Considering Coca-Cola

When first watching Coca-Cola’s “America the Beautiful” ad, I didn’t think much of it.  It was a lot more interesting than most of the Super Bowl commercials, although the people around me still barely noticed it.  I thought maybe Coke purposefully didn’t use the National Anthem because of the politics surrounding the Star-Spangled Banner in another language. So, I hoped “America the Beautiful” was a compromise. But, others did not agree.

Immediately Social Media split into two camps: those who hated the ad and those who were appalled by those who hated the ad. Monday morning, an outspoken ad-hater was Glenn Beck.

“Why did you need that to divide us politically? Because that’s all this ad is… That’s all this is: to divide people,” Beck said on his  Right Wing Watch radio show.

Let me start by saying that, before this experiment, I would not have listened to Glenn Beck’s radio clip. I would not have considered his points, and I would not have bothered to research his position. And with that, let me begin.

The goal of this exercise is to consider positions I would not typically agree with and look for what may be right with them. And I have to say (ouch, this hurts), I kind of get Beck’s point. This ad is political. This isn’t a comment on whether it should or should not be political, but at a time when immigration and same-sex marriage are at the forefront of political debates, this ad is political.

Further on in his radio show, Beck claimed that all of the leaders of European nations have denounced multiculturalism and said it is harmful to their societies. I looked it up and he is at least partially right (wince, I think I’m developing a twitch). Political leaders in the UK, Germany, and France have denounced multiculturalism as harmful  and divisive to their countries.

So there may be a good conversation about the merits of multiculturalism here, but does that warrant the “Speak English” hashtag and a boycott of Coke products?

Jose Antonio Vargas surely doesn’t think so. He wrote an article on Buzzfeed titled, “Why Coke’s Super Bowl Ad Matters So Much.”  In it, he explains that this was the first time he, a gay, undocumented, Filipino immigrant, could identify with a Super Bowl ad. “In all the years I’ve been watching Super Bowl commercials, I cannot recall seeing a minute-long, multicultural, multilingual ad as expansive and sweeping a statement about diversity and inclusiveness in our demographically-changing country .”

And he would be right. This was the first Super Bowl ad to feature a gay couple.

The fact of the matter is the Coca-Cola commercial showed America as we are right now. We are diverse, we speak different languages and we recognize different sexual orientations. Creating outrage based on a current portrait of America offended those who make up that portrait.

So Glenn Beck thinks we should follow the advice of the Europeans and fight multiculturalism. Vargas believes we should fully embrace diversity. The middle would probably merge those ideas: diversity is good, but a national identity should be preserved.

Writing this first heated post was difficult. I am typically very pro-diversity and find such outrage about a soda commercial appalling. After this exercise, I at least understand the other side of the argument. I don’t feel as if I lost who I am, but my blood pressure didn’t rise at all the insanity yesterday. I just tried to understand it and I would love to actually talk about multiculturalism in the country outside of Twitter hashtags and 4 million dollar commercials. Maybe we could talk about it over a nice Coke (or Pepsi, if that’s your thing).

Did you see the commercial? How did you feel about it? Were you offended or did you love the representation of diversity? Let me know!

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Considering Social Media

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I recently read an article titled 8 Things Your Brain Does Wrong Every Day. The article states that “we naturally gravitate towards things that we agree with or that reinforce our existing beliefs.” This is never more apparent than when using social media.

Everyday we friend, follow, and add people to our networks who we know will validate our ideas. Transversely, we hide and unfollow those who challenge those ideas.  Even which “news”  channel we watch – Fox or MSNBC? –  shows bias. We gravitate towards what we already agree with.

With that in mind, I decided to begin my impartiality experiment by purging my Twitter Feed and Facebook Timeline of bias. Mainly, this meant unfollowing liberal media outlets. Like most people, I use Twitter for most of my minute-to-minute news. Early yesterday I began unfollowing A LOT of my social network.

I said goodbye to Mother Jones, MSNBC, Rachell Maddow, DCCC, and other “liberal” groups. As I went along, determining whether groups were “liberal” or not became more difficult. Certain news outlets (Huffington Post, Buzzfeed) and journalists (Paul Krugman) were confusing. Biased or not? Other hard ones were Planned Parenthood and the Brady Campaign (A group pushing for stronger gun control legislation). These are nonprofits that liberals support, but does following them show a liberal bias? 

