Selective Outrage Is All the Rage. Just See ‘Michelle Wolf’

I wonder how many times a day I read an article, note a passing Tweet, hear some frothing nonsense on the news, and mutter to myself, head shaking and eyes rolling, “Oh, dear God, are you kidding me?!”

Often. A lot. More than I’d like.

In fact, the sheer density and degree of nonsense worth swearing about is shock-and-awe inspiring, and if I didn’t hold tight to my policy of “limited news intake,” I swear I’d be swearing like it was the very air I breathe.

Instead, I choose my outrages, the things get me motivated enough to Tweet, post, Instagram; sign petitions, write my congresswoman, or send notes of protest to women-beating pizza shop managers, or elite clothing stores selling “quaint” slave bracelets; Christian bakers unwilling to make cakes for gay couples, or the latest police department defending cops who kill black men for holding cell phones.

These things seem to be worth raging over. As do Trump’s relentless acts of idiocy and demagoguery; a Republican party whose ambitions trump true patriotism and rule of law; a cabinet enriching itself on taxpayer dollars; a partisan agenda wrapped in cruelty, xenophobia, greed, and discrimination across countless demographics. Go crazy on those, yes; there’s plenty to go around and surely (sadly) more where all that came from.

But what I find disingenuous and head scratching during these days of “all outrage all the time” is the selectiveness of what piques the ire of some. What gets them off the couch and over to their computers to defend egregious prevaricators, tweet indignant denunciations of this or that; demand apologies from those skewering politics, or announce ad hominem attacks to come.

Yes, all that happened this weekend. And you might think the brouhaha inspiring such response was Trump’s insane Michigan speech in which he actually said, “If we don’t get border security, we’re going to have no choice, we’ll close down the country.

Or the news that “ICE held an American man in custody for 1,273 days.”

Or the stunning fact that “Neo-Nazis Burned a Swastika After Their Rally in Georgia” a few days ago.

Nah. All the hissing fit to print—on Twitter and elsewhere—was over a very funny comedian, Michelle Wolf, who, hired to do the traditional roast at the end of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, fearlessly took on everyone from Trump, to Democrats, to Pence, to Kellyanne Conway, and, most spectacularly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the snarling curmudgeon who sprinkles lies like parade candy from her Press Secretary podium on a daily basis. Wolf’s routine set the media, social and otherwise, on fire. Did you hear anything about that ICE case or the Michigan speech? I didn’t either. There was too much noise coming from those who, instead, selected Wolf’s irreverence as the target of their indignation.

Surely, as satire is meant to do, Wolf’s routine was cringe-worthy at times, occasionally caustic, on-the-mark, over-the-line, very funny, and bracingly unvarnished. The transcript and video are everywhere; dive in when you can, but suffice it to say, she called out the chicanery and corruption of the White House and its two cheerleading ladies-in-waiting in ways that those of us who literally scream at the TV every time either opens her mouth have been waiting for someone to do for a very long time.

In a nutshell: she called the liars… liars. And what did the outrage machine do in response? Check the links above: lots of foot stomping, spittle-flying, head-shaking, “well, I never!” kind of “aren’t we above this sort of thing?” foolishness meant to illustrate how noble and hands-off they think a comic hired to do a roast should be when taking on the most corrupt, dishonest, likely treasonous; rude, bigoted, and unfathomably stupid administration… and the media that chronicles it.

Defending Sarah Sanders from a joke that was not only hilarious but bitingly spot-on became the ’cause celebre’ of everyone from Andrea Mitchell to Mika Brzezinski, to, of course, every sputtering journalist on the right, and even some on the left. Apparently they saw this as a red-line dig on her looks. Really?? Did they miss the subtext? Here’s  the joke; you decide.

“I think she’s very resourceful. But she burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye. Like maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”

It seems to do exactly what satire is meant to do. It’s also funny.

Look, everyone is free to be as outraged as they want by whatever piques their pricklies, but when an entire weekend’s discourse is dominated by the sound and fury of journalists, pundits, and opinion makers who found the candid and irreverently honest routine of a smart female comedian to be worth more wrath than the ICE story or Trump’s mentally unhinged declaration to shut down the country, selective outrage has become its own form of madness.

Considering the cynical, sexist, bigoted, and mendacious remarks often made about Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, or any other women on the left (even the men on the left… thanks, Obama!), a little snark about an incessantly dishonest woman using the ash of her lies for eye makeup seems tame. And, again, funny.

But do let me know when the madding crowd starts demanding, en masse, the apologies of profiling police departments and overzealous ICE agents. Give a holler when justice for the assault victims of the man in the White House becomes a viral trend. Tweet out when journalists start refusing to eat up the Press Secretary’s spoon-fed dishonesty, or when provocateurs like Dennis Miller spend days thinking of ways to attack Nazis burning swastikas, or men drugging and raping women.

When that happens, we’ll all gather in the virtual town square to celebrate the power of our communal outrage… and Michelle Wolf will keep telling the truths that make people laugh.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Advertisements

The Politics of Art: Should Artists Keep Their Opinions To Themselves?

“I have always loved the Grammys but to have artists read the Fire and Fury book killed it. Don’t ruin great music with trash. Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it.” ~ Nikki Haley, 29th and current United States Ambassador to the United Nations

The tension between art and politics has long been debated, certainly since the 1960s, when the cultural revolution introduced neon posters, protest music, and lyrics that offered more than “ooh baby baby” to the national conversation. Lenny Bruce and George Carlin made politics and changing mores the bedrock of their humor. Films, TV, art, and music found the incitement of violent unrest, sexual freedom, social controversy, and evolving standards ripe for exploration. All the rules changed and, for artists, that was a glorious thing.

Yet here we are in 2018, once again debating the explosive merge between politics and art, with some sniffing that those who create the movies, TV shows, music, books, images, and comedy enjoyed by a rapacious public should keep their politicizing pie-holes shut. Nikki was peeved, Trump took on Jay-Z, and God forbid a certain red-headed comedienne made tasteless jokes about the man in the White House…satire is dead, color within the lines, banish them from the kingdom!

