The Tao of Facebook Political Commentary
I wanted to interview Jordan, because I thought it was important to understand the level of political discourse happening on Facebook. He agreed to be interviewed at his house — a home he rents with two other young men, just about 20 miles south of Nashville. The home is humble; a small futon with a questionable dark stain is adjacent to the living room door, and it smells faintly of Red Baron pizza and cat pee. Mostly cat pee, but a little Red Baron masks it. Cheese and pee — that’s what I’m getting at here. His roommate Jackson is wearing MTSU basketball shorts, shirtless, playing Call of Duty. “You wanna get in on this bro?”, Jackson inquires as I enter the home. He tries handing me a bong. I politely decline. “Suit yourself man.” Jackson tunes me out as soon as I’m not interested in the bong.
Jordan is a picture of the American landscape: A disillusioned 20-something white male, working hard, but not getting ahead. “I went Georgia State for two semesters, but college was total bullshit, you know? All my professors wanted to do was tell me their way of thinking. I was like, what about what I think, you know?” So Jordan left school, and decided to pursue his dream of becoming a niche electronic producer. During the day, he works doing “Administrative Logistics” (his title, not mine), but at night, he’s working on his art.
“Everyone has to work a job. I got lucky because like, I’m getting $10.25 an hour dude. That’s pretty good. Plus I’m in business. Administrative Logistics aren’t going anywhere. I have job security.” Jordan pauses to puff his vape pen, so I inquire what he’s learning at his job, and what exactly he does.
“Well, we get the guys from UPS or the Postal Service or whatever, and they just bring all the mail in one big box to the office, and it’s not sorted or anything like that. So I have to like, make sure all the last names and floors are together, because otherwise people might not get their packages. I mean, in this office, I practically run it, you know?”
While he doesn’t have any formal musical training, Jordan brags to me that he cracked a copy of Ableton, and he’s been teaching himself how to produce for over two years. “Some of my best remixes,” Jordan puffs his vape pen, “get more than 50,000 plays on Soundcloud. You know, I got booked last week to open for Mayhem down in Atlanta. He’s produced for everyone. My music is like poetry, but in a beat. People hear that poetry and it just hits them deep like Madam Angelou.” I correct him, “I’m pretty sure you mean Maya Angelou, right?” Jordan corrects me, laughing, “Nah dude. Madam Angelou. She’s a black poet. Woman. Old. You don’t know her? She’s good bro.”
Before I can begin asking any political questions, Jordan cuts me off, “I’m being so rude man. You want some taquitos? I’m gonna microwave some real quick before we start. Can’t think on on empty stomach.” He laughs heartily at his own joke. I decline. Jordan wanders off, and I hear beeping sounds through the hallway. When he returns, he wipes his hands on his shirt.
“Alright, let’s do this.”
I begin, “Okay, so let’s talk about this year’s election. Trump versus Hillary. Who are you casting your vote for?”
Jordan doesn’t pause.
“Neither one, man. That’s what they want you to do.”
I question again, “Yes, but who are they?”
Jordan takes a deep breath and begins, “Like, what we see in office man, it’s not real. All of politics is just run by money now. That’s what Citizens Union was all about. The Supreme Court said that money was all you needed to win, so that’s why we’ve got what we have. So if you’re voting, you’re wasting your time. It’s all the Couch Brothers and…”
I cut off Jordan, “So, you’re against money in politics. Why wouldn’t you just vote for Hillary Clinton then? She’s pledged to appoint Supreme Court Justices that are likely to overturn Citizens United.”
Jordan cuts in, “But that’s not the point. Look at Bernie Sanders. They were afraid of Bernie, because he was going to really change things. That’s why all the Democrats made sure he didn’t win. I mean, look at the pictures of those big crowds he had. You can’t tell me those big crowds didn’t happen.”
I replied, “Sure Jordan. Those crowds were huge, in liberal places like Oregon, which are overwhelmingly white. But in Southern states, Bernie didn’t have much support. I mean, he lost fairly.”
