A review of Thinking Politics

R – –

So you asked for it, and here it is.

You asked why I left the group and my answer is multi-layered.

First and foremost, it was a huge distraction. I’m already juggling time commitments and, as we’ve discussed multiple times, I am not a big fan of so-called “social media.” I’m only on Facebook to monitor [daughter’s name] online activity. I accept friend requests only from actual friends, and I don’t participate much anywhere else in the virtual world.

You impress me with your social media activity. I sincerely admire your ability to connect with a broad range of people. You are engaging that way, but I sometimes wonder about your expectations, especially with this group.

I do remember that night at Dewey’s when we discussed the concept of “political communication.” It’s not polite of me to say this, but hey, I told you so.

My computer kept binging with notifications, and I could not help but to look. The pace on that page is frenetic, staggering really. That’s part of the problem (more in a bit)

I think to be an active member you must be retired, unemployed or have better time management skills than I possess.

Secondly, outside of you, I did not “know” any of the members. I have always been fascinated by people who show such willingness to argue or debate with complete strangers. I never understood the point. I hesitate to wade into ongoing conversations. Introvert? Maybe, but I am the opposite of you in that way.

Thirdly, I was curious to see how things would play out. Granted, the group is relatively new, but several things became apparent quickly: 1.) A lot of people seem more than ready for a good argument. I did not see (maybe I missed it) much in the way of curiosity. There was a lot more talking than listening. Blame that on Facebook, I suppose. From my perspective, that’s how social media works. 2.) Almost universally, people chose sides and stuck to them. There was very little (if any) indication that any one was willing to challenge their own thinking, despite a wide range of topics.

I think you experienced what we see play out in other realms of social-political conversation. I think you are too hard on yourself and your expectations were too high, believing that this group would be unique in that way.

So, on the one hand I would say that Thinking Politics proves my cynical viewpoint regarding political conversation. But on the other hand, you started something special. My leaving the group is not a vote of no confidence, it’s just not my cup of tea.

I hesitate with this next part, but I feel safe offering it based on how long we have known each other. You tend to be impulsive and jump in with both feet. While I admire your passion, the group would be well served if you had taken a bit more time to figure out exactly what you were trying to.

Please do not take this the wrong way, but you seemed to constantly contradict yourself, and I would imagine it was hard for the group to figure out the dynamic, which is probably why [redacted] also left the group.

I know you had the best of intentions, but again did you expect that 100 or so random strangers would be able to demonstrate a unique way of discussing politics with so little framework or guidance? I think you were unrealistic in that regard.

Before I go any further, I want to congratulate you for trying, and for creating something that is pretty cool, even if it doesn’t mirror the model you envisioned.

The membership is eclectic (how do you find these people?) They are mostly intelligent, witty and passionate. Although the group lacks diversity (which we agree is a false pretense) it has an abundance of color.

The group is certainly weighted to the left. But I’m not so sure controlling or balancing the membership is all that important because you are then creating a “false balance,” an astroturf of political correctness with equal numbers of liberals and conservatives. What you have now is much more authentic and flexible.

We do not share the belief that it must be equally balanced to work. It’s more interesting to see if people can resist the mob mentality impulse. Maybe they can. Maybe they can’t.

Back to the members: I really like [name], [name] and [name]. With only a few exceptions, I think I would enjoy meeting any of the other members, whether for a beer or a long conversation. You have pulled together a fascinating group of people. You should be proud of that.

The members seem to look up to you as a role model. It may work better if there were other moderators within the group. I would choose these people carefully.

Stop trying to control the page. Let it be what it is. If people leave, do not take it as rejection. You built a community, allow them to determine their own fate, even if they (in the worst case) choose to fight and self destruct.

We agree that the conservatives who choose to participate (with the exception of [name] and [name] ) have not done much to help our cause and have only reinforced narratives about political conservatives in the United States.

But you shouldn’t be scratching your head about why other conservatives take a pass on participating or joining. Human nature avoids pain. Why be part of a dynamic that is weighted against you? And if you are willing to suffer those slings and arrows, why bother doing so in a group that seems so ready to pounce rather than thoughtfully and deliberately consider an alternate point of view?

You have been somewhat inconsistent with the “purpose” of the group. But you can’t seem to see your success because you remain stubbornly fixated on the original goal.

The group has become a club, a social hangout for people who share a similar interest. In that way, I applaud you for creating a dynamic that shows the common human denominator between so-called liberals and so-called conservatives.

You are right that very few of the members ask questions. If they do ask questions, they do it preceding a summary statement of how one “should” answer the question, i.e. “I think training puppies with newspapers is a horrible thing to do and anyone who disagrees is obviously a retarded, uneducated blathering, mean-spirited fool. What do you think?”

Hardly a way to encourage a diverse or open conversation.

On the plus side:

The members seem to enjoy learning about each other. So, in that way, you are helping to break down communication barriers. Isn’t that good enough for you?

The members seem to enjoy interacting with one another. So, you helped foster some new friendships. Isn’t that good enough for you?

You remain stuck in a negative perception, yet the other members seem to really respect you and what you are trying to do, even if you, they or I don’t know what the hell you are trying to do.

Here are some immediate suggestions for you to consider:

  • Get someone else to help manage the group
  • Can you put a time mechanism on the posts? It seems that no one takes much time to think before saying something. Is that possible on Facebook?
  • Get rid of [name]. Just my opinion, but adds nothing of value.
  • Lower your expectations. Take a hands-off approach and enjoy the observation. Enjoy the truth without pining for the ideal.

My hat is off to you, and to the other members. You fight, disagree, rant and rave but then spend hours chatting about a favorite book or television show. I think there is a lot of mutual respect within the group, even though there seems to be little appetite for thinking.

Face it: you have created a virtual family. Did you really expect that it would not be somewhat dysfunctional?







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