Some of us aren’t having that.

When Nikki Haley tweeted the above admonition on Grammy night, she threw herself into a social media frenzy that literally exploded with response, opening up a contemporary conversation about what artists are allowed to say, what they are advised to do when it comes to that provocative alliance between creative and political personas.

The zeitgeist on that question has clearly evolved over time. Swinging from earlier eras when artists and celebrities fought hard to keep their proclivities and idiosyncrasies—both personal and political—from impacting any part of their public brand (with McCarthy’s blacklist making it a matter of career life and death), current trends find politics and identity more readily meshed, making public not only what an artist has to offer, but who they are and what they believe.

Of course, that’s not true in all genres of the creative world. It’s well known that country music defines conservatism as the go-to party line and sticking your neck out too far to the left can shatter a career’s upward trajectory (see the Dixie Chicks). Some say that hard line has been softened in more recent years; when big stars like Tim McGraw and Faith Hill can throw their support behind Obama and sane gun control, and still maintain status as one of country’s power couples, perhaps the sharper edges of political witch-huntery have been dulled. Even the TV series “Nashville” has tackled police profiling and the outing of one of its most popular characters.

On the other side of the aisle, actors like Bruce Willis, Kelsey Grammer, and Tim Allen claim their conservative politics have contributed to backlash from liberal Hollywood. Clint Eastwood, he of the famous “empty Obama chair” at the 2012 Republican Convention, has been openly mocked not only for his support of right-wing politics, but the contradiction those views present when viewed against some of his more liberal narratives (Gran Torino or Million Dollar Baby, for example). I doubt that Eastwood gives a hoot about it either way, but it might be true that being an out-and-proud red-hat Republican in the entertainment business requires a certain thickness of skin!

Writers, largely more private and introspective than their performing cousins, seem particularly sensitive to the conundrum, as their commerce and community building rely heavily on the goodwill of virtual readers and reviewers who may or may not share their civic opinions. Some, in service to that readership, refuse to reveal their political views in open forums, often advising others to follow suit for the sake of survival in a saturated marketplace. One author recently asked if I didn’t find it “dangerous” to be as vocal and public as I am about politics, if I might be scaring off, offending, or potentially losing readers who sit on the other side of the fence.

Maybe so.

But for me it comes down to this: the products of my creativity are built on the foundation of my political and social beliefs. The topics I cover, the characters I create, the messages of my stories are all imbued with one aspect or another of my perspective, either by echoing it or arguing it. In fact, it is my worldview—my philosophies, spiritual beliefs, and politics—that contributes to the whole of my assembled persona, and that persona is inexorably linked to my artistic expression. These things are inseparable.

If my views offend, put off, or otherwise dissuade readers, listeners, or viewers from appreciating or buying my work, then so be it. That is the price I willingly pay for authenticity. For me, there would be no point to creating art if it didn’t represent my voice, didn’t inspire conversation, elicit emotion, provoke thought, or offer illumination. Whether comedy, satire, suspense, science fiction, romance, or mystery, one can weave their foundational beliefs into any plot, character, or dialogue. Nothing need be wasted. My Muse, in fact, will not allow me otherwise.

Given that, I’m particularly drawn to artists propelled by the same impulse. I love that J.K. Rowling makes no secret of her liberal views on Twitter, stirring trolls into Voldemort-like frenzy! Chelsea Handler’s fierce politics make her humor all the more pointed. I appreciate that Ken Olin, Rob Reiner, Alyssa Milano, Ava DuVernay, Don Cheadle, John Leguizamo, and Jeffrey Wright relentlessly use their pulpits to push against nationalist hate and right-wing demagoguery.

But I especially applaud lesser known artists, those who have more to lose by boldly going where their politics lead. They are countless and courageous in putting their artistry where their mouths are:

Grace Amandes, a top-notch Chicago graphic artist, is not only fearless about stating her truths, she went so far as to design a slate of astonishingly beautiful protest posters for the 2018 Women’s March and donated them to any marcher or organization who requested them. Whether her more conservative corporate clients might be put off by her public stance held no sway, and she was honored to find her work widely shared both nationally and online.

Women’s March 2018, artist Grace Amandes

Or Aron Teo Lee. An east coast educator/entrepreneur who inspires the innovative thinking of kids and corporations via his company, Deilab, Lee is also a musician and a man of social conscience. Outraged by current political events, motivated to speak out for racial justice and other progressive causes, he and his band, The Funkin’ Rock Rebellion, recorded his song, “Into the Storm We March,” in time for the 2018 Women’s March and February’s Black History Month. Calling it “real funk with a meaning,” Lee describes his music as “sonic fuel to power artistic protest and social activism in response to this president and his cruel administration.” Art. Politics. Activism. No apologies.  

Aron Teo Lee

Or writer/director/filmmaker, Susie Singer Carter, and partner, Don Priess, who took their compassion and concern for Alzheimer’s sufferers, triggered by Susie’s journey with her beloved and afflicted mother, and made a beautiful film short, My Mom and the Girl, which touched a nerve for many, garnering a slate of awards at festivals around the globe. Pivotal to the story was a tender narrative arc involving a trans-woman, not necessarily a topic that plays well in some corners of middle and southern America. But being the dauntless artist she is, not only was Susie unbowed by the potential of offending viewers with more conservative views, she infused the film with a visual embrace of tolerance.

My Mom and the Girl

Artists like these are all the more admirable for making their unflinching contributions at a time when so much around us careens in chaos… when too many of the privileged and socially insulated blithely declare, “I don’t do politics,” despite the growing need for universal and collaborative involvement.

Fortunately, and increasingly, most of us do “do politics,” using the skill sets we have at our disposal to raise the bar, raise consciousness, and raise awareness. For artists, it’s their art. Their music, their books, their films. Their photographs, theater, and poetry. Their comedy. Their images. Their songs.

To answer the titular question: artists can’t be afraid to mix politics and art. The power created by that synergy is what drives revolutions, what makes change, what inspires activism… all of it pushed by the noise of our collective voices. If someone cannot tolerate the volume, they are free to take a seat in the other room.

