Sunday, April 29, 2012

Should Authors Talk Politics?

I dread presidential election years because everybody and their dog seems compelled to make their political views known. If we're talking about pundits and hard-core partisans, then those views often are abrasive and not all that well-thought-out. The tone of discourse in this country has gotten so combative that I find it exhausting and disheartening to turn on the TV or even look at my Facebook feed.

Which brings me to this blog post. The other night I made a rare, semi-political post, sharing that I'd like to see a certain comedian/political commentator moderate a presidential debate. I woke up in the morning to find two of my Facebook friends had made partisan comments to me/each other. I deleted the post for two reasons: first, I don't want to provide a forum for people to bicker and second, I'm not sure it's appropriate for me, as an author and somewhat-public-figure, to be talking politics at all.

I don't necessarily feel the need to hide or be dishonest about my political views. If you sift through the vast amount of content I've put on the 'web over the years you can probably get a general idea where I stand (though I don't fall neatly into any silo - I form opinions on a case-by-case basis and often stray from what you might expect of a [insert political label here]).  It's more that I'm not sure I need to advertise my affinities of affiliations or whatever you want to call them.

Here's why:

1. I'm busy and don't have a lot of time to discuss. I believe that putting something online is an invitation to engage on the topic. I work a day job, take care of children and write novels at night when they're in bed. When I get online, most of my time is spent engaging with readers, authors and other publishing colleagues about books, writing and, occasionally, celebrity gossip. (Yes, I belong to ONTD, and yes, I've been known to get into conversations about the Octomom, Josh Hutcherson and Demi Lovato. I know... I know.)

I don't generally talk politics online because I feel like I owe those who might engage with me a well-thought-out response. With as complicated as most issues are, I anticipate having to come up with several well-though-out responses. I don't drop snarky stinkbombs and then walk away. If I say something, I should be ready to stick around and defend it. And most of the time I just don't have the time or energy to get into discussions like that.

2. I'll be honest, I don't want to turn off potential readers. I certainly don't shun people with different political views, but--I'll be honest again--I've been disappointed in the past to learn that someone whose work I admired felt vastly different from me when it came to politics. I didn't stop reading or following them, but I did stop and go, "Hmmm..." Given the tone of today's politics, I can't be sure a reader wouldn't see my political views and go, "That's it, I'm done with her." I guess I'm concerned about turning off half of my prospective readership, since our country seems pretty well divided down the middle.

I know authors who don't seem to worry about this. I know some who feel a responsibility as public figures to speak out. Believe me, if I feel strongly enough about a topic, I will make my voice heard. I'm an anti-bullying advocate, and I've had a few things to say about the role of women in today's political climate. But I don't feel comfortable, say, using Facebook and Twitter to try and persuade people whom to vote for. I don't look down on people who do this, I just skim past their posts.

For myself, unless something makes me really, really angry, I'm going to try and be the political equivalent of Switzerland. If you do see me posting about politics, you'll know I'm well and truly riled up. 

Authors, readers, friends - do you talk openly about politics? Do you care about an author's political views? What are your plans for social media this election season? I'd love to hear from you!

2 comments:

  1. I feel really strongly about my politics-- probably as strongly as you do about bullying. I'm not a public figure by any means, but I do think that it's my responsibility to speak out on subjects I'm passionate about. It might turn off potential readers, sure, but to be honest they're probably not people who would have been reading my books, anyway. (This is assuming I had any published books for people to read, which I one day hope to but don't as yet.)

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  2. That's a good point, Katherine - certain people probably wouldn't be interested in our books anyway. I really admire my author friends who take a chance and are fearless about expressing their views.

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