Is social media doing more harm to America than good?

Is social media doing more harm to America than good?
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Today, the Wall Street Journal reports that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, and CEO of Facebook will face lawmakers next month on the way his Silicon Valley firm protects user data. I used to represent CEOs on the Hill. A Congressional inquiry is not like cocktails at the golf club with one’s peers.

An investigator I used to know with the Senate Permanent Committee for Investigations, the Committee that Robert Kennedy ran as Chief Counsel for the Mafia hearings, used to call me and ask me questions about the “fresh meat” I would supply if I had a client on the hot seat. Things often do not go well for CEOs at hearings.

If Zuckerberg has a brain in his head and given the giant media company he runs, it appears he has many smarts; then he will hire the best and brightest Washington has to offer and walk into that hearing prepped.

Mr. Zuckerberg will not be facing a love-fest unless he gets his checkbook out before the hearing.

Congressional hearings are staged events. They are public relations extravaganzas whose outcomes are determined long before the Chair gavels the meeting to order.

Unlike a trial that considers evidence, hears from witnesses, then concludes guilt or innocence, the findings of the jury on a Congressional Hearing is how many soundbites a Senator or Congressman can milk out of the inquiry?

After all, this is an election year, and the time in the election cycle when Members of Congress make a pretense of responding to the people who elected them.

That is an issue at the moment. The electorate used to go about daily life and then pay attention to the evening news, and newspapers once in a while. It took a significant story to get the public at large to pay attention to the goings-on in Washington.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s company has changed the way America consumes politics, and maybe it is not a good change.

Armchair activists now hang on news reports, blogs, rumors, and political discussion groups hour-after-hour. Grassroots lobbying used to mean generating 50 handwritten letters to Congressional Offices.

Through groups on Facebook and Twitter postings, a 1000 times more messages regularly flow into offices on the Hill. The volume has reached such massive portions; many Hill offices ignore the barrage. Having someone Rhode Island phone a Texas Senator or Representative is a waste of time. The office does not care what the caller thinks unless the caller is their constituent.

There is another issue with the political monster Mr. Zuckerberg, and his competitors at Twitter have unleashed. They seem to be adding to the division in our nation.

I am starting to see disturbing similarities between the opposition to Donald Trump, and the Tea Party, right down to the same rhetoric and using the same memes.

I was a member of the GOP and worked in Washington Politics for many decades. I left the party because of the rise of the Alt-Right and Trump base. I was there as the Tea Party, The Religious Right, and Libertarian Republicans destroyed conservatism and hijacked the Republican Party. They are not noble people, and the left gains nothing in behaving like them.

When I wrote “44 years a Republican, 1 year an Independent, today I’m joining the Democratic Party,” I spoke about a major complaint with the GOP. (read here) I penned the line: “It has no compassion, it has no empathy, it is just a collection of self-centered individuals who care about nothing outside of their own lives.”

I am finding compassion and empathy is at a premium on the left these days too. I am seeing hate spewing for its own sake. Are we trying to defeat tyrants to install tyrants of our own in their place? That is the message we are sending, and those sentiments are the ones companies like Cambridge Analytica are harvesting. The result is today’s rancor shapes tomorrow’s message of division, which generates more rancor. It is an ugly cycle we need to break.

I am not buying into hating people because they disagree with you politically. The hate spewing by activists on social media fuels more division and it is detrimental to our nation.

Apparently, the goal of the Democratic and Republican Parties is to spew hate, encourage people to be doctrinaire and bigots who think their opinion alone is the right opinion. If that is the case,  then for the good of the Nation, I pray the two major parties disintegrate and become memories.

Maybe there will be a new party in the middle, or ideally, no parties at all, which will lead us to a good future filled with honest debate about serious issues. I do not know, but I do know the age of the ideological activist is not working.

I trust the Senate Hearing will look more like a Facebook political debate, complete with finger-pointing and name-calling. That is what passes as political inquiry, and it is the creation of We The People.

We need to create a different model.

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