Banner photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash  
Artists photos by permission of the artists.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

 

Let’s Discuss the Politics of ‘Closed’ Facebook Groups

photo-1417816491410-d61e1546e539

I get it. I get why people want to create “closed groups” on Facebook. “Secret groups.” It’s not hard to understand.

With a closed group, an administrator can control who’s let in and who’s kept out; how it’s done and what is shared. They can keep out the caustically antipathetic and avert the toxicity of trolls. All of which is desirable.

As someone who posts on sites like The Huffington Post, with one of the highest readership ratings of any media site in the world, I have heard — oh, have I heard! — from an array, a confluence, a literal horde of trolls over my writing career, and I mean to tell you, their hateful, hissing commentary can be soul killing. And trolling appears to be an equal-opportunity affliction, as I’ve been bombarded by everyone from gun nuts and political zealots, to angry moms and independent writers.

So, yes, removing that seething demographic’s inexhaustible urge to hijack meaningful conversation is a good thing. Though I do know some pugilistic, well-meaning writers who seem energized by virtually jousting with inarticulate, hateful poop-throwers, I’m not one of them… and my experience tells me most people aren’t. Hence, “closed groups,” with their ability to block trollism, have sprouted en masse, popular amongst those who want a safe space to engage with like-minded people to exchange ideas, information, articles, calls-to-action, etc.

But given that increase, inspired, no doubt, by the shit-storm we’ve just experienced in Election 2016, I do think it would be wise to rethink a few things, not only on the general protocol of any group, closed or otherwise, but the impact of particularly closed groups on public perception. I think these points bear some thought, especially considering what was just lost and what we are now facing.

1. Do NOT put someone in any group, closed or otherwise, without asking first. 

This is a big one, and though I’d have assumed it didn’t need to be said, it does. I have now been “put,” sometimes repeatedly, into various groups without my knowledge or permission, discovering said membership only after getting notification that I was in said group. BAD FORM.

When you do that to someone, regardless of your good intentions, you are not only being presumptuous, you’re now giving that person a task they didn’t ask for: if they choose not to be in said group, they now have to take the time to track it down and remove themselves. Which may seem minor, but it’s annoying and can potentially lead to someone else being miffed that that person doesn’t want to be in said group. Bottom line: it’s messy, it’s presumptuous, and it’s bad manners.

If you’ve discovered or are starting a group you think someone else might be interested in, ASK THEM FIRST. Very simple. Send them an invitation; let them be the one to decide if they want to join. And if they don’t, don’t take it personally. Realize that many people simply don’t want to be in groups; some are already in as many as they choose to be in; some may not want to participate in that group, or, if it’s a closed group, they may have different philosophies about those in general.

2. Allow members to participate as they see fit: 

I have now been in a few groups where administrators treat members almost like errant students: they’re obligated to engage in certain ways, with measurable degrees of visibility and involvement; there are to-do lists and even “homework.”

Typically I hop out of any group that turns voluntary participation into the dirge of academic obligation, because I don’t choose to, or have time to, participate in that way. We’re all adults; we do not need to be scolded, managed, or browbeaten into engaging in specific, mandated fashion. Again, it’s bad form, and it turns the positive experience of that group into something, well… less positive.

Don’t judge what members are getting out of it. If they’re there, they must be getting something. Trust your members. Which means, don’t “guilt” people into signing petitions, donating money, taking actions, sharing stories, “liking: other people’s posts, leaving reviews, etc. Coercion, however gentle, is counter-productive. We all learn, grow, change, and are inspired in individual ways. If you invite people into a group, unless they’re trolling — at which point, yes, they’re uninvited — allow them to participate as they choose. You never know what may be gained from their quiet engagement.

bethanylegg_unsplash

3. As for “closed/secret” groups, are they really the best way to make evolutionary, cultural change?  

I know I’m likely to get some heat for this one, but hear me out:

There are many valid reasons for closed groups: groups that allow abuse survivors to communicate privately; battered women, LGBT groups; any group where privacy is truly survival and mandatory.

But political groups? Really?

One of the biggest criticisms of Hillary Clinton over the entire election cycle, including the primary, was that people weren’t enthusiastic about her; they weren’t as “excited, thrilled, inspired,” as, say, Bernie supporters… and later, as Trump supporters. You remember that, don’t you? And it was strange, that perception, because, in fact, millions of men and women were deeply enthusiastic about her. And where were they, many of them? In “secret” groups, every day touting and cheering their support amongst each other. It was a literal spree of support in… secret groups. Out in the public forum? Not so much.

Back in March I wrote a piece titled, I Will If You Will: Why Clinton Supporters Need to Speak up More on Social Media, based on the fact that so many of them were oddly silent, seemingly cowed from public discourse on media, social or otherwise. And while the piece inspired a fair amount of dialogue, I continued to see more and more “closed/secret” Clinton groups pop up every day, with, still, less open discussion in public forums.

And I understand. Based on feedback I got after the article, it seems countless people, mainly women, were reticent to share their public support for Clinton because of backlash they were bound to receive: in work situations where people might take umbrage; within families where members would be incensed; amongst social media circles where trolls were all too active. Fear, and an unwillingness to set themselves up for that kind of negative response, led, then, to their participation in those many “secret/closed” Clinton support groups.

Certainly those groups provided upliftment and support to the members involved, and that was good. And maybe the group’s mission was just that, and didn’t include any intent or mission to change public perception of Clinton’s enthusiasm quotient, or build greater coalition for her campaign out in the public sphere. Clearly no group was obligated to meet that demand, but I have to wonder: did all the secrecy have an impact, a negative contribution, to the endless mantra that Clinton just didn’t have the same level of support as either Bernie or Trump?

I have no quantifiable statistics, but my gut says yes. The greater lack of public outspokenness amongst her many supporters did her no favors, and at the end of the day, the “silent majority” has never been more painfully evident than in an election where the more popular, more qualified candidate lost in the din of support for her opposition, whose supporters were always out, loud, and proud without any commensurate caution or hesitation.

