One of the positive and negatives about social media is how easy it is to call someone out when they show their ass. It’s a positive because it’s the great equalizer. If someone is on Twitter, you can talk to them–at least until they block you. I will note that if you swear at a check mark (verified account), you might have your account restricted. Twitter frowns heavily on that, though they are just find with actual threats and harassment. So, telling someone you hope they get killed probably won’t get you a rap on the knuckles, but calling them a fucker will. You can guess how I feel about that, but that’s not the point of this post.
It’s great when there’s something important like making sure the abomination that was ‘repeal and replace’ didn’t pass, and it was glorious to watch the cavalcade of angry and passionate tweets on the subject. Of course, this was in tandem with the actual protesting and calling of recalcitrant senators, and it worked. In the 11th hour, Senator McCain strode dramatically onto the Senate floor and voted no. You could hear the gasps throughout the Senate, and he was able to ride off like a hero. I and several other people noted that Senators Collins and Murkowski, both women, coincidentally*, had stood firm throughout the whole debacle, and I thanked them for their dedication. I also noted that the Dems stood together throughout the whole thing as well, and they deserved to be commended for it.
This doesn’t seem very controversial, but I saw several people angry about having to thank the three Republicans for doing the very least they could do, the basest of decency (in their eyes). Now, I understand that feeling; I really do. While watching all this play out, I had both a feeling of sickness in the pit of my stomach over the cruelty and a sense of disbelief. How could anyone be so unfeeling and monstrous as to take away health insurance from 20-some million people. The so-called ‘skinny repeal’–by the way. I hated that the media played into the Republican framing (as they always do) as if it were a pair of jeans or a latte–‘only’ took insurance away from 16 million. Then, there were several Republicans saying they’d vote for it only if they were guaranteed by the House that the bill wouldn’t become law.
WHAT?!? I had to break it down on Twitter because my brain literally could not grasp what was being said. They were going to pass the bill just so they could keep talking about repealing Obamacare, but they knew this particular bill was so hideous, they didn’t want it to be law? I was sure I missed something somewhere, but, no. That’s exactly what was being done.
Look. Obamacare isn’t perfect. It was what Obama could get through, and it was always meant to be a first step. I have no problems with wanting to make it better, but gutting it and saying, “We’ll worry about replacing it later” isn’t the responsible answer. In addition, the Republicans have spent the last seven years fundraising on repeal and replace, so they have more than a vested interest in seeing it destroyed. However, they also know it’s immensely popular, so they can’t appear to be as callous and spiteful as they really are. They floated out the same lies they’ve been telling, “Obamacare is terrible”, but people weren’t buying. So, they had to pretend to at least care about replace, even though they were focused on repeal.
Also not the point, but I can’t help fuming about it. My point is, I can understand the frustration of thanking people who are, in general, in opposition to much of what you believe. In addition, as I said, Dems stood united and strong the whole time, which is no easy task, and they got little credit for it. It does feel a little like thanking someone for not shitting on the street, but there’s a practical reason for thanking the three Republican senators for doing the right thing–it makes them more apt to do it again. Collins was touched by the warm welcome she received when she went home after the vote. In addition, while it may seem like a no-brainer to us, she and Murkowski withstood tremendous pressure from their party, and, indeed, reportedly, threats, in order to vote no. That’s not easy on anyone, regardless of your moral conviction.
McCain is a different story. He voted yes to continue with the procedure after giving a rabble-rousing speech about how partisan the Senate has become. Then, he voted yes again on passing the BRCA that night, another version of repeal and replace. I was fuming, as were many Democrats. It seemed as if McCain was going to be bitter until the very end. Then, he voted no at the very last minute in the most dramatic way, and it became clear to me that he wanted to go out as a hero. It worked. All the stories were about him. The media was gushing about how maverick McCain was back, and they were swinging on that tire pretty hard. He got most of the credit for the bill not passing, and it was pretty hard to swallow.
However. In the end, he did the right thing. He might have done it for the wrong reason, though others say he has no fucks to give now that he knows he’s going to die, but if that were the case, he could have said no in the very beginning. I think it’s somewhere in the middle. He wanted to say no, but he also wanted the credit he’d get for killing the bill if he did it at the last moment. He’s canny about the media, I’ll give him that much. I struggled with thanking him after the bill was defeated because I really felt he was grandstanding, but he did the right thing. He deserved credit for it, even if it were only measured credit.
In addition, it’s not a zero-sum game. I can give credit in this instant while simultaneously acknowledging that they’ve done shitty things in the past and probably will in the future. Just as I can say I’m sorry McCain has brain cancer while also knowing that he’s been pretty shitty for most of his career. The world is more complicated than just binary demarcations, and I’m discouraged that social media seems to facilitate good/bad thinking.
In addition, I think people are way too quick to jump on someone for something they consider problematic. Someone says something that could be interpreted as bad, and if the tweet becomes viral, their life is ruined. I’m not OK with that. I’m uneasy with mob mentality, even if I’m on the same side of the argument as the mob. For one thing, we’ve all said shit we regret. It’s just that many of us have had the luxury of not saying it in a public space in a way that can be permanent. In addition, just because you think something is problematic, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is. You can be wrong.
WHAT???? I know, a novel concept. But, on Twitter, no one who is calling out someone else is wrong, and it’s not something I like.
Thirdly, yelling at someone about something is not the best way to change their mind. I’ve seen famous people say something questionable, then get inundated with raging tweets. Many of them are some kind of ist, to boot, which isn’t helpful. I’ve seen friends of mind gloating about getting someone to block them or saying, “If you can’t take it, then you should get off Twitter.” These are the same people who tell people yelling at them to get out of their mentions and that they weren’t asked to comment. The hypocrisy is astounding, but not surprising. It’s much harder to see the flaws in your own behavior than it is in someone else.
I don’t believe in forcing an apology from someone who clearly doesn’t want to give one. What’s the point? I also don’t believe in getting someone fired for what they say on social media (with exception for people in public service, and only if what they say is an impediment to them doing their job). I’d rather have discussions with the person in question to see if I can change their mind, rather than just shouting at them until they’re silent.
I’m not saying to not call people out when it’s necessary, but can we not be at poutrage +eleven-billionty all the gotdamn time? Also, if we want people to continue doing the right thing, then we have to give them credit when they do. That’s just human nature. In addition, if they actually do think about what they’ve said, and they realize what they’ve done wrong (if they have), then fucking accept their apology and move the fuck on. Don’t keep haranguing them or bringing it up later. Log in your eye, etc., etc., etc. In other words, treat people the way you want to be treated. I know it’s trite and old-fashioned, but I still believe in it.
*Not a coincident, but also not part of this post.