Monthly Archives: November 2019

“Fighting right-wing distortions on Facebook…”

File"-Saint Paul Writing His Epistles" by Valentin de Boulogne.jpg

“… can be a great learning experience!” (As St. Paul might have said, if he did Facebook…)

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Welcome to the “Georgia Wasp…”

This blog is modeled on the Carolina Israelite.  That was an old-time newspaper – more like a personal newsletter – written and published by Harry Golden.  Back in the 1950s, people called Harry a  “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”  (For his work on the Israelite.)

Which is now my goal as well.  To be a “voice of sanity amid the braying of jackals.”

For more on the blog-name connection, see the notes below.

In the meantime:

Image may contain: one or more people, child and outdoorThings have been hectic since I got back on September 25 from my 19-day, 160-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago. (See “Greetings from the Portuguese Camino!”)

For one thing, I got hired back as a supervisor at the local branch of Keep America Beautiful(Supervising mainly young folk doing community service.) For another thing I got back from Portugal in the midst of the “High Holy Season.” (The season of college and pro football. See Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”)

Which means that – since the regular college season is now coming to an end – it’s time to get serious about posting more regularly. And what better place to start than some reflections on what I’ve been seeing and doing on Facebook since I got back home?

The thing is, on the Camino in Portugal – and later Spain – I did post on Facebook every day. But those were on my daily adventures in a “country far away.” (And for some reason I wasn’t bombarded by daily updates on the partisan politics back home in the U.S of A.) Then too the feedback to my posts from Portugal was mostly positive. (To a shared travel experience.)

Once I got back all that changed. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by politics, including some unsettling posts by former high school classmates. That is, I graduated in 1969, and so this year was our 50-year high school reunion. (Scheduled for the weekend of October 11-13.) So before I left for the Camino, I got in touch with many former classmates, largely through Facebook. (Illustrated at left.) 

That’s when I discovered something “definitely amiss.”

I found out that way too many of those former bright-eyed youngsters – full of hope and hormones (not to mention plans to “change the world“) – had turned into grumpy old arch-conservative, geezers whose sole purpose in life now seemed to be venting their spleen on Facebook. (A note: The old geezers were male former classmates. I saw no ladies from the Class of ’69 being so grumpy and arch-conservative. I’m thinking that maybe they’re going out and doing something positive with their lives, unlike their male counterparts.) 

The dark sideThe point being: I felt I had to try and correct some of their distortions, and maybe to bring them back from the dark side(For reasons including Ezekiel 3:16-21.) Which turned into quite a project.

For example, one conservative post from a former classmate said President Obama had fired “every single Bush ambassador.” (i.e., every ambassador appointed by President Bush, as if it were a big deal.) The claim seemed pretty shocking, so I decided to check.

I ultimately found out that new presidents get rid of political ambassadors from past administrations on a routine basis. That nugget was courtesy of PolitiFact and its article No, Obama didn’t fire all of Bush’s politically-appointed ambassadors. Politifact rated the claim “mostly false,” but the exercise in rebutting that claim turned out to be very instructive.

So I posted – on Facebook in response – that Obama had indeed “let go some political ambassadors, which is standard procedure. Plus Bush asked some of his POLITICAL AMBASSADORS to hand in their resignations. And most CAREER DIPLOMAT ambassadors stayed on.” (Emphases in my original post.) That led to a response – not from a classmate but from a another arch-conservative – “do not mean to dispute what you say, but if that is true how could all the ambassadors be liberals when Obama left office?” (Another claim worth challenging?)

That response was met at first by a fellow free-thinker (“John”), who posted, “As demonstrated in the impeachment hearings most career Ambassadors are non political.” 

Four shovels standing upright in dirtWhich turned out to be true. I.e., Politifact noted there are “two breeds of ambassadors: political appointees and career diplomats. Political appointees are usually stationed in countries that are U.S. allies or desirable locations, like the Bahamas.” (illustrated at left.) And also that it’s standard practice to “cycle out” such employees. Which led me to respond that was “pretty much what John said. The point being that anyone who raises a hubbub about either Trump or Obama firing ‘all ambassadors’ is making a mountain out of a molehill. And distorting the facts.”

In other words, I learned something in this exercise in combating right-wing distortions. That led me to the conclusion, “Fighting right-wing distortions on Facebook can definitely be an educational experience. (Also known as a “teaching moment” or “teachable moment.”)

At this point – and just to clarify – I consider myself an Independent. (“Like Moses or Jesus,” the subject of a future post. But for now see A reminder: “I’m an INDEPENDENT (Voter.)“)

And like many such Independents, I’m puzzled at how many conservatives still support Trump, in the face of what seems incontrovertible evidence of his – shall we say – “shortcomings?”

Which led me to do another post, on “an interesting online article, ‘Why conservatives are more susceptible to believing in lies.‘” It too was very instructive, and led me to post some sample passages. Like the fact that conservatives are “less introspective, less attentive to their inner feelings, and less likely to override their ‘gut’ reactions and engage in further reflection to find a correct answer.” (Which led me to observe too that they are “‘less so’ than other people, like liberals and Independents. You know, ‘Independent thinkers’ like Moses and Jesus?”)