Additionally, is it possible that all this echo chambering did/does little to help bridge gaps between different, even opposing groups? If we never hear from or engage with those on other sides, isn’t it possible we’re never going to find reasonable coalition again in this country? I’m not talking trolls — they get zero engagement from me and shouldn’t from anyone else. I’m talking about honest, thoughtful people who may have conflicting views as well as the ability to communicate sanely and without invectives and vitriol. They surely exist… don’t we want to engage with them… or at least try?

We liberals got this election so damn wrong on so many levels, I think it behooves us at this point to climb out of the bubble. I realize those with opposing or even just conflicting perspectives have to have the same willingness to put down pitchforks to meet us on the field (will they? won’t they?), but we gotta start somewhere. Someone needs to get out on the dance floor. Not everyone on the other side is a KKK member, a flaming white supremacist, a hate-mongering xenophobe, or a virulent alt-right bigot. Some are just less informed, have been more hurt by problems that exist in this country; have been misled by misinformation, or whose narrow concerns blinded them to the worst of the other side. They make up that BIG red blob in the middle and southern edges of our country. And many of them are on Facebook.

If there’s anything we’ve learned this go-around, it’s that we have to start paying less attention to our own biased media and flawed online polls (oh, how flawed they were!), and more to the people across the street. On the corner. In our hometowns. In those flyover states. In other Facebook groups.

Yes, closed group aficionados, I’m aware that “some of us need, want, demand a safe place to vent, share, speak, write, cry, scream, inspire, laugh, etc., without any pushback or even feedback from those who don’t share our worldview.” OK, but considering the paragraphs above, how about this?

Create the group. Leave it open; not “secret.” Create and post the mission statement. Define parameters: rules against trolling and ad hominem attacks, suggestions for participation, clear awareness of what kind of communication will get someone removed from the group, etc. Monitor conversations. Monitor comments. Monitor threads. Stay vigilant to bona fide trolls; block and delete without apology. And build a group, a circle, a conversation that is open, welcoming, and, hopefully, ultimately, illuminating to anyone open to illumination.

It’s how I’ve built and curated my own social media and, yes, it takes vigilance, but it works. It will be more work for administrators, it will take more vigilance from members to keep administrators aware of anyone breaking the trolling rules, but it might go a long way toward creating both a safe space and a public forum that allows the positive energy, thoughtful dialogue, and inspiring debates to more usefully and productively enter into and impact the pubic sphere.

We need that. If anything taught us that, it was Election 2016.

Table & chairs photograph by Jonny Clow @ Unsplash
Studying man photograph by Bethany Legg @ Unsplash

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

A Pause From Politics… Or Why I’d Never Want To Be President

Not that anyone’s asking. I did have a long stint in rock & roll, God knows, and there has been some questionable behavior over the years, but, really, it’s the job itself that makes the point. It seems thankless, incredibly difficult, and one that comes with a big, fat, ready-made target for easy back-fastening, no matter who, when, what party, or what issue. I have a hard enough time with internet trolls; the presidency would do me in.

I’m not sure there’s ever been a time in history that hasn’t been dramatic and incendiary – certainly historians tell us that’s the case – but this is a particularly challenging era because now, by virtue of the internet and our 24/7 media saturation, we get to know everything about everything. Or so we think.

I have said very little about the situation in Syria; I’ve posted threads of others, shared thoughts expressed by smart people who seem to have a decent grasp on things, but as I’ve listened, watched, and read as much coverage as I can tolerate in a given day, I’ve mostly kept quiet. Which is not typically my style. But this is a complex, particularly troubling event, happening at a very politically convoluted time, playing out against a world literally breathing down the necks of those trying to sort it out while being battered, bullied and second-guessed by every living soul from Putin to Madonna. I don’t honestly think I have enough true, unbiased, completely factual information to be as firmly opinionated as either of them… or so many others, as it appears to be.

What I do observe is often a simplistic, foot-stomping tone to much of the debate, a tone that sometimes seems juvenile, petulant and lacking in appropriate consideration for the deeply sensitive nuances of the issue – which, likely, few of us are actually privy to. As someone who refuses to get swept into the black & white polarity of most of our political discourse and drama, I’ve stood in the back… listening. And I remain there, as I read and hear lines such as:

  1. I’m so disappointed in my President.
  2. I voted for change… where’s change?
  3. How is this any different than Bush and Cheney?
  4. We need to take care of our own backyard before we worry about the rest of the world.
  5. Love is the answer.
  6. War sucks.
  7. It’s simply not our responsibility.
  8. Syria can take care of its own mess.
  9. They’ll hate us no matter what we do.
  10. America can’t police the world.

And so on.

First of all, of course war sucks. I can’t think of one person in this world – unless they’re a sociopath or an arms dealer (which may be redundant) – who doesn’t think war sucks. And of course love is the answer but, COME ON! We can’t even be nice to each other on the internet; how can we expect “love” to keeps warring factions from their life and death struggles? As for Bush and Cheney? Let’s not get into false equivalencies (though we do so love those). Our backyard vs. the world? When has one precluded the other in terms of separate budgets and resources? Have they? If there’s irrefutable evidence that money has been taken from needed domestic programs to fund international military action, let’s hear about it. That would be a very necessary conversation.

But, strangely, it seems manageable for Americans to think “globally” when it comes to matters of money, difficult when it comes to humanity and the protection of it in certain situations. It’s worth discussing that, as a people, by virtue of what we buy, what we sell and export, what we’re willing to pay for our products, our oil, our gasoline, etc., we’ve easily embraced global interaction, the blurring of lines, if you will, of foreign borders. But even beyond oil, some of our favorites retail stores – Walmart, the Gap, and many other companies – work with business models based on cheap foreign labor and limited regulations. Why? Because we welcome a global community that will bring our costs down, make our products cheaper, keep our labor less expensive and our profit margins higher. Perhaps we should think about how we can so readily embrace “global participation” when it comes to money, but when issues like chemical warfare, ethnic slaughters, political ‘punishments,’ etc., occur, too many Americans suddenly shut the door and start talking about “we gotta take care of America, we can’t get involved in policing the world.”