Jordan cuts in again,“That’s what they want you to think. Look at those Wikipedia emails man. They didn’t want Bernie to win.” I cut off Jordan again, “Yes, I agree. The DNC leaked emails shows that the DNC knew all along Bernie couldn’t win, but they didn’t really like how he was rallying so many young voters around him. The DNC was worried that he might get too strong, and later detract from Hillary’s campaign, which he has done.”
“Yeah, I wanted Bernie. I wanted someone who saw my views. That’s why I switched, and I like Jill Stein or Gary Johnson. I am probably going to vote for Johnson because he’s trying to legalize weed. I mean, name another politician who wants to legalize drugs man. Gary Johnson is third party. It’s the two party system. That’s what I’m trying to break.”
I corrected Jordan, “You do realize that Bernie Sanders, an independent Democratic Socialist, and Gary Johnson, a Libertarian, are literally on opposite ends of the political spectrum, right? Bernie wants more government, Johnson wants less. Bernie wants single-payer healthcare, Johnson wants a 100% free market healthcare system. I could go on but there are some huge differences in their platform. It seems you just want to be contrarian.”
Jordan pauses, “Here’s the thing…” A loud DING comes from the other room. “Hold on bro, my taquitos are ready.” As Jordan leaves, I pause to look around the room. It’s dirty. He lives like a bear with furniture, soiled laundry everywhere, mail scattered about. There are two hunting magazines, and in the corner on a poorly assembled Ikea desk sits a laptop, two yellow Rokit stereo monitors, and a MIDI controller. I wander over to take a look at his equipment.
When Jordan returns, I’m pressing keys on his MIDI controller. “Checking out my studio, huh? Hard to believe I’m making bangers on this setup, but it’s all about upgrading your gear. Like, right now, I’m doing mostly just dubstep and trap remixes, but it’s got a trance sound too. You just dial up the compression on your lows, make the bass really fat, and boom. People love that shit man. Like, some people are gifted at baseball or basketball or whatever. My gift is music. That’s why I had to drop out of college.”
Jordan dips a soft, damp taquito into a blue plastic bowl filled with ranch dressing. “Hard to believe a box of 40 is only $9.99. You can eat for a whole week on these. Hashtag lifehack, am I right?!” Jordan shrieks, and some ranch flies out of his mouth. He finds himself to be a laugh riot.
I try to get back on track with Jordan, “So you were saying you want to break up the two party system. Why not try a smaller office first, like Congress? You know, so they could be part of writing new bills and legislation, and just see if people support those ideas on a smaller level.”
“See, here’s the thing Shane. When a President is passing new laws, they’re not listening to Congress. See how you always see Congress is stuck on CNN and shit? Only the President can just say, ‘Alright, since you can’t agree, this is the law now.’ That’s how Obamacare happened, you know? That’s why so many people are trying to overturn it. No one wanted it.” Jordan pauses to suck his vape. He breathes our a stream of steam, and continues. “Like, we have big problems like global warming and student loans, and look at these stupid laws we’re passing that waste our time.”
I cut off Jordan again, “Okay, let’s get back on track here. So, the Supreme Court could potentially change laws that impact women’s healthcare. Wouldn’t you want Hillary Clinton appointing justices that have women in mind?”
Jordan diverts again, “I’m not an expert on women or anything. But Gary Johnson said all these things should be state matters. Like, why should the government make these decisions when it’s a state issue?”
I replied, “Well, Jordan, if women only lived in certain states, that might make sense, but since women live in literally every U.S. state, it’s important that the federal government create laws protecting reproductive rights.”
Jordan retorts, “Yeah, but birth control isn’t my problem. Why should I care about birth control? Women can buy it if they need it. If they don’t need it, they won’t take it. I’m not a woman. Personal responsibility is what I believe in.”
I paused, trying to help Jordan, “But Gary Johnson’s system might create states that allow abortion, and other states that don’t. The problem is, it creates a dangerous situation. Women will get abortions whether or not they’re legal, just as they did before. It might just put their life in danger, not having regulated facilities. That’s why some government, and some regulation, is good. It protects us.”
