Thursday, August 25, 2016

Public vs. Anonymous, and Partisanship in the Age of Trump

Nope, didn't get the appeal way back then either.
Image from World of Wonder.
I got myself into a little bit of trouble yesterday. Someone I work with was either alarmed, offended or simply disagreed with something I had written online that appeared on their Facebook newsfeed.* I don't know what it was--I actually hadn't posted anything overtly political directly on my Facebook wall in some time--and we quickly dropped the subject. But it opened my eyes a bit about the pros and cons of being "open" online, vs. being anonymous, as well as the difficulty in holding your online tongue in an age of hyper partisanship.

I've been blogging since 2007, and before that, had an online presence stretching back to the days of Prodigy. But it wasn't until the beginning of the blog that I became transparent, and easily searchable. Much of the world is the same way. We write under our own names, with our own pictures and much of our own bios easily readable and knowable. We don't hide behind cute internet handles or pseudonyms. Which can give a person a bit of credibility, and accountability. But also, it can take away privacy (nothing on the internet is ever really gone). And it can get you into trouble if you say something that runs contrary to the beliefs, politics or sensibilities of other people you know.

Likewise, I didn't (and don't) understand the Clinton hate in 1992.
Image from ABC News.
So, I have a bit of a problem. I'm too entrenched in my behavior, and have already written too much publicly, to try to change my stripes now.  I mean, I can be more thoughtful and careful about what I say and how I say it. In fact, I probably will consider my words a bit more carefully, at least while this incident remains fresh in mind. But, what I've said is already out there. And my behavior patterns are difficult to break. I tweeted two or three things later that day, and only pondered their content afterward. Oops. But, also, we live in an environment of extreme partisanship on virtually every issue. And there are times when holding back, and not contributing is very difficult for a person who has political blogging as a hobby!

And let's talk about the political side for just a second. Everybody knows that in business and personal relationships, politics and religion are conversational minefields. But I think that it is obvious that this political season is quite simply different. It has elements that aren't simply right vs. left, conservative vs. liberal. The two main figures in the presidential battle are individuals widely loathed by huge segments the public. But while one, Hillary Clinton, is despised through an almost completely political prism, the other has only become explicitly political relatively recently.

Yes, Donald Trump has been in the media spotlight for decades. Until 2015, it was perfectly reasonable and acceptable to despise him as a superficial reality TV star, a libidinous, philandering shyster, with an abrasive personality. I personally have never understood his appeal, except as a curiosity and a target for humor. I didn't like him during the Ivana era, the Marla Maples days, The Art of the Deal, his many media utterances, and his more recent career as host of The Apprentice/The Celebrity Apprentice. If anything, my estimation of the man went down along the way.

Both loathed, but for different reasons.
Image from Restate.
And now here we are with Trump as the Republican candidate for president, and all of that baggage follows. If I were a Republican (still), I'd still despise Trump. I think this is borne out by the turmoil his candidacy has put the GOP through. So, I don't see my anti-Trump attitudes, beliefs and advocacy as a purely political thing. Yes, if the candidate was Jeb Bush or Ted Cruze, I'd still be for Hillary Clinton. But the arguments, the advocacy, everything would be very, very different.

If I were seeing Jeb! or Cruz signs in yards, I wouldn't question the judgment, taste or intelligence of the folks who put them there. With Trump, I can't help it. How does someone look at this guy, listen to this guy, and say, "Yeah! That's my guy!" I can't see it. And I do understand that there are people who say the same thing about Hillary Clinton, but the difference is, that's almost entirely politically based. Also accumulated over decades, but overtly partisan, and drenched thoroughly with questionable sourcing, innuendo, and opposition research.

So, the antipathy toward both candidates is similar in that it has been fostered for almost exactly the same amount of time (Trump has actually been nationally known for longer, probably), but comes from an entirely different place. Could my loathing of Donald Trump be colored by vague discomfort with his public persona, just as "colored" by perception as the political sourness a conservative might feel against Clinton? Maybe. I'll concede that, but only to a degree. Because I can honestly say that absent politics, I'd still have a strong negative reaction to Trump, in virtually any context.

Despite the honest disliking of this individual going back decades, it is unfortunately true that my personal anti-Trump campaign will be seen by many or most as a purely political position. Everything these days comes down to a black and white, binary partisan divide. But since I am a transparently open internet presence (if only to the random people who might look me up), I thought this explanation might at least provide context.

*On a tangent, the problem with being public on Facebook, and commenting transparently, is that Facebook itself will "feed" commentary made on other pages, even other websites, to Facebook followers and friends. Most people will never see your comment over at Huffington Post, but it could appear on anyone's at any time. Apparently, this time, something I said that was maybe particularly pointed landed upon this person's feed. I still don't know what it was, but am relatively certain it was pro-Clinton or anti-Trump. 

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