As for the rest: Obama. Change. Disappointment. War-mongering. Craving the limelight (an accusation made by the usually wise Robert Reich about John Kerry). World War III. Our horrible country. Etc. All that.

It’s a swirling eddy of point and counterpoint. Frankly, I cannot imagine being the leader of the free world and having to ponder, research, weigh and come to decisions about grave national and international matters against a backdrop of EVERYONE’S expertise; everyone’s criticism, anger, unrealistic expectations, self-focused priorities and unremitting judgment. It’s never-ending. The President cannot and will not be able to make any decision that won’t bring down the bludgeons, no matter what he does, which way he turns, or what rationale he relies on. That’s a given. Because, somehow, the great we out here in every-day world, on Facebook and Twitter, listening to talk radio and cable news, sending around petitions and memes, penning treatises about our lack of faith in our country and our leaders, appear to have a remarkable depth of arcane, insider knowledge about what the hell is going on in Syria (and everywhere else, for that matter), enough to micro-manage world leaders, including our president, assigned the responsibility of solving it all. I’m not sure how everyone got so profoundly included in the minutia, the nuances, the details, the intelligence, the hair-trigger possibilities and imminent threats, but it seems they did. And from that vaunted perspective, there is no way for Obama – or anyone else – to win this battle.

Because it’s simply the way of the world, true in every aspect of 21st century life. Writers can’t write anything – even, I suspect, about flowers or kittens – without being pummeled for getting something wrong. Artists can’t make a mistake or flaunt youthful indiscretions without media and its many tentacles ripping them a new one. Politicians of any stripe can’t utter the wrong word, make a faulty decision or appear in any way fallibly human without the mob throwing them to the lions. How on earth could a president, a senator, a cabinet member, or a military leader make any decision without SOMEONE screaming they got it wrong? They can’t.

I am against war. I don’t even own a gun. I find the idea of maiming, hurting, shooting, bombing, poisoning and annihilating each other in the name of religions, countries, regions, ethnicities, politics, family feuds or neighborhood boundaries INSANE; anathema to everything hopeful, humane, and holy. And yet war has been the most predictable, most common, most connecting thread between human beings since the dawn of time. Wish though it would, it will not be going anywhere soon. Likely ever. Love may be the answer but war is the machine, driven by men who are hell-bent on aggression and power… or, as in many cases, driven by those with a sense that they’ve lost something of profound value, taken by those hell-bent on aggression and power.

As for Syria, I hope we can find a way to respond to the horrors there without bombing, without military action, without further decimation of that country and its people. I hope we can be part of a global coalition that upholds international law against chemical weapons (regardless of anyone’s past use), that imposes “economic sanctions or a freeze on Syrian assets,” as Robert Reich suggestswithout embarking on what no one wants… another war. Can that be done? I don’t know. But, then again, I personally do not have all the intelligence that is being shared, analyzed and judged by those in positions to act upon it. None of us do. So, because I don’t happen to believe our leaders, particularly our President, are amoral enough to go blithely into war for no reason, I will put my faith and trust in their decision and hope they get it right. Because, right now, they know more than I do.

And lastly: I wrote a piece at Addicting Info awhile back that I’ve chosen to take to heart: All News All The Time Just May Be Very Bad For Your Health. I’ve been involved with political writing and commentary for a while now and have decided to take a pause for a bit. That’s not to say I won’t have things to share on political matters from time to time; I’ll certainly take advantage of social media to stay in the conversation and, as a freelance writer, will gladly take political assignments as they come. But particularly after an election year, with all the drama of our crazy world before and after, the sheer immersion in the genre has taken a bit of a spiritual and creative toll. I’m veering off to focus on some new projects, others that have been neglected in the meantime, but I’m also just going to get quieter, more contemplative and observational for a bit. There’s a lot of noise out there, not all of it healthy or productive, and I want to step back, refresh my spirit, make sure what I’m contributing when I do contribute furthers the cause and isn’t just more noise. I mention this only because a few of you have asked where I’ve been; why I haven’t covered this or that, and I figured – after sharing hundreds of political pieces with you over the years – an explanation was in order. I’ll be around, I just won’t be publishing quite as much, at least regarding politics.

But what I do write, create, photograph, or sing, I will share… you know me!  And I will always welcome your enjoyment and response. Until later, then.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

As We Embrace 2013: My Top Seven Points Of Facebook Etiquette

info vs wisdom
I love social media. Regardless of the list of complaints I read every day on Facebook; in spite of the articles about privacy erosion, ad tracking, and all the rest, I happen to love the connectedness, the interaction, the sheer volume and creativity of sharing that goes on there. Without Facebook in particular (though I did love Twitter during the presidential debate season!), I would know less about my extended family and friends, would miss amazing events going on in my city, would be less in the loop of the cultural and political zeitgeist, and would not have been able to reach out to the widening and always welcome group of readers and subscribers who’ve come my way via social media. I always love good “conversation” on intriguing topics, it’s clearly a boon for any independent artist, and whatever you think of what people may post there, it’s an entertaining, thought-provoking and educational “community bulletin board” I personally love accessing from day to day.

But. I know…always a “but.”

There have been many comments posted about what Facebook “is supposed to be,” particularly during this very political election year. I’ve heard from some bemoaning the saturation of political articles and discussion; one friend even exhorted fellow group members to “PLEASE use Facebook the way it was meant to be used…pictures of our kids, our vacations, that kind of stuff. I’m SO SICK OF POLITICS!!”

To which I say….hmmm.

My thinking: Facebook is meant to be used however you choose to use it. For some that’s exactly as the writer admonished. For others it is, in fact, the exact place to post and ponder politics. For still others it’s about enlightenment via inspiring text, images, and artwork. Personally, I love the mix; I wouldn’t want my Facebook experience to be limited to only one thing. When I scroll down the newsfeed I actually enjoy the anticipation about what I might stumble upon; it’s oddly like going to Costco and wandering down the aisles never knowing what’s going to be there or what might grab my attention! A great, big, interesting mess of different items with different points and purposes and I can choose what I want to look at depending on my mood in the moment. How cool is that?