Jordan replies back, “I don’t think you understand what Gary Johnson is all about. It’s about Libertarian ideas. You know, being yourself and not messing with anyone else. That’s something I agree with. Like, I work hard, and I want to keep my money you know? Why is that a controversy? Why should I have to pay for some girl to be on birth control if I never met her? I mean, if we’re dating I might pitch in half so I can hit it raw, but other than that I’m not paying!” He laughs heartily again at his own joke. “Man, you get it because you can only hit it raw if she’s on the pill. Come on man, you can laugh that’s some funny shit right there.” More ranch flies from his mouth.
I try to re-align, again. “Okay. Jordan. Let’s talk about Trump. What is your opinion of him?”
Jordan takes another puff on his vape.
“You know, some of what he’s saying makes sense. Like, I get why he’s attacking the mainstream media. They’re only telling one side of the story. I mean, when you hear about him, you’re only hearing negatives. But I used to watch his show The Apprentice and you can tell from the show he’s a good business dude, and I get why people would vote for a guy who just tells it like it is. Politicians are bullshit, man. People want someone who isn’t a politician. They want a dude who knows business.”
I retort, “But don’t you think it’s important for a politician to have some background? Also, aren’t you disturbed by his views on women, his racist remarks, his anti-Muslim stances, and all that?”
Jordan gets up, and walks over to his desk, opening his laptop. “Here, let me show you something.” He opens up a Chrome tab, and searches ‘Paris attacks’. “See dude. This is what he’s trying to stop. I don’t want crazy Muslim guys doing that here. Like, I know some Muslim people, and they’re pretty cool or whatever, but lots of Muslims are like that. Trump is just telling it how it really is. Like, I’m not saying I’m voting for him, but he’s not politically correct and that’s why the mainstream media attacks him. Are you denying the Paris attacks happened?”
I smirk. “No, I’m not denying the Paris attacks. I’m not denying terrorism exists, but you’re more likely to die from random gun viole-” Jordan cuts me off, “Oh, like, you think guns are a problem too? See, Gary Johnson isn’t trying to take away my guns. Neither is Trump. But Hillary is. I believe in personal responsibility. If you are safe, you should have one. Only criminals commit gun crimes. Why not just focus on them?”
Once again, I try to align Jordan, “That’s a fallacy though. Politicians are just looking to create reasonable controls, like closing the gun show loophole, getting more comprehensive about background checks, and limiting the size of a magazine, so mass shootings are harder to pull off.”
He replies again, hitting his vape, “That’s the thing man. Politicians are a slippery slope. As soon as they get one control, they’ll ask for another. Pretty soon, they’ll come and take your guns like they did in France.”
I question, “Where? France?” Jordan hit his vape again, “They had a gun program where they came and took your guns. I read about it on Facebook.” (I looked this up later. I can’t find an instance of this ever happening.)
Trying to wrap things up, I decided I should just ask Jordan what he thought would fix American politics.
“The whole system is broken.” He dipped another taquito in his ranch bowl. “We don’t need another election. We need a revolution. I heard that on a podcast. The only way we fix this mess is getting rid of everyone and starting over. No corruption. No more Monsanto. No more government controlling all the oil. No more GMO foods. Just like, take it all back to how it was in the 1800s. Make things simple again. I just don’t think we’ll last another 25 years with corruption like this.”
I was about to wrap it up, but he added, “Oh and these wars man. Total bullshit. Like, I’m ready for an electric car and all that. I don’t need any oil from Syria. I don’t know why we’re starting a war there anyway. Like, didn’t we learn in Iraq and Afghanistan that we can’t win wars against radical Muslims? I’m over it. Just like, stop bombing for oil, you know?”
I was going to correct him on Syria, but he informed me that he needed to get ready for a big Call of Duty tournament.
“Dude, send me this article when you’re done. I wanna post this shit on Facebook. Like, people need to hear the truth man. They need to know it’s all bullshit and this election won’t change anything.”
Will do, Jordan. Will do.