As the country braces for another election cycle, it’s worth considering the role social media plays in the body politic. Like most instruments, tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like, do not inherently promote incivility or moral turpitude. An instrument is only as good — or evil — as the agent who uses it. But the advent of these technological tools has opened the doors for an impregnable chaos of misinformed opinions, detraction and calumny. Indeed, social media often reveals the worst in people.
Journalistic standards for print media once required some level of credulity before publishing a story. Today, anyone and anything — robots or foreign entities not excepted — can post damaging material, regardless of truth, to further its own ideological ends. Social media may indeed give the voiceless a voice — an important precept of any democratic society. But if those voices are devoid of the basic tenets of justice, should they be lauded as legitimate?
Make no mistake: politics has always been an arena for boxers, not poets. No one running for political office should have any illusion he or she will be free from the attacks of opponents, including the press. But in a former age, one could recognize clearly demarcated lines between fact and fiction. The ruthless incivility and gossip mongering of our age is not new to sinful mankind. But the instruments of the present day have not done enough to counteract viciousness with virtue. Sadly, our democracy will pay the price.