23 March 2016

Facebook: posting links is no substitute for analysis

Facebook does provide a channel for political communication, but those who merely post links to online material are not providing the necessary analysis.

From the 1980s I recall an elderly left-wing gentleman, who raged against all forms of social injustice, with a particular emphasis on the betrayal of socialism by the right-wing leaders of the Labour Party. To make his case, he pushed his bicycle around the town, cloth carrier-bags dangling from the handlebars, shoving annotated newspaper cuttings though the letterboxes of those left-wing activists who might read them.

If you met him you would certainly get an earful, but if you didn’t you had to piece together his views from reading other people’s. Were he alive today, I am sure he would be on Facebook, writing little, but posting links to articles. And sadly, that is the communicative capacity limit for many of my Facebook “friends,'”  just a stream of posts consisting of links to other material. They don’t write much themselves, so all I know about their political views is garnered from the links to articles which they suggest that I should read.

Well, what’s wrong with just posting links? True, good material on the net needs to be passed around. But anybody who thinks that he or she is enhancing his or her political analysis by this method is as deluded as a carpenter who thinks he is developing his chair-making skills by sitting on them and recommending them to others. It’s only when you pick up your pen – or today, open a Word document – that you develop the range and consistency of your own thinking.

The best way to learn is to get things wrong unintentionally. Make a slip and a friend will correct you in polemic; post a link to an article written by a professional journalist for another audience and most likely there will be no response. Just by re-posting other people's writing and by "liking," the gaps in your own thinking remain and the ability to articulate an idea or point never develops.

Even on the net people need to make themselves known as political personalities worthy of being listened to. A political activist needs a field of activity and interest; the information in the articles of professional journalists and academics needs to be digested, re-interpreted and re-focused according to local political need, not just re-posted.

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