But what to do if someone in your group posts too much of something you don’t want to look at? It’s not hard: Hide their posts, change the setting and filters on what of theirs shows up on yours; delete them from your newsfeed or…delete them all together. It’s all within your grasp to make Facebook work for you. Rather than get overwhelmed or annoyed, design your experience as you see fit. That’s part of the fun.

(Of course, deleting or hiding anything of mine is so not recommended. 🙂

And what about etiquette? I bring this subject up at this particular moment because we’re days away from the new year, and the turn of the calendar always seems a good time to reset the button, refresh the window, restart the engines (dear God, please stop); and yes…turn the page. To better behavior, more productive action; a new way of looking at things. And as I took note this morning of a particular “friend” who constantly posts about his gigs, his CDs, his radio play, etc., but never, EVER, takes a moment to comment on, share, respond to, or even “like” the posts of anyone else that I can see, I decided today was the day to make some “refresh points” about Facebook etiquette. Read, absorb, and if so moved, add any of your own in the comments section below. These are not in any particular order of importance; just the ones I see as most useful in terms of making my personal Facebook – and maybe yours – a richer, more reciprocal experience.

1. Musicians: Don’t use Facebook as your personal billboard. We love knowing about your gigs, CDs, awards, etc., but without reciprocation – commenting on the posts of others, responding to comments left on your own posts, answering private messages of support left in your FB message box, sharing the posts of others, or just clicking “like” (how easy could that be??) on things unrelated to YOU YOU YOU –  you’ve made Facebook your exclusive, personal billboard. And that one-sidedness gets old for the rest of us.

It also doesn’t allow those in your FB group to get any sense of you as a person, as someone who can see outside your own world to be interested in someone else’s, and that works against you. It makes you seem self-absorbed and narcissistic. Believe me, I’m going to be more interested in your work, in supporting that work, if you’re a person engaged with others; a person who steps outside of yourself long enough to be interested in what someone else is doing or sharing. You know how politicians kiss babies, shake hands, make direct eye contact, and stop by coffee shops to engage one-on-one with people? That’s done to create personal connection, which makes people feel closer to the politician shaking their hand and…yes, more likely to vote for them. So even if you can’t find it within yourself to authentically reciprocate on Facebook for the purest of reasons, do so because it’s going to ultimately work for your public relations. People will like you better. You’ll make connections beyond slapping your gig dates up every week. And please don’t say you’re “too busy”; if you have time to bombard us with all your posts and invitations, you have time to reciprocate. If you truly don’t, make the time. It’s just good form.

2. Writers, Artists, Photographers, Actors, Filmmakers, Business Owners, Group Leaders, etc.:  see and apply #1.  I post a lot. Because I write a lot, I do a lot with my photography, I post a lot. I do so because I want to share, get feedback, encourage you to enjoy and pass around my work. But I also spend a lot of time commenting, sharing, liking, reading, and perusing the work of others. Your work. Your posts. I enjoy that process as much as I do the posting. I like availing myself of what others see worthy of sharing. I’ve found great articles, amazing photography, interesting resources I wouldn’t have found otherwise and have even been so compelled by some things that I’ve then shared them myself. It’s not about reciprocating just for the sake of social media etiquette; there’s actual benefit…to you! You’ll likely meet some very cool new people, get to know ones you know better; you might find links or references that aid you in your own work, and you’ll become a part of the community, not just someone who the rest of us are supposed to pay attention to! Get in there. We’re not your audience; we’re your collaborators. You’ll be surprised how much more willing people are to pay attention when you return the favor.

Noteworthy

3. Commenters: This is a big one. Learn how to do it. I have a public profile; I’ve chosen that setting because I want to reach as many readers, music and photography lovers, culturally and politically interested people as I possibly can. Having a public profile means that many of the people who comment on my threads are people I don’t personally know. Don’t presume I do and make the judgment that I have really weird friends, please. Some of the people who subscribe to my posts may very well be weird. But all the same rules apply, whether you’re my cousin or a subscriber from Dubai:

  •  Civility is required. Without question. I’m not interested in name-calling and personal bashing of any kind. Speak your piece as candidly as you wish, but speak to the issues; don’t attack other commenters and keep your personal attacks on the parties being debated to yourself or to your own page. (i.e., you can slam Romney’s politics but I have no interest in hearing that “he’s a fucked up Mormon asshole.” You can think Obama is a socialist Muslim but since he’s not, keep it off my page. Certainly feel free to share those types of comments on your own threads, on your own page, but understand I’m not interested and will delete them.)
  • READ THE ARTICLE YOU’RE COMMENTING ON! Major one for me. I can always tell when people are commenting without reading the piece, particularly if they admonish me or make suggestions about something I “should have said” when I actually addressed that exact item in what I wrote. While I always appreciate anyone taking the time to comment, whether on Facebook or the comments section of an actual article, using my piece as a springboard to spout your opinion without the courtesy of actually reading what I wrote is…disrespectful. I take a lot of time to write thoughtful, cogent, hopefully intriguing pieces; if you choose to comment on them, thank you, but please do me the service of reading what I wrote before you do.
  • Please don’t hijack a comment thread on one topic by suddenly bringing up another, unrelated, topic that gets the next batch of comments off on a weird tangent. Particularly when the thread is filled with thoughtful, passionate comments from people who really do want to discuss the topic at hand. If you want to extrapolate beyond the point of the post, share it on your page with the unrelated comment you’d like to make.
  • If you have nothing useful to say, DON’T LEAVE A COMMENT. I’ve had to delete a few regular commenters from my threads because they repeatedly leave inane, pointless, even vile comments that offer nothing to the conversation. While I’ll leave opposing views, debating views, contrary views (presuming they’re suitably civil!), I will delete stupid shit, to put it bluntly.
  • Be thoughtful in your comments. Beyond civility and usefulness, there’s really no point in just parroting the same, weary partisan bromides, thread after thread. Thread conversations on my page are usually about significant topics of great importance to people; take the time to offer something thoughtful and illuminating. I’m less interested in agreement than considered, honest, even researched contribution. If you’re on the other side of my aisle, don’t just be contrary or combative. Offer something insightful, sane and potentially thought provoking from the other side. Makes for a much more meaningful contribution.
  • That’s my list…do you have any others?

