Writing about current issues

During the 1960s, folk songs, poems, and books focused on the stormy issues of the day. They seemed to have a large audience, primarily among high school and college audiences. One primary focus was, of course, the war, followed by such things as the military-industrial complex, credibility gap, conscription, ROTC on campuses, and civil rights.

Protest songs and literature seemed to subside for a while; or maybe not. If they did, they have certainly returned now. Sites like Literary Hub, Arts & Letters Daily, and Poets & Writers that post articles and links claim there are more writers speaking out today than ever. The liberal writers, of course, focus their wrath on Trump; the conservative and moderate writers focus their wrath on the Democrats’ move toward the far left.

I think the anti-war movement during the 1960s did finally influence more people to look at what we were doing in Vietnam and whether or not it was worth it. Maybe I’ve just gotten older, but it seems to me that a lot of today’s protests are preaching to the choir; it’s as though the writers have given up on influencing the opposition.

I try to stay away from most of that. For one thing, I seldom write poetry, so I can’t suddenly come out with a new poem that speaks to an issue. While my Florida Folk Magic series targets Jim Crow attitudes and the KKK in the 1950s, I’m not writing present-day fiction that gives me an opportunity to make snarky or wise comments about today’s issues.

I do have hot-button issues such as China’s brutal and illegal occupation of Tibet, so-called honor killings, and the environment, and from time to time, I say something about one or more of these on Facebook. Most people who see my news feed tend to ignore Tibet and honor killing posts while agreeing that we don’t need to be rolling back conservation gains made in previous years. Sometimes I wish I were a badass poet who could write quickly, for then I could speak more about the issues I care about.

So, for the most part, I am silent. Those who champion many issues say that our silence is the same thing as consent. Perhaps so. I feel bad about that at times. However, I’m a long-time introvert, so I’m not going to be out there like AOC with a daily barrage of complaints and finger-pointing. President Nixon popularized the phrase “silent majority,” implying that outside all the shrill protests, a large number of people (presumably) agreed with him. I didn’t like that phrase then and I don’t like it now because it’s just too darned easy to say that the so-called silent majority supports whatever you want.

I do have a volatile Scots temper, so I’m likely to get into serious trouble online if I say what I really think. Plus, I have a general distrust of political parties, so my views are all over the spectrum rather than dictated by the top brass of one group or another. This means that when I do speak out on Facebook, I tend to get bashed by both Republicans and Democrats. General Chesty Puller once said, “We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.” Yes it does, but it’s not a comfortable place to be online.

So, when anybody asks me what I think about the issues, the Fifth Amendment is my friend. That sounds gutless, I know, but at my age, I can’t beat anyone up or run fast enough to get away from them.





There are days when I wish I hadn’t logged on to Facebook

We call Facebook social media, but it’s often anti-social media.

It offers us a chance to keep up with people–often old friends we haven’t seen since childhood or college–and to hear about new ideas, general news, books, blog links of interest, and a lot of other things that according to communications theories are supposed to bring various cultural groups and nationalities closer together through enhanced knowledge and understanding of each other.

assbookI’m not surprised when people use Facebook and Twitter to disseminate facts, ideas and opinions about causes such as the environment, the treatment of women in Muslim countries, military vs. diplomatic methods of resolving conflicts, and the current Presidential race.

In this country, we’re supposed to be champions of free speech. Among other things, that means defending the right of those who express opposing views to express those views. But somehow, that’s all gotten so polarized that people ignore the facts–or don’t spend time looking for them.

What’s changed?

Perhaps nothing, depending on how old you are and what you’ve experienced growing up through many decades of changing priorities and value systems. My feeling is that people aren’t doing their homework. So, when they feel moved to say something on Facebook, they often opt for a graphic or a video prepared by a biased source. Many of the things quoted during the Presidential race either were never said by the candidate or were taken out of context so they appear to mean something quite different than the candidate intended. Yet this stuff is posted as the gospel truth.

As a former journalist and journalism instructor, I not only think many news outlets have gotten warped, but that they are using their agendas to create public opinions that would be much different if those courses were making every effort to be objective. This skewed, highly managed sound bite “journalism” makes its way onto Facebook in all kinds of ways. Truth is the first casualty here. Oddly enough, if you point out to the person who posts a political graphic that the graphic is incorrect, their solution is to believe it anyway. It’s simply easier!

While I almost never post political statements on my Facebook profile, I often “see red” when I see a graphic or a poster’s opinion that twists a real event into something it wasn’t. Even if I say that I heard the speech the person is quoting and that they’re not reporting what s/he said, they don’t care. What they’re posting coincides with their opinions and the facts don’t matter.

Sometimes people ask me what my sources are. When I answer, some people say, “Oh, well I only listen to news sources I agree with.” Ultimate stupidity. You’re not supposed to agree with a source because that source is supposed to be neutral. If they’re not neutral, they’re not a real journalist. I despair when I see the Fox news aficionados and the CNN aficionados screaming at each other about objectivity when both of those news outlets are very biased. Yes, I know, it’s just easier to be led around by a figurative leash by sources who tell you what to think, but that approach hurts all of us.

I know I shouldn’t comment on those kinds of posts, but it’s hard to resist. The result: a lot of time is wasted and nobody’s opinion is changed. What a waste of time.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s new novel “Eulalie and Washerwoman” will be released Friday, October 14th.