A conservative friend posted this joke on Facebook recently:
Bernie Sanders walks into a bar. “Drinks for everyone!” he says. “Who’s paying?”
The joke made me laugh, in spite of the fact that I like Bernie Sanders. (I’m not sure he should be the Democratic candidate to run against Trump in 2020, however. The Democrats need someone who can convert a red voter into a blue voter, and I don’t think Bernie is that person. But that’s a topic for another time.)
What bothers me about jokes like this is that they have become the entire political debate in this country. Whoever invented the joke, and everyone who has since reposted it, no doubt think they have scored points in the election process, but elections are more nuanced than that. Political discourse should not come in the form of tweets and memes. (International dialogue should certainly not come in the form tweet-storms, and someone needs to tell our president that.)
The appeal of soundbites is that they appear to make a point in a pithy, easily-digestible manner. We are so loaded with responsibilities that our days are scheduled down to the minute from the time we wake up until the time we go to bed for too little sleep. We are so bombarded with information that anything which promises to help us whittle it down to manageable bits comes as welcome relief.
But the promise is false. Life is more complicated than that, and oversimplification, while appearing to help, actually hinders our understanding of the world. We should all be more careful how we consume information, especially online, where memes and tweets rule, and fact-checking is an after-thought if it’s thought of at all. Author John Green hosts a YouTube playlist designed to help (Crash Course Navigating Digital Information). It’s largely aimed at students, but the advice is sound for anyone trying to navigate the complexities of the information (and disinformation) superhighway.