4. Mix up your posts. I’ve already covered the “make Facebook what you will” theory, but there is one part of the complaint that has merit. Which, to my way of thinking, is this: certain people become too predictable.  Not just musicians, artists, etc., promoting their work, but others who tend to ONLY post one type of thing, typically political pieces expounding on their side of the political divide. When you see their name, you know what you’re going to get. If you share their politics, it can be a good read; if you don’t, you skip on by. But what if you, the poster, are more interesting than just that? What if you’re missing out on engaging FB folks who’d add richness to your conversation but instead walk on by because they think they know what you’re saying without even looking? You are on Facebook for the point of sharing, so don’t limit your audience by being so predictable! Mix it up. Surprise us with something we wouldn’t expect from you. Post about your politics, certainly (we all know I do!), but then surprise us with a piece about music, your favorite ice cream truck, or an amazing person from Africa who discovered a new species of bug. SURPRISE US! It keeps you fresh and us interested.

5. Be Present and RECIPROCATE. If it seems I’ve already covered this, there’s a nuance here that bears stating. If you’re on Facebook but not participating, ask yourself why you’re there. Frankly, I don’t understand people who sign up, put up a Facebook page, “friend” lots of people, then never contribute or post…ever. I’ve had more than one person tell me they “like looking at everyone else’s stuff but don’t really want to post anything of my own.” Really? Don’t we call that stalking? Or voyeurism? 🙂 Obviously this is not remotely earth-shattering and is, as my son would say, a “first world problem,” but the point of social media is being “social.” It’s about connecting and participating in the greater social community created by Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, etc. If you’ve taken the steps required to sign up, build a page and accrue some friends, can I make a suggestion? Participate. Jump in. Say hello once in a while. Click “like” as a default position of participation (really, could anything be easier than the “like” button??). If you’ve sent a “friend” request and I’ve “friended” you, or you’ve accepted a request of mine, come on…PARTICIPATE. Don’t just peek over the fence and offer nothing to the conversation. You climbed onto the Facebook hayride for a reason; figure out how to use it. But if, ultimately, all you really want to do is peruse other people’s links, posts, pictures and stories…OK. But at least take the nanosecond required to click “like” when you’ve read or viewed something that you…liked. It’s quiet participation, but it still counts and those who get those clicks will appreciate them, I promise.

6. Thank you, but NO Poking, Games, Applications, “Please Make This Your Status For One Hour If You Care,” Facebook Privacy notices, etc. This is personal request of mine, though I know others share it. I use Facebook in all ways I’ve laid out here. What I don’t use it for are things I’m not interested in or think have merit. Poking, games, applications, birthday calendars aren’t my thing; please don’t take it personally, but if you “poke” me, send an invitation to a game or application, or even send posts that require I join something to open them, I’m not going to participate. Sorry. Also, those “Please make this your status for an hour if you care” postings are just guilt inducing. If you wish to post something for an hour, great. But please don’t imply that I don’t care if I don’t. I usually do care. But I won’t post them. As for Facebook privacy notices, warnings, etc.: if you believe a Facebook privacy warning or notice is worth sharing and request that I and others pass it around, please check www.snopes.com first to ascertain whether or not it’s bona fide. Almost 99.9% of times it’s not and it’s just a big waste of everyone’s time, including yours. If you can remember these items here in #6, wonderful; if you forget, please don’t take it personally when I reject the invitation or don’t respond.

7. Public Profile Friend Requests: This applies to me specifically but it bears making a point. If I get a friend request from a “public person” I don’t know, particularly one who has no “mutual friends,” I am going to look at your Facebook page before I click “confirm.” While I welcome people from all over the world, with varying political, religious and cultural beliefs and norms, I’m going to look at your Facebook page first and if you have nothing on it, nothing “about” you, I will not confirm you as a friend. If you have a profile in a language other than English and I cannot read and understand what you’re “about,” I won’t confirm you. If you have a profile that displays Satanic, Nazi, racist, intolerant, bigoted hate-speak of any kind toward any group, religion, ethnicity, etc., I will not confirm you. I will only confirm you if you have a fully realized Facebook page and you seem like a basic, decent person. Of course, if your contributions later proves that to be untrue, well…you know what happens then.

So there you go, that’s my list of the Top Seven Points of Facebook Etiquette. Please read, take to heart, without offense, and with the positive intent in which they were conferred. Social media is an amazing tool, a profound point of exchange, and a really fun, engaging way to connect with each other. Let’s all try to do it in a way that makes it as positive and rich as experience as it can possibly be…particularly in the bright, shiny new year of 2013!

Happy New Year!

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Politics of Political Harassment: Might It Need a Law Too?

He walked into the lunchroom like he was walking onto a campaign bus; poster of “his” presidential candidate in hand, he marched to the community bulletin board, tacked it up, and announced loudly, “This is the next president of the United States. Anyone who doesn’t think so probably shouldn’t be eating at my tables.” Yep. He was the boss. He quickly laughed and said “Relax, I’m just kidding!” before making his exit but the point had been made. Everyone looked silently at each other before getting back to their soup and turkey wraps.

A new young employee finds herself in benign conversation with a supervisor about the Vice Presidential debate, all very generic and anecdotal, when the supervisor leans in with a paternal arm around her shoulder and says, “Can’t be undecided now, right? Who are you voting for, by the way?” Before new young employee can answer, he quickly responds, “Because everyone here is pretty much for _____________.” He squeezes her shoulder, gives her a wink, and walks off. She gulps and shuffles back to her cubicle.

