Opinion Columns & Blogs

A bad combination

I’ve had a Facebook account for several years now. If you’ve never been on Facebook, you aren’t missing much and you should probably just keep on doing whatever else you’ve been doing to occupy your time. But if you are a Facebook person, you know that one of the delightful ways people on your friends list like to do to keep you entertained is to post things that let you know what their political views are.

More often than not they aren’t posting their own thoughts -- they are just “sharing” articles, ads and humorous cartoons that reflect their political philosophy. Now that the presidential election is drawing near, the sharing of these types of ads has reached a fevered pitch.

I’ve found that most of the people I’m linked with on Facebook are Republicans, but there are a smattering of very vocal Democrats mixed in there who are helping to keep things balanced for me. But whether they support Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama, I’ve found that the political ads these people tend to post have a few things in common:

They almost never pertain to the candidate they support. Nearly everything they share is some kind of attack on the guy they want to lose.

These negative postings are usually very brief, extremely caustic and way over the top.

If anyone replies to these postings with a counterargument or even a “hey, isn’t this a little one-sided?” The original poster pounces on that reply with an aggressive defense of the validity of the original attack.

All these years I’ve been complaining about how negative and silly politicians are with how they run their campaigns. And I thought they were the problem. Well now, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, we all have the capability to orchestrate our own little campaigns for our favorite candidates and it turns out that we do the exact same things we supposedly hate about how politicians behave during elections.

I suppose elections are like sporting events to a lot of people. It’s our team against their team, and nothing is more satisfying than making the other side look like idiots. The whole thing seems rather pointless to me, though.

You’ll think the attack ads are hilarious if you are already opposed to the candidate and you’re bound to hit the “Like” button right away. If the attack is against your guy you’re likely to feel your blood pressure go up and comb the Internet for ammunition to fire back with your own outlandish negative ads directed at the other side.

But how about the people who are on the fence? You’d think such people would be the real target of these ads, but how many of them will decide to vote for Obama because of an ad that says Romney wants to raise your taxes so he can give the money to his rich pals at the country club? And how many undecided voters will throw their support to Romney when they are told that Obama is a closet Muslim and a socialist who hates America?

Not very many of them will be swayed by the silly things they see on Facebook, I can assure you. The most likely outcome is that they’ll get turned off by the whole experience and block any future posts from these wannabe campaign managers.

It would be nice, just once, to find that someone had posted something positive and fact-based about what the guy they support wants to do should he win office. That’s what I care about. I don’t want to see Obama’s birth certificate or his college transcripts and I don’t care about Romney’s tax returns or what companies Bain Capital bought out when he was in charge of it. I’m less concerned with their pasts than I am about the country’s future.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.