Jeffrey Paul: Partisan Politics Are Boring

Jeffrey Paul

Partisan Politics Are Boring
8 August 2020
( 758 words, approximately 4 minutes reading time. )

There seems an important nugget of truth buried down here in our hyperpartisan, world-at-stake cortisol-junkie times: partisan duckspeak is boring as fuck.

The too-common argument is that “not caring about politics is a function of privilege” (which happens to be true, but irrelevant here, as I’ll explain in a moment). Unfortunately that’s not an insightful, original, or helpful claim, and is these days simply a thought-terminating cliché .

If you’re anything like me, you care deeply about human beings and the well-being of others, be they in small or large groups, including preservation of basic rights and universal and consistent application of the rule of law. Most countries, including so-called “free” ones, fall woefully short on these ideals, the United States principally among them. It blows my mind how most people don’t seem to notice or care very much about massive shortfalls in this regard. However, many other people do care about these things as we do, across wide swaths of the population—and, critically—regardless of political party. (It turns out that widespread human decency predates unnecessary political polarization. Who knew?)

We can and should identify places where things can be better, and talk about actionable methods of building a better future together. This document is not a summary rejection of all political discussion.

That said, the endless partisan quacking so common in our social circles today is decidedly not that. Criticizing hyper-partisan expression is not an abdication of concern or responsibility for one’s fellow humans. It’s simply an acknowledgement of the simple fact that solutions to the problems of the world, nation, or local community do not materialize out of unoriginal black-and-white regurgitation of your preferred organization’s party line.

99% of the time, everyone paying attention already knows your argument or response and has heard it more than once before, and repeating it doesn’t educate anyone or make progress toward your goals, whatever they may be. I’d venture to say that a lot of the time, it’s simply performative, a tribal identifier.

Knock it off; most intelligent people don’t care very much, and unintelligent people won’t be swayed by how loud you are.

Lots of people are raised not to say anything if they don’t have something nice to say. I don’t agree with that blanket statement (although it’s a fairly decent rule of thumb to start with), and I don’t mean to say that people shouldn’t complain about politics or even political parties, but perhaps consider that if you don’t have something at least a little bit original to communicate to your listener, maybe save them the life-seconds burned listening to unproductive repetition of the party line (regardless of whether it’s the official orthodoxy of your registered political party, or the chorus-of-the-month photocopied endlessly by your preferred tribal subgroup on the internets).

This month, it seems to be censoring nonviolent expression on social media; simultaneously it’s using social media to spread evidence of violent abuses by the state. Paradoxically, the same people calling on social media for sunlight onto state abuses also want the social media companies (who operate at the pleasure of the state) to wield central control over censorship of individual publishing. One wonders if they’ve thought this all the way through.

Certain things, while partisan-adjacent, are not specifically partisan themselves, and are important truths that can and should be repeated often: “black lives matter”, for instance. This is not a condemnation of repetition in general, either. I’ll happily repeat that one as many times as we need to until people understand it: Black lives matter. (A whole fucking lot, it turns out!)

Many of these widely-embraced sentiments will no doubt be turned into partisan battle points (recall that the Tea Party started out as a tax protest movement and not some neocon propaganda platform), but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore them in their infancy.

I still have hope that people will be able to realize that they have more in common with others than they are different. For the most part, nobody likes violence, and nobody likes abusing others. There are, of course, absolutely human beings that enjoy those things, and you can usually find them on the police forces, or flying drone aircraft for a national military, or lynching people in the streets. The vast majority of human beings, however, behind all of the political battle, like and appreciate the same basic things: peace and education and treating other people well and with kindness.

Most of the world is busy or apathetic, not malicious. Calibrate your messaging appropriately.

About The Author

Jeffrey Paul is a hacker and security researcher living in Berlin and the founder of EEQJ, a consulting and research organization.