I often like to say that in current social media landscape, politics is basically just football. The specific policies and actions don’t matter anymore. You pick your team and you stick to it and anyone that opposes your team is automatically an asshole and anyone who is for your team is automatically good. Logic doesn’t matter and there’s nothing you can really do to change the mind of anyone who has already picked their team. They’re going to root for their team no matter what, just like you are. All you can really hope to do is show your team spirit with a constant stream of memes saying how great your team is and how evil your divisional rival is. The truth of the memes don’t matter. You’re not trying to change anyone’s mind really. You’re just trying to get all your friends to say “Hell yeah!!!” And you know that no one on the other side is ever going to agree with you about anything… except when it comes to hating the Baltimore Ravens… because really… FUCK THOSE GUYS!
I like to say that, but I’m maybe going to have to stop. Because I’ve now realized something. No matter how it may seem from within the world of social media bubbles as many of us hunker down collecting our canned goods and birth control in hopes of weathering the imminent Trumpocalypse — or if you’re on the other side, and therefore likely not reading what I’m saying anyway… I guess… I dunno dancing in the streets awaiting the coronation of your savior under the soulful sounds of… I guess Ted Nugent? — no matter how it feels, I’m now quite clear that in this social media world… football is unequivocally more important than politics.
I’ll tell you why…
See, I never block anyone on social media. I’ve literally never done it…. Oh plenty people block me… see, I’m an asshole. It comes with the territory. But I never block anyone else. I don’t believe in it. See, I don’t like social media bubbles. I’ll read anyone. In fact, I actually rather enjoy reading the viewpoints of people diametrically opposed to my own. It’s how I learn stuff. It’s how I come to understand why other people behave the way they do. And yes, I argue. I argue a lot. People seem to think I like it. That’s not quite it. And people seem to think that I’m trying to change the minds of the people I’m arguing with. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I enter into every argument on social media assuming that I WON’T change the mind of the person I’m arguing with. I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan… life long. And I grew up in Cleveland. It’s hard to be a Steelers fan growing up in Cleveland. That’s a given. But if it taught me anything, it’s that Cleveland has a religious and passionate love and respect for their sports teams. The last time the Browns had a shot at the national championship was shortly before the discovery of fire. But their city loves them. Unconditionally! I respect that. And I certainly wouldn’t block anyone for displaying that admirable, if misplaced blind faith. The same goes with politics.
But if I’m not arguing to change people’s minds, why do I do it? Well, that’s pretty simple. I feel like even in the a discussion where I’m all alone in a certain viewpoint, it’s important to have that view recorded and defended not for the people who oppose it, but for any random other person who might wander through, either as an undecided person or as a person who feels like they’re alone in disagreeing. I’ll give you an example from my single proudest moment on the internet. I once got into an argument with my cousin on his Facebook page and a few dozen members of their church congregation. It was over homosexuality and homophobia. My cousin had said something that I considered blindingly homophobic and I called him on it. This turned into an argument between me on one side and twenty to thirty holier-than-thou Christians on the other side spouting scripture at me. Basically “blah blah blah Leviticus blah blah abomination blah blah.” If you’ve ever been in a religious conversation about homosexuality (on either side), you totally can just fill in the blanks. I actually had a couple people message me privately and say “why are you even bothering? You know you’re not going to change their minds.” BUT something far more important happened that day. I got another private message from someone I don’t know. He said “Hi, I know we don’t know each other but I go to your cousin’s church. I’m 15 years old and I’m gay and nobody knows. Every Sunday when i go there and at least one person, and usually a lot more makes me feel like I’m a sinner and going to hell. I’ve tried to not be gay and I can’t. And sometimes I want to die. And it’s hard and it’s awful and this is literally the first time I’ve ever seen anyone talk to anyone from my church and defend me. So thank you. This is the first time in a long time that I didn’t want to die because of them.” And that kid is why I never block anyone. If I had then I would never have had that conversation and that kid would have never have had anyone stand up for him. That makes it worth it.
So, there’s obviously been a lot of that happening this last political season. I’ve had my posts here and I’ve responded in other people’s. Some of them are cordial, a lot of them aren’t. People get pissed off and not a lot of people change their minds. But I always think it’s a good idea to comment if I have time ESPECIALLY if it’s outside of my bubble.
Anyway, there’s a guy i went to high school with. I don’t know him very well. I didn’t know him very well back then. As far as I can tell he’s some kind of sports reporter now for my hometown paper, and apparently he is a big pro-wrestling fan, so I think that when he found out that I was a wrestler, he decided to friend me on Facebook. Of course, I think I’d actually retired by then, and I never really posted about wrestling much even when I was doing it. Plus, I was never actually GOOD at it or anything like that. So really, if you’re paying attention to me just because of my tenuous connection to the wrestling business and no other reason, well, you’re already losing there. Nonetheless dude did start following me. He’s obviously a huge Browns fan, and over the course of the last year or so, it’s become clear that he’s a massive Trump supporter. So there’s totally lots of reasons to not like me. Really, in his shoes I wouldn’t like me. And I actually did like seeing his viewpoints, misguided though they were. Always interesting and again… it’s not like he was supporting the Baltimore Ravens… because really… FUCK THOSE GUYS!
