Politics as a Hobby

Gotta say, I resemble this article. It’s really making me think this morning:

[C]ollege-educated people, especially whites, do politics as hobbyists because they can. On the political left, they may say they fear President Donald Trump. They may lament polarization. But they are pretty comfortable with the status quo. They don’t have the same concrete needs as Querys’s community in Haverhill. Nor do they feel a sense of obligation, of “linked fate,” to people who have concrete needs such that they are willing to be their allies. They might front as allies on social media, but very few white liberals are actively engaging in face-to-face political organizations, committing their time to fighting for racial equality or any other issue they say they care about.

Instead, they are scrolling through their news feeds, keeping up on all the dramatic turns in Washington that satiate their need for an emotional connection to politics but that help them not at all learn how to be good citizens. They can recite the ins and outs of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation or fondly recall old 24-hour scandals such as Sharpiegate, but they haven’t the faintest idea how to push for what they care about in their own communities.

If you think the status quo in politics isn’t great, then the time wasted on political hobbyism is pretty tragic. But political hobbyism is worse than just a waste of time. As I argue in my new book, Politics Is for Power , our collective treatment of politics as a sport incentivizes politicians to behave badly. We reward them with attention and money for any red meat they throw at us. Hobbyism also cultivates skills and attitudes that are counterproductive to building power. Rather than practicing patience and empathy like Querys needs to do to win over supporters in Haverhill, hobbyists cultivate outrage and seek instant gratification.

I think this is definitely true, although I don’t think that it’s only the college educated whites who are the problem.

Part of what the far right in right wing radio, and fox news has done is made this “hobbyism” accessible for idiots. We see this in it’s final form, in the manifestation of Trump. He took this political punditry which most folks used to just ignore, and made it into an even more gratuitous thing of spectacle.

Politics in America (and seemingly in other parts of the western world) has become a partisan game or sport.

I disagree with the spirit of this article. It’s perfectly fine to have “politics as a hobby”. There is no reason to feel guilty about not being involved in activism. Nobody should feel guilty for enjoying any kind of harmless hobby or interest.

I don’t know. It feels to me kind of like the equivalent of waving a flag as a stand-in for patriotism. It’s not bad to want to be informed and to enjoy the thrust and riposte of political discussion. But without activism, it’s just entertainment. And, as the article points out, it creates bad incentives for politicians while simultaneously reifying the political climate of social media: toxic and wholly unrepresentative of real-life interaction. It also gives me the good feeling of thinking I’m contributing simply by being informed, even though my inactivity is actually reinforcing the status quo.

Only, you know, politics ain’t harmless.

Staying informed being a political hobbyist allows you to have the right words at the right time in hundreds of unplanned moments where you can swing opinions, or give someone else a different point of view, and start the gears turning. That’s activism on a minor scale, but add it up and you’ve made a difference.

At work, someone glibly says “I like to sunbathe, winters suck, bring on global warming!” And I say, “yes, hasten the demise of the world for a nice tan!” in earshot of six other employees, who might now think just a little more about climate change.

Wait is this why I have no friends

So I guess knowledge really isn’t power.

Again, I disagree. For those who follow politics mainly for entertainment. That is perfectly fine too. Time enjoyed is never wasted. Who am I to criticize someone elses form of enjoyment?
I don’t begrudge anyone who follow politics for entertainment.

For some others, there is value in considering society and your place within it. Greater awareness of social structures, knowledge of different views and perspectives, perhaps even increased empathy with those who think differently. The practice of processing information, thinking analytically, even increased ability in debate skills outside politics (such as the workplace).

An interest in politics is perfectly harmless.

The simple act of being informed is hazardous to one’s mental health at this point, I’m not remotely interested in criticizing people for “only” being informed.

This article is one long case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. The left has a real problem with that lately, and the right is absolutely thrilled to use it as a weapon.

Being somewhat informed and feeling politically engaged but with nothing personally at stake, is a great way to end up as a group-thinking polarized voter.

Every citizen should be politically engaged and thoughtful to some degree… that’s the price of living in a democracy. (At least, the easier of two possible prices.)

I would prefer to be less politically engaged than I am right now. But the times suck and the planet is on fire, so…

How many citizens follow the nation politics, but don’t pay attention to the local or state house though?

Those are positions that can make some real changes in life.

Well sure, you should do both, though national politics is sexier.

Part of the reason I am more interested in national politics at the moment is that I live in California and Los Angeles and quite honestly the local/state governments seem to fall into the “doing pretty OK, warts and all” category, whereas the national government is a flaming dumpster fire.

Unless you’re a politician, isn’t all politics a hobby?

