Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sad and sorry presidential politics in social media

The presidential primaries had been settled for only hours before the attacks and counter-attacks began. I don't mean the presidential candidates or Democratic or Republican officials. I mean the people on social media passing along unfounded rumors and totally incredible (i.e., impossible to be believed) accusations about the "presumptive" party nominees.

Scrolling through Facebook (never a good place to get your news), I ran across a photo of Bernie Sanders holding up an obviously Photoshopped sign endorsing Donald Trump and what was alleged to be a news report (check the sources of these outlandish "news" items) claiming Chelsea Clinton had discovered that Bill Clinton is not her father. It reminded me of an unbelievably gullible woman who used to visit me at the newspaper office. She told me one day that Boris Yeltsen, then the president of Russia, was Bill Clinton's father. "Look at them," she said. "They look exactly alike."

Other social media posts are not quite so outlandish as these, but they are unapologetically harsh and mean-spirited in condemning the "other" candidate. Can we have a civil election in this atmosphere?

If there was ever a hope for a civil discourse and debate of key issues facing the nation and the world, that hope was quashed to dust by the Republican candidate debates, which focused more on political correctness, personal flaws and genitalia than on the major issues of the day.

Some of the fault lies with the news media, which increasingly sees news as entertainment with little concern for facts or seriousness, and with the American people, who have too little patience and too short an attention span to examine complex issues and serious topics.

Give 'em pablum; it's what they want.

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