This summer he posted a rant about wikileaks “proving” that Hilary Clinton was responsible for providing arms to ISIS, because as Secretary of State she approved arms deals with Qatar. Yes… I get it, if you’re reading this you’re probably smart enough to go “but Qatar isn’t ISIS.” You would be correct. I mention this because I want you to understand the level of discourse I was dealing with here. So, I pointed out that Qatar was a country… a country that is our ally… and that this is not the same thing as arming ISIS. This degenerated into the obvious racist argument about arming Muslims, yadda yadda yadda. Me against three or four people… none of whom I was getting through to. But you know, maybe there’s a 15 year old gay kid out there. So I persist. The argument later turned into them “proving” that Hilary was a communist because of her thesis on Saul Alinsky and then one of the guys posting “excerpts” from Alinsky’s book “Eight Rules for Radical Liberals.” In order to shut me up. See, because these rules of Alinsky’s show that really the entire liberal agenda is designed to turn the United States into a fascist state. Then my former classmate thanked his friend for the great research.
Of course, I then had to point out that Alinsky’s book is just called “Rules for Radicals” (has nothing to do with liberals) and that there are thirteen rules and not eight. Also, none of the eight rules that they were quoting are from Alinsky’s book. They’re actually from anti-communist propaganda that dates back to at least 1919 (when Alinsky would have been 10 years old). I then pointed out that this was silly because Hilary Clinton is not Saul Alinsky, and her doing a report on him doesn’t mean she’s anymore a “communist fascist” than I am a Nazi because I had to do a report on Hitler in the fourth grade. Furthermore, this is especially silly because even if she does believe everything Alinksy said, there is no way they would like his actual ideology like AT ALL if they had bothered to look any of it up. There are plenty of things for them to disagree with Alinsky (or Clinton) on without having to make them up. At this point the conversation stopped and they just ignored me. Again, I’m sure I didn’t change any of their minds… but my hope was that one day a 15 year old boy would wander through that post and say “oh my god!!?!?!? Hilary Clinton is a communist fascist who sold nukes to ISIS?!?!?” and then would read my comments and follow my links and see that that’s not quite true and maybe there’d be just one less idiot in the world. Net win!
I’ve had other conversations like this. With that guy. With other people. It’s par for the course. So long as you’re not a Ravens fans, it’s worth the very little effort it takes me to provide an information service to other people who might know you.
Fast forward to this weekend. During the Steelers vs. Chiefs playoff game, this same former classmate went off on a Facebook rant about how horrible it is that the NFL is allowing Joey Porter to coach a playoff game when he should be in jail for “spitting on a cop.” He had a few people agree with him and then he had a string of other Browns fans saying stuff like “wait, I hate the Steelers too. But that doesn’t sound like what I’ve been hearing in the news and I can’t find anything about it. Do you have a source?” One guy even said something like “it really sucks that the Browns aren’t in the playoffs, but I don’t see why making stuff up about a Steelers coach helps that?” Finally, I jumped in and said something to the effect of “I live in Pittsburgh and that’s not what quite happened. He was arrested for public drunkeness, disorderly conduct, aggravated assault, and resisting arrest. The cop in question was an off-duty cop who was serving as the bouncer at a club. They got into it and Porter was arrested. The DA reviewed the security footage and dropped the latter two charges because he said they were unfounded. I’m not saying Porter is a great guy. In fact, by all accounts he can kind of be an asshole. But he’s not being charged with what you’re saying he is so there’s really nothing the NFL can or should do about that.” And then, wonder of wonder, a bunch Browns fans thanked me for clearing that up. Because I mean… it’s not like I’m a Baltimore Ravens fan… because really… FUCK THOSE GUYS!
I was actually really happy about that. Reasonable understanding between a Steelers fan and Browns fans… EXCEPT then, the guy whose post it was deleted my comment, deleted the comments of the guys who were complaining that they couldn’t find any evidence of it. Deleted the thank you to me. And then posted more rants about Porter that were unfounded. So I called him on it. I said “look, I gave you the reason. I told you what actually happened. Here are the articles. Are you really asking why this happened or do you just want to complain about fictional charges. A couple minutes later I got a notification that one of the guys who thanked me had responded again. So I went to read that… and couldn’t. Because I was blocked.
Honestly, I’m not surprised that I was blocked. Not really. Obviously, there’s no good reason for this guy to pay attention to me at all. But what surprises me is that the straw that broke the camels back wasn’t about politics. It wasn’t me saying mean things about Trump. It wasn’t me defending Alinsky. It wasn’t about me defending homosexuals or muslims. It wasn’t about political football at all. No, it was about real football. It was because I dared to defend a Pittsburgh Steeler and apparently, that was just too much for this Browns fan to handle. And this shouldn’t surprise me. Because at the end of the day Football > Politics. Except for the Baltimore Ravens… because really… FUCK THOSE GUYS!