Politics as sports though, that shit is harmful.

My opinion is that politics as a hobby isn’t the problem. It’s good that people would want to keep informed of political happenings even though they don’t want to actually participate in it in either way.

The problem has nothing to do with politics and is the issue for every category of information right now. That’s

  1. People don’t have media literacy to understand who/what information they can trust
  2. There is so much information floating around that it’s impossible for those even with media literacy skills to fact check all the information being thrown at them, and thus pick and choose which headlines they research into (and yet due to human nature the headlines are not easily discarded).
  3. People isolate their opinions to social echo chambers that are easily manipulated by those who know the power of information and how to take advantage of the lack of media literacy.
  4. The truth always contains a ton of nuance and it’s really hard to have constructive debates with people who carefully pick and choose pieces of information to back up their arguments. It’s also really really easy to google for tiny bits of information that out of context can back up your argument (even though it falls through in the larger context).

When your only source of information are your local community and newspapers it’s a lot easier to practice good media literacy and take time to think about the arguments. I’ve even found myself being very choosy on which articles I read headlines on and which I delve into because I just don’t have the time to really deep dive into a lot.

It’s not just politics, but I see a lot of arguments due to this in the technology sector because nuance takes time to understand and black/white arguments are easier to argue.

I don’t know what the solution is but it definitely is not just related to politics. Politics just may have the largest third party effects of it.

I think this guy is scratching around the edges of something, but gussying it up by pushing peoples’ buttons – educated versus less educated, white verus black, etc.

Lots of people of all races, social classes and genders are uninvolved in politics. So why is he picking on people who are somewhat more involved, but not up to his standards? Is his hidden thesis that he prefers apathy to limited involvement?

His main point dovetails with communitarian criticism from across the political spectrum. People are less likely to join organizations of any kind, less focused on community. There are many reasons for that. First, Americans became more physically mobile, with the car doing a lot of damage to community. Then employment became less stable, so more people had to move. Now digital has taken that to a whole new level. But that’s the story of human history. Technology changes the way people live and behave, for better or worse. Conservatives (and not just political conservatives) spend an awful lot of time bellyaching about this. And in the political arena, this can corral some votes… but it does not really slow down the changes.

And the writer ducks probably the main cause of spectator politics. (And once again, this was triggered by new technology.) Today’s politics is driven almost entirely by fear and loathing of the other side. It is vastly, vastly more difficult today to put together a coalition of people for disparate goals than it is to unite a coalition against bogeymen. (Junior members of a coalition are better able to discern that they are getting cheated. And it is now easy to find, document, and publicize beyond-the-pale stuff every day, given the pool of 50+ million people on the other side, and both sides of the partisan divide lap that stuff up.)

But as to this writer’s point, I think a lot of people feel they are participating in politics by posting, forwarding, and retweeting material. And I am not sure they are wrong. They may well be reaching as many people as a pamphleteer or small town newspaper was reaching 200 years ago.

It’s not just elitism it’s a complete dismissal to the very idea that voting matters. I mean seriously, educating yourself, drawing in information and voting already makes someone more active than a heck of a lot of people in this country. Activism is not the only way to participate nor is it always successful without participation from others.

Ouch, this article hit too close to home. When I first moved here, I did a lot of volunteer work for a liberal Republicans running for governor and a local assembly women, along with McCain 2000 campaign.

Twenty years latter, I know a lot more people, have a lot more understanding of local issues and yet do a lot less volunteering. Hawaii is small enough that I still do attend a few city council meetings, or the local legislator discussion, but no where near as much time as spend discussing stuff on P&R or consuming political news on CNN, or the internet.

I knew it wasn’t particularly productive, but damn I didn’t think it might hurt, ugh.

I read something on twitter that said something like this:

What is the line that has to be crossed for you to personally get involved and is it possible that line has already been crossed? If not, what would have to happen for you to get involved?

This has been gnawing at me because I am in a blue state (Oregon) and while I have sent several $100 checks to various challengers in far flung states, my involvement is very small. Outside of one year where I volunteered for door knocking for Gore, and which was largely unsatisfying for me (they assigned me to my rural area which involved tons of driving to people’s houses who really didn’t want to talk), I haven’t done anything active.

Locally, I’m more pissed off at the Democrats right now, so any volunteering at the local level would likely be in direct competition to them, and my 2yr stint as a library board member soured me on local small town politics forever.

The article wants to blame me for the ills of what is going on and thinks I should be more active? I have a hard time swallowing any of that blame game.

The ultimate Politics as a Hobby dude? Hunter S. Thompson. If you haven’t read Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, you are missing out.