Political Commentary Meets the Virtual Megaphone

Social media and internet blogs have placed a virtual megaphone in the hands of anyone with an internet connection, and voices are loudest when politics is the subject at hand. .

The advent of social media and internet blogs has delivered a virtual megaphone to anyone interested in being heard. All a person needs is access to an internet-connected device coupled with the ability to assemble words into reasonably coherent sentences, (some would argue the latter point) and his or her thoughts and opinions can be published for the world to read.

Candidates running for political office have found the emergence of the virtual megaphone to be a good news/bad news proposition. The cabability of easily and economically reaching voters is an asset to any campaign, as is the opportunity for supporters to express their opinions, and of course-- support. To a degree, these positives may be counterbalanced by the ability of detractors to join in the conversation and move it in a negative direction. But there's also a negative component to the positive voices of supporters.

All too often, bloggers who support a candidate or political position become embroiled in "debate" which quickly deteriorates into little more than an exercise in name-calling, interpersonal conflict, opponent bashing and finger pointing. The negative aspects of such blog sparring can ultimately splash words and opinions on a candidate that he or she never spoke or even considered. It can also refocus attention away from a candidate or issue and onto the sparring itself.

A recent example of blog sparring and the negative or unintended messages it can create may be found in the comments following Mike Korom's Patch blog about running for Commissioner of Gwinnett County's District 3. Both his supporters and those of opponent (and incumbent Commisisoner) Mike Beaudreau, have been trading multiple barbs, many of which have little if anything to do with the candidates themselves. And some of the comments clearly show a lack of understanding, a free hand with facts, or a dedication to creative interpretation.

Irrespective of a blog's author, or the people responding, bloggers and commenters should consider that there are always at least two sides to every issue-- especially those with a political orientation. Complicating the multi-faceted complexion of an issue is existence of numerous personal agendas that are attendant to each facet. Personal agendas aren't inherently nefarious or underhanded, but they usually add a new dimension to an issue. In the case of a candidate running for office, a commenter's private agenda may be nothing more than a desire to help whoever he or she sees as the best candidate. Conversely, the motivation to comment may arise from a desire to achieve personal financial gain, or political favoritism should a particular candidate win an election-- or to spread false or questionable information in an attempt to see a particular candidate defeated.

Whether you're reading or commenting, always consider the potential reasons behind the words. If you comment in an effort to provide support, stick to the issues, and document the reasons for your position. Hopefully, if you're supporting a candidate, you're doing so because you feel he or she is best qualified for the office being contested. In that case, you can help your cause best by citing the reasons that led to your opinion. Without question, you'll be greeted with dissenting opinions, but your response should revolve around the reasons you reached your original opinion. Debate the issues, don't spar with commenters ABOUT their opinions, personal beliefs and experiences.

If you don't care to comment, and you're reading as a means of gathering information, consider that the virtual megaphone is merely a communication tool. It should serve as a direction finder, not a final destination in the search for objective information.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mike Korom February 20, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Dave, all good points. I believe I addressed this in my blog. I believe the benefits of venues such as the Patch far outweigh the negatives. Most people would be shocked at the price tag to run a commission campaign. Most recent commission campaigns have ranged from $85k to $120k. It's public record. This media allows a new candidate like myself to form a voting foundation by getting my message out at essentially zero cost. I believe my message is resonating because it comes from points of logic and conviction. For example eight of the people commenting I have never met, that I'm aware. I sent a blogger to blogger message to you earlier. Can we get together this week?
M.K. OSBORNE February 22, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Im window shopping for a new Commissioner and i like to kick the tires ! Good points though !
Dave Emanuel February 25, 2012 at 05:57 PM
"Kicking the tires" is what every voter needs to do. All too often, people vote for a candidate for reasons that are completely unrelated to the office that's being contested. In some of the campaign work I've done, I've had people tell me they're going to vote for a particular candidate because, "my wife used to work with her mother", or, "my son went to school with him". If those are what people consider to be qualifications, it's no wonder we frequently wind up with less than the best candidate being elected. In my mind, when deciding on a candidate, there are two primary considerations-- ethics and issues. My personal litmus test is to evaluate candidates based on their positions with issues that I think are important, and on their past actions. I think it's essential to do your own investigation because media reports and opponent statements are often biased or untrue. Of course, you can always rely on the opinion of the person who used to work with somebody's mother.
M.K. OSBORNE February 25, 2012 at 10:00 PM
or you can let a party dictate that to you also , or the chamber of commerce can promote a following too . There is many lobbying fronts out there with different agenda's or no agenda's , Be your own person and vote under your own influence, for Gwinnett is still a Great place to be .Lets keep it that way .


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