of this creature.
This picture is the most famous one of the Loch Ness Monster – it was also long ago proved completely fake. Yet millions are still spent in pursuit of this creature.

It is very easy to edit a tape, or put forth a blurry photo, or doctor something together to make it look like there’s correlation where none existence. For instance, I will argue – using correlation – that watching the Star Wars Holiday Special gets you drunk. I watched the special and, as the minutes ticked by, I found myself more and more inebriated. By the time it was over, I was thoroughly intoxicated. If needed, I can replicate this process with other people.

There you have it: the Star Wars Holiday Special makes you drunk.

Except it doesn’t… at all. In using this correlation, I omitted one very important fact: I was also drinking tequila at the time. Yet I was under no legal obligation to disclose that to you. Many conspiracies work the same way.

Take a situation – focus on certain aspects, and ignore on downplay everything else. Heck, add a sinister motive while on top of that. Of course I claimed tequila was involved – I’m trying to discourage drinking and cover up the truth!

Voila: conspiracy. They can be found everywhere on Youtube. When examining conspiracies, ask these questions: How many people would have to be involved? Why are all of these people involved? Why would so many people risk their livelihoods to perpetrate this falsehood? How has no one caught on to this before? Who is covering it up/do they really have the power to cover it up?

Conspiracies tend to sensationalize, and please:

Do not Sensationalize or Demonize 

The truth is rarely sexy. Is Secretary Clinton the most corrupt politician who ever lived? Nah. Is Mr. Trump in league with Putin to dismantle democracy? I really doubt it. The reality is this: both Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton are human beings. They were raised in homes, not secret labs. For all their pomp and the larger-than-life nature of their campaigns, they are people (just like you and me).

And people are rarely evil. They can do horrible things, they can make mistakes, but they can also change a life for the better, give help to a friend in need, and be a shoulder to cry on.

I have seen so many “Hillary is a she-devil” and “Trump is a sociopath”… and I’m not saying that either is a lie. What I am asking is: how likely are they?

Sometimes horrible people do get in a position of power. I am not going to type a defense of Hitler or Stalin on this post. Yet sometimes it is only a sensationalized media frenzy that tolerates only extremes. It’s either 100% good or 100% bad/ right or wrong/ angel or demon/ hero or villain.

there-is-nothing-as-boring-as-the-truth-quote-1

The truth is rarely that sexy. Try not to demonize or sensationalize – unless the situation really calls for it. The result of doing it too much is that it numbs the audience, which can be bad if there ever is truly sensational news. Empathize when possible, humanize when you can.

And lastly:

Do not Jump to Conclusions/Don’t be Afraid to Change your Mind

For some reason, a lot of humanity has turned thought into a race. It doesn’t matter who reaches a conclusion first if it’s a wrong conclusion. If I say “Brad Pitt hasn’t slept in two days” and someone answers “he must be a robot!” there is no prize given.

Likewise, if I hear a fact (usually single and out-of-context) and immediately make a judgement, the only reward I am likely to get is looking like a jackass later. That does not reflect on the person/subject I made the conclusion about – just on me.

Reaching a decision too quickly often leads to looking for facts to support a conclusion, rather than drawing a conclusion based on fact.

That said – who looks more like a jackass? The person who makes a mistake and admits it or the person who makes a mistake and insists that they did not? Try reflective thinking – not reflexive acting.

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It is odd to me that, in a democracy, there is an increasing attitude that changing one’s views (and compromising – but more on that later) is a bad thing. It totally is not. Humanity did not keep saying “the Earth is flat” after the globe was discovered (except the conspiracy theorists – ’cause why not?).

There is nothing more wasted than a closed mind. Opinions and views should be evolving, not static images on a screen – deflecting any and all change coming their way.

You will make mistakes. That is a certainty. Sticking with them is a much more serious flaw.

 

 

And there you have it, some rules to avoid partisanship. I hope I didn’t ramble too much or bore. I tried my best to stay on-message. For those wondering: my agenda with this article is to inspire thought and begin moving (if only) a couple of people away from the increasing nonsense that I see being put forward on the internet.

I don’t want the Partisan States of America, I think we lose a lot by belittling and outright dismissing views that differ from our own, while at the same time elevating ignorance to knowledge whenever it suits our fancy.

That, or I’m in league with the mole people to undermine the election… one of the two.

One thought on “How Not to be Partisan

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