BY FRANK SALVATO
It is true that in the United States, everyone who qualifies under the requirements of the Constitution has the right to run for office. In fact, the beauty of the American experience is that our nation is governed by her people, not a ruling class, or so it is supposed to be.
Currently, we are undergoing a rebellion against a professional class of politicians who have stolen government from the people. Since the beginning of our nation, opportunistic individuals have sought to manipulate the governmental system to both push ideology and enrich themselves.
At the national level, we have ideological groups that seek to alter the fabric of our nation; who attempt to circumvent the US Constitution at every turn. Additionally, there are political opportunists who see an avenue to wealth off the hard work of the American people. How else do people enter into office with modest means only to leave office as millionaires?
Then, of course – at the local levels of government, we have the “good ol’ boy” networkers. These individuals seek to maintain power in an effort to install a lingering status quo beneficial to their desires; desires that almost always end up lining their pockets and the pockets of their benefactors and cronies, even as they control our daily lives right down to the traffic patterns we have to navigate.
After generations of this garbage – from the local levels to national, people are rebelling. This is one reason President Trump came to office; a perceived outsider. It is also why a wave of people unfamiliar with the political world find themselves vying for office.
American politics is a rough and tumble game; game being a term of endearment from my perspective. Sadly, if one isn’t experienced in life, well-organized, backed by at least a modest amount of financial backing, and graced with a small army of people who will volunteer their time on behalf of the candidate, there is zero chance of being elected. And those who believe that a political campaign can be won simply through the exploitation of social media are either smoking something legal in Colorado or really haven’t been on social media lately.
One of the biggest pitfalls on social media platforms, where the political novice is concerned, is getting caught up in the “disingenuous debate”; getting snared by the “Internet trolls.” By common definition, a “troll” is:
“…a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting quarrels or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion…”
This is a staple of the political operative, especially on Facebook. These people goad the novice into providing them with minutia information easily found on a campaign’s webpage. They do so in an effort to:
- Occupy the novice candidate’s time;
- Provoke the novice candidate into losing their patience/temper;
- Drive the novice candidate to contradict themselves on matters of position;
- Cede the narrative so as to allow the operative (read: opposition) to paint the novice candidate in a less than flattering – and often damaging – light.
These trolls also infect the efforts of volunteers who sincerely want to disseminate legitimate information about the candidate. The troll seeks to occupy the volunteers’ time and provoke them into sometimes heated exchanges that can often times reflect poorly on the novice candidate.
So, what to do about “disingenuous debater”; the Internet trolls; these political hacks (and this really is what they are)?
First, always take the high road. Stay focused on the primary task: disseminating fact-based, legitimate information. It takes two parties to enter into a debate, so don’t take the bait. This sometimes requires a great deal of restraint but not getting lured into a pseudo-debate with someone whose goal is disingenuous; to occupy time, capture the narrative and damage a candidate, is a great payoff for applying that restraint.
Then there are the nuclear options, which any candidate and/or campaign – established or otherwise – should only use as a last resort, the actions tempting to reflect directly on the campaign. One can report the “disingenuous debater” (read: political operative) to the forum’s administrators (if this avenue is chosen you have to thoroughly make your case so the administrators are sympathetic to your request and pray the administrator isn’t a troll, too) or you can block the operative, which very well may elicit calls of censorship.
The primary task on social media for any novice political candidate is to “identify the trolls.” Make a list of the trolls’ shine a light on them. Make sure each and everyone in your campaign knows who the trolls are and instruct them to offer a common response. This response should be to refer the troll to the webpage for more information and/or to avoid engaging them all together.
When a troll is left to the hollow echo of his or her own voice, the other readers of the forum are able to hear the shrill disingenuousness of their words; to see the transparent disingenuousness of their efforts. This, incidentally, leads to their efforts backfiring and painting their political choice with the stain of deception and dishonesty.