Watts.JPGThen there was this little tidbit:

Baptist minister and former Republican congressman J. C. Watts [at right] put it succinctly. Campaigning for Sen. Rand Paul in Iowa in 2015 he observed, “The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good.”

I responded in part that “few people are ALL bad or ALL good. The tendency to think in such black-and-white terms is also called ‘splitting,’ or cognitive distortion.” (Concepts I also had to research.)

Also – according to my research – such simplified thinking is a “common defense mechanism in which the individual ‘tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).'”

Then too I noted the incongruity that conservatives think THEY are all good, while liberals – as well as anyone else who doesn’t buy into their brand of magic – are by definition all bad…

Which led me to yet another conclusion: That “having a good enemy” is essential to personal and spiritual growth. As part of that learning experience, I Googled “having a good enemy.” And got 204 million (204,000,000) results. One example of such wisdom came from Winston Churchill, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” See also, Top 10 Reasons Why we all must have Enemies. Some examples? “Competition between the enemies is good for the society.” And “Enemies will keep you focused.” And finally, “Enemies will make you a better person as a whole.”

And finally, again, I should note that having good enemies – which includes trying to “bring them back from the dark side” – is an excellent way to ditch Black And White Thinking!

And by the way, I’ll be using those “good enemy” quotes on Facebook, whenever arch-conservatives start attacking those darned liberals… (“You need a good enemy!”)  

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The upper image is courtesy of Paul the Apostle – Wikipedia. The caption: “‘Saint Paul Writing His Epistles’ by Valentin de Boulogne.” 

Re: Facebook. See History of Facebook – Wikipedia, which includes the photo of its founder. The caption: “Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in his Harvard dorm room.” The article expands on the theme of learning experiences. And the article includes interesting tidbits like: 1) The social networking service was launched as TheFacebook on February 4, 2004; 2) membership was initially limited by the founders to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, then to most universities in the U.S.and Canada, until by September 2006, it was available to everyone with a valid email address; and that FaceMash, Facebook’s predecessor, opened in 2003 as a type of “hot or not” game for Harvard students. “The website allowed visitors to compare two female student pictures side by side and let them decide who was more attractive.”

Re: The song “change the world.” The version I thought of when I writing this post actually came from Chicago (Graham Nash song)See Wikipedia, which said this:

Chicago” (often listed as “Chicago / We Can Change the World“) is a song written by Graham Nash for his solo debut album Songs for Beginners. As a single [in 1971], it reached number 35 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and 29 on the Cash Box Top 100… The title and lyrics of the song refer to the anti-Vietnam War protests that took place during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and the subsequent trial of the Chicago Eight, where protest leaders were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot. 

The song included these lyrics, near the end: “We can change the world, re-arrange the world, it’s dying, if you believe in justice, it’s dying if you believe in freedom.”  But this song is distinct from “Change the World,” a song written by “Tommy SimsGordon Kennedy, and Wayne Kirkpatrick whose best-known version was recorded by the English singer Eric Clapton for the soundtrack of the 1996 film Phenomenon.” See Change the World – Wikipedia, which serves as another example of how combating right-wing distortions can definitely be instructive. 

Re: Ezekiel 3:16-21. Summarized as Ezekiel’s Task as Watchman, it basically says that if you warn a fellow citizen of the error of his ways and he fails to listen, he’ll be in trouble but you will at least have saved your own spiritual butt. But if you don’t warn him, you’ll both be in trouble. 

The person who posted the “liberal ambassadors” response was – as noted – not a former classmate, but he used to attend my church and comes back every now and again. “John” – my fellow free-thinker – is still a member of my church, and in fact is a fellow member of the choir. 

Re: Combating right-wing distortions, etc. Then there was this Bible passage from Sunday, November 10, concerning the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus: 

Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. (E.A.)

Again, that was from the New Testament reading for November 10, from 2d Thessalonians, Chapter 2, where Paul wrote about Jesus coming back “and our being gathered together to him.” Which led me to this bit of possible good news: “Jesus might be coming back really really soon!”

An almost-final text note. On Facebook I posted another irony: That today’s conservatives say people who want to come to this country have to “follow all the rules.” Which led to the question, “Why don’t they say the same thing about Donald Trump? It’s incongruous is what it is.”

As to the benefits of having a good enemy, see also The Benefits of Having an Enemy – The American Interest, and The Benefits of Enemies – The Bible Meditator.

The lower image is courtesy of Ditch Black And White Thinking – Image Results.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 68year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – living in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”  Anyway, in Charlotte Harry wrote and published the “Israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made him special was his positive outlook on life.  He got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.

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A final final note, on a possible standard response to right-wingers attacking “libs” on Facebook. “God bless liberals! What would you do without them? See the online piece, Top 10 Reasons Why we all must have Enemies. The reasons include: 1) competition between enemies is good for society; 2) enemies keep you focused; and 3) enemies will make you a better person as a whole.