The joke’s on us: How the Internet ruins political discourse
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 06:02
Did you watch the State of the Union address on Feb. 12? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t – I wasn’t able to either. Did you at least try to read up on what happened via Twitter and the Internet? If so, you probably came away with a whole bunch of Ted Nugent jokes and Sen. Marco Rubio GIFs, but as for the actual speech, you probably didn’t come away with much.
The Internet has done a lot for spreading and sharing political discourse, but all of that has been drowned out by the extraneous distractions that come with Internet culture.
Take, for example, the Sen. Rubio water incident that happened during the Republican’s response to the State of the Union address. Sen. Rubio, the GOP’s next big hope and current frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nomination, reached over awkwardly to take a sip of his water during the opening of his speech. It was a strange moment, and definitely funny.
But for some people, it was like his speech ended there. Critics argued that the water incident was yet another sign of Republican incompetence, when it was just an innocent mistake. There were many contentious points brought up by Sen. Rubio in his response about the role of the government, gun control, and energy, but all of those points are somehow negated by his blunder. In fact, when you search for Marco Rubio on Google, the first suggested search is "Marco Rubio water." On the serious news sites
Ted Nugent’s case is even more frustrating. The famous gun advocate was invited to the State of the Union by a representative from Texas and showed up to the speech in jeans. Everybody joked about and commented on what reaction the Republicans would have if a rapper who made threats against a Republican president was invited to the State of the Union. When the media should be focusing on how Obama has to beg the Congress to vote on gun control bills and the inflexibility of the Republican controlled House of Representatives on this issue, they’re devoting valuable coverage time to a fringe lunatic like Ted Nugent.
There’s a valuable discussion out there on the merits of Obama’s speech and his plan to right the ship for the next year and beyond. Unfortunately, when there’s so much trivial information out there, it’s hard for a normal person who doesn’t follow politics to find the right discussions. Most likely, they’ll get sucked into the jokes about Ted Nugent and Marco Rubio.
There’s obviously a place for humor in politics, as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have proven several times over the years. But their humor is derived from serious issues, and often their viewers come away more enlightened about serious issues that they wouldn’t be exposed to otherwise. It’s only a problem when the jokes being made are about things that really have no impact on the political landscape at all.
I know it’s part of the Internet culture to be irreverent and silly, but it’s seriously impacting the level of discourse we can participate in. How can we expect to have thoughtful conversations on timely issues like gun control or the role of the U.S. in the Middle East when all people are reading about are totally off topic and irrelevant "issues"?
Like many things, you get from the Internet what you put into it. There are all sorts of good stories and analysis of politics out there for those who want that and it’s not that hard to find if you put the effort into seeking it out. If you’re not interested in doing that, then please stop trying to pass off your cheap jokes as relevant political arguments.