Social Media or Social War?

Writerly Rant #3

The Office Chair Revolution

by Mikael Carlson

clenched_fistIf you have been paying any attention at all to the state of events in America, you know we are a nation at war. Armies of disgruntled citizens are being drawn from their mundane lives and mobilized for a protracted battle. Propaganda is rampant, rallying the sympathetic to the cause – it’s the ‘Keep Calm and Carry On” mantra for the twenty-first century. The field of battle is set … and it’s in social media.

Wait, what? You heard me. This is not a battle of arms, nor a war of rifles, artillery or tanks. The conflict will not take place on some far-flung land filled with people who don’t speak our language or share our customs. No, this is a war of words, information, disinformation, and common griping being played out on Facebook news feeds, personal blogs, and across the Twitterverse. Ordinary citizens far and wide have taken to every imaginable social media platform to express their disgust with the state of affairs of their government, and it’s getting ugly.

As the government shutdown wears on, and another fight on the self-imposed debt ceiling spins up, the patience of the people for Beltway skullduggery is waning. Whether you identify yourself as Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Socialist, conservative, liberal, or even fascist, you have seen, and maybe even participated in, the governmental bash-fest that is all the rage in the country today. Not that such participation is a novel or unique occurrence in our history.

In the years leading up to the shots fired on Lexington Green in 1775, and during the early years of the American Revolution that followed, these same debates, rants, and displays of frustration were common in taverns and meeting places across the Colonies. For the more intrepid, pamphlets were created to stoke the revolutionary fervor of the population. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense is the perfect exemplar, turning into one of the most widely read and distributed works of the time period.

We don’t have pamphlets in today’s digital Information Age, but we have an even more accessible means to funnel our anger. Over the past couple of weeks, I have read the discourses of a hundred modern Thomas Paines in Facebook posts, blog articles and on countless web sites. Social Media and the Internet give the populace a means to vent their resentment, and much of it directed at the inability of the factions in Congress and the Executive Branch to compromise on their differences.

The problem now, just as it existed then, is separating truth from propaganda. Both can be equally effective at fanning the flames of liberty – just ask the Egyptians in Tahir Square during the Arab Spring. I somehow doubt this most recent discontent with our government will lead Americans to grab their muskets and hit the streets though. Instead of Minutemen, the shutdown is creating a massive militia of office chair warriors relying on Internet memes to try to provoke change. In the digital age, that’s the same thing, right?

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Mikael CarlsonMikael Carlson is the author of the political fiction novel, The iCandidate. He is an eighteen-year veteran of the armed forces, served as a U.S. Army Paratrooper, and earned a Master of Arts in American History. Mikael currently lives in Connecticut.

Categories: Rants, Writerly Rants

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