This is a note to Facebook friends—yours and mine—who post their political opinions more frequently than, say, once a month.
Hey, once a month I understand. It's a maddening political landscape for each of us, and every once in awhile, the straw breaks the camel's back and you're the camel. Other times, you stumble across a truly brilliant article that happens to crystalize your thoughts perfectly, and you think your political allies will appreciate it (and maybe you even allow yourself to hope your opponents will be moved by it). And occasionally—in the rarest of rare cases—you actually encounter an idea or an article that you genuinely believe could galvanize your Facebook friends, and you offer it looking for earnest discussion.
But if you post about politics more than once a month—or like a number of my Facebook friends, several times a week—I'm thinking you've become infected by one or more of the following misguided ideas:
1. I believe the world needs another regular political pundit. Bill O'Reilly, Rachael Maddow, Chris Matthews, Charles Krauthammer, Ann Coulter, Lawrence O'Donnell, Al Sharpton, Rush Limbaugh, David Brooks, Maureen Dowd, Bill Maher, Sean Hannity, Charles Blow, Michael Savage, Donna Brazille, Bill Kristol and Noam Chomsky—well, these folks are terrific. But it's a good thing I'm around, to put everything in perspective for my 119 Facebook friends.
2. I have lots of anger inside me, and I can't keep it in (I gotta let it out). I had a rough upbringing, I got downsized because I am white and old, I haven't become everything my mother thought I'd be. I'm seething most of the time. So every day, I post political opinions in hopes that other angry people—or people at the end of their ropes, or shut-ins—will spar with me, so that I don't wind up beating my fiancee in an elevator. I beat my Facebook friends instead.
3. I believe that having strong opinions and broadcasting them often is a sign of intelligence. Do I have interests other than politics? Sure I do! I love trains and music and baseball and taking long bike hikes on backroads! Do I actually think about politics all that much? Actually, I haven't exactly thought about politics since college! But I'd rather post about what I hate than about what I love … because I don't want people thinking I'm just some mild-mannered schlub who's just trying to make a living like everybody else. (I don't always post on Facebook, but when I do, I prefer to post about politics. I'm the most opinionated man in the world.)
4. "I'm doing my little part." This one I put in quote marks, because I believe that this self-deceiving, disingenuous humble-brag to oneself actually runs through the heads of the profuse political Facebook posters in just these phony words. Do you truly believe that you have Facebook friends who are at once vaguely interested in politics and so hard up for the opinions you're foisting that God in heaven is grateful for the service you are doing to your country? "That's why I put old Fred on the Earth," God says, pouring himself a gin and tonic. "Would that all my children spread their political prejudices with the kind of efficiency and verve that Fred does."
Unless you're actually doing original political reporting or scholarship in political science or history, the only "little part" you're doing is contributing to the shitty, bitter sibling rivalry-style arguments that make Americans believe, falsly, that we don't understand each other.
Don't make me come back there.