JOe Gandelman: Inaccurate political rage
Do you have personal issues? Do you want to seem intelligent, well informed and on-top-of-it-all without having to bother to put in any effort or time to see whether your assertions are accurate? If so, then join the trend that’s all the rage in the 21st century: show indignation now and worry (or, more likely, don’t) about accuracy later. And, for heaven’s sake, never EVER worry about “nuance.”
The following cases are not from The Onion, and weren’t created by New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz:
CASE ONE: That photo of the movie producer Steven Spielberg, after he “went” hunting. At issue: a photo of Spielberg on the “Jurassic Park” set smiling, sitting in front of a dead dinosaur. He was then denounced as “despicable,” and called other unprintable names online. Reality: dinosaurs have been extinct for (ahem) a while. Now someone has posted a photo of him next to a dead ET. How long before “murderer” denunciations pour in?
The Spielberg photo spoofs the controversies over Kendall Jones, a Texas cheerleader who posted photos on Facebook of her alongside big game animals she killed, and 17-year-old Axelle Despiegelaere from Belgium. Despiegelaere won a lucrative L’Oreal modeling gig after a photo of her cheering her country at the World Cup went viral and charmed millions. A photo her on Facebook holding a rifle next to a dead animal in Africa surfaced, and sparked outrage. L’Oreal didn’t expect this branding when they hired her, so they declared her work for them completed, and dumped her. She deleted the page.
CASE TWO: The Texas politician trying to save his community from a bus of migrant children who actually weren’t. There’s an old joke about the stupid racist who went to an anti-illegal immigrant rally and yelled out: “Go back to Africa!” Life imitated joke when Arizona Republican congressional candidate and state legislator Adam Kwasman got excited about positioning himself to show the world (and voters) that he opposes migrant children settling in his community — only to find out later the kids on the bus he said were immigrant kids were campers going to a YMCA camp.
He was at a protest near an area expected to be a shelter for the arriving kids when he spotted a bus, and Tweeted: “Bus coming in. This is not compassion. This is the abrogation of the rule of law.” He told a TV reporter on camera: “I was actually able to see some of the children in the buses. The fear on their faces.... This is not compassion.” The reporter then informed him that the kids (reportedly laughing and taking cell phone pictures of the media) were actually YMCA campers.
Kwasman assumed a bus arriving was THE bus and the kids he saw therefore MUST have been migrant kids. Still, this much must be said in his defense. If the kids had been wearing yarmulkes he wouldn’t have reached that conclusion (I think). He expressed compassion for the kids. And he never yelled “Go back to Africa!”
CASE THREE: My website, The Moderate Voice’s raging emails. On the left they say they’ll never visit again because we run Michael Reagan’s column. But many other posts disagree with Reagan. On the right they say you can’t be moderate because posts criticize Rush Limbaugh, conservatives and the tea party. But Limbaugh, conservatives and the tea party are trying to purge moderates from the GOP. A reader who I learned writes a diary for a liberal blog called the site right wing due to a conservative website widget — the same widget that runs on Political Wire (a centrist news aggregator), Crooks and Liars (a liberal site) and Hinterland Gazette (a center to center-left site).
These days, many people obsessed with ideology, party or issues put their mouths or keyboards in gear before they put their brains in gear — if they ever get around to doing that at all. That’s the style: assume and attack. Who cares about facts? If it makes you feel good — and scores with those who already agree with you — run with it.
Joe Gandelman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.