Internet makes criticism much easier

I confess, dear readers, that I’m suffering from an identity crisis. One day I think I must be a fascist toady of big business whose fondest wish is to make the poor poorer. The next I think I surely must be a commie out to take away everyone’s guns. One day I drink the Democrat Kool-Aid. The next, I’m slurping at the Republican trough.

At least, that’s what you tell me.

All sarcasm aside – really, this time – one of the frustrations/delights of what I do for a living is that we journalists seem to have a talent for making everyone angry at one time or another. Readers’ reactions to what I’ve written – and, too often, to what other people tell them incorrectly that I’ve said – make that clear.

When I first began working for a newspaper, there was no Internet. If someone wanted to tell me off, they had three options: Write a letter to me, use the telephone to call me, or confront me in person. Once, a fellow who didn’t like that I was reporting both sides of a controversy tried to use his pickup truck to run me down.

Now, the opportunities for criticism are vastly greater. “Going viral” means thousands of people can be alerted with a keystroke that I’ve (allegedly) said something with which they disagree.

But here’s the thing: We’re in another one of those periods in the United States in which too many folks have the attitude that you’re either for me or against me. Most politicians always have thought that way.

It would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to find anyone who’s agreed with everything I’ve ever written. But guess what, folks: It’s the same with you. Think about how you stand on this list of issues: abortion, the minimum wage, gun rights, immigration, the environment, government regulations, government spending, farm price supports, education and your favorite baseball team.

Now, consider whether anyone you know – even your spouse – agrees wholly with you on all of those matters. Unless you live a very isolated life, lots of your friends and family members have at least slightly different opinions.

Are they your enemies?

No. Talk with them long enough and you’ll learn they have what to them are good reasons for their opinions. Heck, they may even be able to change your mind.

What brought all this up? Read Kathleen Parker’s column on page 2 of this section. A comment on Southerners – misinterpreted by a few – drew down on her the wrath of some people. Because of one sentence she spoke, Parker was demonized by some. They have decided she’s evil.

That’s nonsense, as Parker explains.

But the single-issue, for-me-or-against-me phenomenon is very real, and it may be spreading. In part, that’s because some politicians and some in the media like it that way. They’re popular only if they can convince some people they’re surrounded by enemies – not just those with whom we may disagree on some things, but enemies.

It just isn’t so.

So yes, by all means stand up for that in which you believe. But don’t decide everyone who doesn’t agree with you all the time is evil.

At some point, you may find yourself alone in the world.

Go ahead. Tell me how wrong I am about that.


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