A group of department heads with varying degrees of seniority are gathered for a human resources seminar. Before long, and before the official meeting starts, the conversation steers to politics and, without subtlety or discretion, five out of the seven begin discussing what “an idiot” the President is; laughing about his name, his “lack of religion,” and his “dubious” birth certificate. The other three? Two are relatively new to the company and the third is departing shortly on maternity leave. Speak up? What do you think?

And lastly, this past Monday the CEO of Westgate Resorts, David Siegel, sent out a company-wide email detailing why he was voting for Mitt Romney and what would happen to his employees if they didn’t. According to CNBC’s Robert Frank:

“Siegel stressed that he wasn’t out to intimidate his workers into voting for Romney. ‘I can’t tell anyone to vote,’ he said. But he wants to make sure his workers made an informed choice. ‘I want my employees to be educated on what could happen to their future if the wrong person is elected.’”

The story and Siegel’s full email can be found here: CEO to Workers: I May Fire You If Obama Wins. Important to read, I think.

In case the thought struck you too, here’s the legal definition of another kind of harassment:

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. The legal definition of sexual harassment is “unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment.”

Now let’s add in the paragraph about how this harassment affects working conditions:

Affects Working Conditions or Creates a Hostile Work Environment: If you are fired, refused a promotion, demoted, given a poor performance evaluation, or reassigned to a less desirable position because you reject a sexual advance, that almost certainly is sexual harassment. Even if the conduct does not result in economic injury or change of status to your job, it may be sexual harassment if the conduct unreasonably interferes with your work performance or creates an “intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.” For example, it may be illegal sexual harassment if repeated sexual comments make you so uncomfortable at work that your performance suffers or if you decline professional opportunities because it will put you in contact with the harasser.

Seems pretty clear. Now, just as an exercise, let’s replace all the “sex” words in both paragraphs with words related to “politics”:

Political harassment is a form of civic discrimination. The legal definition of political harassment is “unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a political nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment.”

Affects Working Conditions or Creates a Hostile Work Environment: If you are fired, refused a promotion, demoted, given a poor performance evaluation, or reassigned to a less desirable position because you reject a political suggestion, inference, or demand, that almost certainly is political harassment. Even if the conduct does not result in economic injury or change of status to your job, it may be political harassment if the conduct unreasonably interferes with your work performance or creates an “intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.” For example, it may be illegal political harassment if repeated political comments make you so uncomfortable at work that your performance suffers or if you decline professional opportunities because it will put you in contact with the harasser.

See how easily all the same verbiage applies to the scenarios detailed above? The intimidation, the presumption of agreement, the implication of negative consequences, etc.? How is political harassment in the workplace any less oppressive, offensive, or objectionable than sexual harassment? For the person being harassed, it likely isn’t.

I was listening to a debate about this exact topic on NPR the other day, an AirTalk segment titled: Talking politics: is it taboo in the workplace? Host Larry Mantle was discussing the parameters in which employees and employers are within – or without – their First Amendment rights in discussing political beliefs in the workplace. It was very illuminating to hear the feedback of his guest, Steve Kaplan, a Labor Employment Lawyer in practice in Los Angeles and former chair of LA County Bar’s labor and employment section.  Click the title link above to hear the interview; it’s only 16 minutes long and it’s worth a listen.

family-gathering

As everyone who reads anything I write knows, I love talking politics and I’m happy to do so with any willing, relatively intelligent person with a cogent viewpoint. I figure if I write something that is published in a public forum like Facebook, Huffington Post, Twitter, here at Rock+Paper+Music, wherever, and someone actively chooses to engage me based on that public contribution, great; let’s talk turkey. No one has to read what I write, no one has to ponder my points, and no one has to respond (and given the nature of online media, unless you voluntarily join in, I won’t have a clue what you think!). But beyond those mutually chosen online exchanges is the world outside the internet: family gatherings, friend get-togethers, intimate dinner parties, large occasions, etc. And there, in those settings?

Unless I’m invited into a conversation of a political nature that I choose to join, don’t expect to hear me chattering away about who I think should be doing what in what office of the land. As good manners dictates on any topic of substance and potential controversy, I don’t believe I – or anyone – should spout off about personal political beliefs without first ascertaining the listening party’s level of agreement or interest. Cuz lots of the time, THERE ISN’T ANY. They just want to eat dinner, talk about a movie, catch up on the family, or get some work done. Once you launch into politics there’s nowhere to hide. Unless you’re in a group that’s politically in alignment with each other and with you, and everyone agrees, “Hey, let’s talk politics,” the verbal blathering and subsequent imposition of one’s political beliefs is just plain rude, even offensive, depending on the situation. And nothing has the potential to ruin a good gathering more; once it’s starts, it’s all about pushback, lecturing, arguing, debating, pontificating, yelling, and who knows what else, and only after the evening’s been blown all to hell do you realize all anyone wanted to do was eat pizza and discuss Homeland!

And at work? Are you kidding me? Can you think of any environment more fraught with potential peril when it comes to the discussion of politics? You mention liking the First Lady’s latest J. Crew ensemble and your cubicle partner suddenly won’t turn their chair around, their Romney sticker prominently slapped to their computer cover. Or your immediate supervisor, a rabid Liberal, sees your Facebook pics from a Romney rally and before you know it you’re no longer needed on that new project. And, of course, if you work for David Siegel, your participation in a “get out the vote” effort for the DNC will likely result in “your department being downsized.”

It ain’t a slippery slope, it’s a goddamn landslide.

There are right places to discuss politics and wrong ones. Work is a “wrong one.” A job should never be place where you worry about being outed for your political beliefs, nor is it a place where you should be forced to listen to anyone else’s; certainly it’s not a place where you should be browbeaten into political submission in order to maintain your employment. There are enough reasons to sweat your job these days; politics shouldn’t be one of them.

Harassment is harassment is harassment. Like porn, we know it when we see it. And as sexual harassment is illegal, so should political harassment be. Let’s get on that before 2016, could we?

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.