Hyperbolic Vitriol

Or, Elections in the Social Media Age

Oh joy! We are chest deep in that cesspool that is American electoral politics! It’s a biennial event, thanks to the two-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives, which seems to go on continuously, or at least without end, whichever seems worst. And every fourth year we have that Special Kind of Hell, the Presidential year! That’s where we are right now.

Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0

And on every social media platform you can find tweet after post after page of what some in this country consider political discourse. Why, the spittle just flies off of the screen from some of them! It seems like all that’s required to be a political pundit these days is the ability to string together some superlatives, a few exaggerations, and maybe some generalizations, while maligning the character of someone you disagree with. What could be easier?


Some of the best come from the candidates themselves. Twitter seems to be made-to-order for politicians who want to drop little incendiary bombs to stir up their base. What better way to gin up some excitement about your otherwise lackluster campaign than to lob deceptively phrased half-truths about your opponent into the Web-o-Sphere. The rabid base does the rest and presto, a full-throated spittle storm!

But the candidates aren’t alone. Every two-bit hack with a laptop and an axe to grind gets in on the act, too. For some reason, some people think that because they can write, they are right. It escapes them that in politics there is no clear right or wrong, only a spectrum, shades of gray. They are no more right than the next person. And no more wrong than the one after.

Now I distinctly heard some of you yell at your Intertube devices when you read that last paragraph. “rudyblues,” I heard you yell, “of course there’s right and wrong. And I’m right!” By the way, that was your outside voice. You might want to apologize to your loved ones.

But I would say to you, go back and read the paragraph. There’s a tell in the words “in politics.” There is distinct right and wrong in morality. There is clear right and wrong in behavior. There is unambiguous right and wrong in mathematics. I know, I thought there’d be no math, too.

A political choice may be right or wrong morally, or behaviorally, or even, I guess, mathematically, but politically speaking, it is no more right or wrong than some other political choice. It’s only at a different place in the spectrum, just a different shade of gray. Politics has no right and wrong answers.

Politics is about how we divvy up the pie. Those who have some pie want to keep all the pie they have, and get some more. Those who don’t have much, or any pie, want to get some pie.

People with pie tend to think people without pie are lazy, no-account slackers who want pie for free. People without pie think that people with pie are self-absorbed, greedy pikers who would send their mothers to jail over a piece of penny candy. I know, a little hyperbolic, right?

But they’re both wrong. The pie is another metaphor for the spectrum, for the shades of gray. And there’s pie lovers all along the spectrum. Sure, there’s a few at each end of the spectrum, lazy slackers and greedy pikers. Most are arranged in a nice, somewhat bell-shaped curve along the spectrum.

Here’s something that is wrong in politics. If a candidate is so morally reprehensible, so behaviorally challenged, that s/he resorts to hyperbolic vitriol to pit pie lovers against one another for political gain, then that’s wrong. Because we’re all pie lovers. We’re all the same.

So enough of the pie fights! And pass the Cool Whip.

Author: rudyblues57

A fellow traveler in our journey around the neighborhood thermonuclear explosion. Full of random thoughts and esoteric observations about the human condition, how we treat each other, and other detritus of life.

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