Simply unfollowing the questionable users seemed like the best answer, except for one problem: Purging people from my timeline was really hardI began to feel extremely guilty. By unfollowing “my network” am I revoking support and not being true to them and subsequently myself? I realized my political affiliations have become a huge part of who I am. Stupid as it sounds, I felt like I was denying a part of my identity by removing people I believed in from my newsfeed. 

This stressful response surprised me. I did not expect to care that much about the purge. This was a testament to how much I identify with my social media. The irony, of course, is that none of these people know I exist, let alone care whether I am following them or not.

After tearing of the band aid, I think I was able to remove all bias from Twitter. I kept most the news outlets, but removed the political pundits and columnists. I kept following both Republican and Democratic politicians, although I may decide to unfollow them later.

I forgot to check, but I would guess I unfollowed about 15-20% of my newsfeed. I used my new Twitter feed during the Super Bowl, and I didn’t seem to miss  anything – even caught Hilary Clinton’s Fox News zinger! Twitter honestly kind of seems less cluttered, but that could be my imagination.

I’ll update soon to talk about how I feel about my new unbiased Twitter feed.

Do you think purging Social Media of bias is a good idea? Would you ever do it? Let me know!

Considering Mitt

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The inspiring spark for this experiment and subsequent blog was the movie, Mitt. I’ll dive into that surprisingly emotional experience in a moment. First, some background.

For those who don’t know, Mitt is a documentary that follows Mitt Romney from the 2008 campaign to the 2012 elections. The filmmaker was given unprecedented access during intimate Romney family moments throughout both the 2008 and 2012 campaigns. The goal was to make this hard to relate to candidate relateable.

In 2012, I interned Obama headquarters from September until the election. I was fully immersed in the campaign during  the 47% video and all the debates. It was an exciting, emotional time in which I grew to deeply dislike this man, Mitt Romney.

Flash forward a year and a half later and I’m watching Mitt. Within minutes I found myself rooting for this guy I had worked to defeat in 2012. My change of role was unsettling. During the campaign the candidate was criticized for being clueless and out of touch, but he certainly didn’t come across that way in the hotel room with his wife. He, himself, thought President Obama and his administration were out of touch.

Then, the movie began to show some policy. It tried hard not to be political, but even so, I found myself sympathetic to Romney’s policies for the very first time. Even though I never really considered Romney a bad guy, I was suddenly realizing he may had even had some good ideas. And that concept was freaking me out.

I felt like watching some Daily Show just to remind myself why I was right and why it was  good that he didn’t win the election. No matter what I reminded myself about Binders Full of Women and 47%, I couldn’t get rid of a nagging thought: What if he was right… and Obama was right… what if neither of them were totally wrong?

This questioning led to more: What if we lived in a society where, after the election, President Obama appointed Romney as an economic adviser? Half the country voted for him. Is it really that crazy to have his ideas be part of the political discussion? And the answer is, for right now at least, yes, it is.

Have you watched Mitt? What did you think of it and/or the 2012 campaign in general?

Considering the Middle

I’ve started to notice a pattern emerging around me. This pattern is not just on the news and in capitol buildings, but in my neighborhoods and families. In looking for “truth” we have come to one conclusion: If I am right, then they are wrong.

Each of us spends so much time and energy arguing this point. We spend hours each day, watching the news and surfing the internet looking for people who validate our rightness. And in 2014 we can find them and easily isolate ourselves from those who do not agree with us. We refuse to entertain the thought that others, too, could be right.

Little do we consider that the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle. Sure, we know it in the philosophical sense, but we could never admit it. Doing so would allow for the possibility that we are wrong. But we are right. So they must be wrong. And nothing is discussed and nothing is accomplished and nothing is solved.

If we momentarily considered the middle, we may find some answers. Just because I’m right doesn’t mean you’re wrong. In each of our ideas is an element of truth. Finding that truth is increasingly difficult in the world of social media and 24 hour news. My goal is to see if that impartial, middle area is still there to be explored.

My questions are:

Can I have an informed opinion without disregarding either side of an argument?

Can I really be involved in social media, politics, and culture at large and remain somewhat impartial?

Can I have integrity if I don’t fight for one set of beliefs?

During the month of February I will consider these questions in as many contexts as I can: politics, pop culture, sports, etc. I will try to rid my social media of partiality. And I will spend as much time as possible considering the middle.

What questions and issues would you like to consider and discuss?