Facebook and the shutdown

In the Ask Roger Anything tradition, New York Erratic recently wondered:

Why do you think almost no one is discussing the shutdown and debt on Facebook? Usually when something even vaguely political happens (e.g. an election, a school shooting, the Supreme Court decided something that made it to the national news), people are posting like crazy. So why virtually nothing?

OK, two contradictory answers about the shutdown:

1) It is not MY experience on Facebook that people aren’t talking about the shutdown. I see stuff every single day.

Here’s a couple on my timeline, from the last 36 hours, none from me:

“I think it’s time to start a revolution friends. It only takes one! Imagine if one percent of Americans marched on Washington DC and demanded a new government. We could change the world!”

“REMOVE THE RADICALS IN DC ASAP. Ruining this country.”

“Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces that the state will pay the roughly $61,000 a day to reopen the Statue of Liberty. On the one hand, it’s a nice thing to do (and it no doubt helps tourism), on the other, these little tweaks to take the sting out of the shutdown just take the heat off the House of Representatives. ‘Hey, the parks and monuments are open, so what’s the big deal with the shutdown, right? Maybe those tea party folks are right that we don’t need the gubmint.'”

Plus LOTS of links to articles about the causes of the shutdown, like this one. People I know on FB are ticked off that “the Republican shutdown has now cost American taxpayers more than $3.3 billion and continues to sap our economy every day the government’s doors are closed.” I mean the shutdown doesn’t even save money!

Also, several data users are pointing out alternative sources for information, now that some of the core tools are not currently available.

In other words, NYE, I haven’t sensed that no one on Facebook is talking about the shutdown.

And, BTW, I totally disagree with the person on your FB timeline who wrote: “I think the main reason is that the ‘shutdown’ is not directly messing up anybody’s day.” I know people who have been furloughed. I AM one of those people without some resources I’m used to. People who plan their vacations to a national park all year and find a padlock on the doors aren’t inconvenienced?

2) If, in fact, no one’s is talking about the shutdown in YOUR Facebook circle, maybe it’s because it’s SO toxic. A SCOTUS ruling is announced, an election happen, and though the events have consequences, often long-term, they may not be immediately apparent. Whereas every day, we are reminded of the range of services not being provided by our government: sick people not in clinical trials, accidents and disease outbreaks not investigated, real life-and-death stuff.

We’ve become aware at a level not previously known that our government isn’t working, or at least is not working for the citizenry. When things like that happen, some people yell and holler, but others just want to cry in dismay. It’s what I linked to yesterday about us giving up, which is what some of them want; a discouraged citizenry that has surrendered, leaving THEM even more in control.

3) Re: the debt limit: When individual people weren’t paying their mortgages four or five years ago, it was painted by some as personal irresponsibility and terms such as “moral hazard” were thrown around. THOSE people – J’accuse!

But the debt ceiling is such an amorphous concept, it’s difficult to wrap one’s mind around. Many people believe/hope/pray that it won’t come. We’ve been threatened with it before, and we expect that, because the political fallout has been so fierce, they’ll fix it, maybe as early as tomorrow.

But I also subscribe to the “I’m used to it” theory. Remember when the price of gas first broke the $3 barrier and there was great gnashing of teeth? Likewise, when it went over $4. So now, with gas prices generally down, but still over $3 for a very long time, it’s just not the issue it was. We get used to the “new normal” and shrug.

13 thoughts on “Facebook and the shutdown”

  1. One difference is that between my 2 pages I only have about 150 friends, while you have hundreds (which I don’t even know how you get.) I will say that my liberal-end friends are talking about it a tiny bit more than my conservative friends.

    I know a lot of people who are actively influenced by the shutdown. So I don’t know where that is coming from, either.

    I also think it’s possible that people are having a hard time understanding exactly what is wrong and how to fix it. Also, the numbers are so big people have a really hard time grasping them.

    I also wonder if I’m over reacting or if it’s like the crazy debt net in 2008/2009 and I’m the only one that notices this is a serious, serious problem.

    The government alone is 22% of our economy and about 5% of the world economy. That says to me that defaulting just once is basically an insta-depression – or is that nuts?

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  2. True. Worrying about it only helps if other people are worried and willing to do something about it.

    But no one is protesting and what can I do? I’m not going to go out with a picket sign all by myself that says “$3.5 billion is 22% of the American economy. This isn’t a game!”

    Do you think the leaders understand how serious this is? Or are they so hyperfocused on winning the argument they’re not paying attention? Or are they really crazy like Gen. Ripper from Dr. Strangelove? I’m a little worried they’re crazy. They’re certainly acting like they’re crazy.

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    1. I’ve read SO much on this that I cant help but think they think, “Winning is everything,” in that Strangelovian mode. the leaders understand – Boehner understands, I really believe – but I don’t know that’s true of Ted Cruz or those Tea Party House members. They are acting on “principle”, consequences be damned, and the House leaders are looking for some political cover, so that allowing the government to be hijacked will have some apparent justification.

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  3. I don’t think the Tea Party people will blink. That’s what frightens me. I think the Tea Party really wouldn’t care if the world burned.

    I’m worried that’s making everybody crazy: “I can’t give into crazy people demands, I’ll lose face!”

    We don’t need a debate. We need hostage negotiators.

    I know I shouldn’t worry because I can’t do anything. But that makes me even angrier: this is a democracy and I can’t help it that crazy people are in office? That’s stupid and awful.

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  4. There seems to be some sort of developing idea that Facebook is to be used for certain things and not for others. This became clear on this past Primary Election Day, when The Wife posted some horrific comments that had been uttered by an incumbent candidate. To our astonishment, she got back several replies that “this posting is inappropriate for Facebook!” One of those comments came from a City-wide elected official. The Wife’s reaction was, so when is it appropriate to talk about such things? But mine was, how are certain things appropriate for Facebook and others are not?

    BTW, the Teabag Re-pubs are indeed trying to de-legitimize the government because they want to overthrow the Constitution and replace it with a corporate dictatorship. No ifs ands or buts about it.

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    1. I have no idea what is “inappropriate” for Facebook, other than child porn. No one has complained what I’ve written – this post is forwarded to FB – and I guess I’ll find out once I breech that threshold.

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  5. I never get complaints. I’m just much better at presenting myself in person, where I can hear responses and watch faces.

    People will accidentally post something that strikes a nerve, rubs you the wrong way or just catches you at a bad time. I’m barely able to avoid that accidentally in person; I always feel like I’ve done it on FB.

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    1. I’ve written about people writing – or more likely sharing – something on Facebook about I have violently disagreed,and most of the time I just roll my eyes (at the privacy of my computer) and move on. I EXPECT to see stupid stuff on FB, depending on who one follows. But I get to learn all sorts of stuff too, and the latter far outweighs the former; it’s a tradeoff.

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  6. True. 99% of FB posts are silly, but 1% are important life events and important information.

    A sweet friend who usually posts total garbage posted a brilliant clip about the shutdown that made it finally click into place for me.

    Before that I had no idea how a tiny minority was stalling the whole process. Turns out there was a modification in parliamentary procedure in the House which has turned everything into a massive logjam.

    So that was interesting and I never would have found it on my own.

    I’ve never been turned off by your posts, Roger, and your blog is always interesting. Not sure how you do that, but you’re very good at it. 🙂

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