The Duality of Political Writing
Updated: Feb 1
Online political argumentation is a funny thing. With the obvious exception of artificially generated articles and the occasional satirical piece, most works of a political note share one curious correlation, a correlation not found between works based in other topics of interest.
Each article tends to possess a doppelganger article of sorts.
If you have a piece speaking as to why a given politician's new policy will ruin the country, you will likely have another addressing how said policy will save us. Likewise, for every article stating the opinion that marijuana is unhealthy and evil, you will likely have quite a few proclaiming that marijuana is a medicine and a miracle plant.
Some will argue that this sort of literary banter is propaganda, others might claim that it is misinformation. I find that it is a combination of the two. Political issues and perspectives are so diverse across the globe that most issues do not tend to have a definitive "right or wrong" answer.
In addition, the modern dissemination of information has become incredibly simple to facilitate. As such, any information published online can be faced by a multitude of contradictory perspectives within a few days.
The question as to whether any given perspective is morally correct seems to be subjective. However, the "fact of the matter" is that each perspective is driven by individuals who interpret events in a certain way in order to convey a particular message.
This is exactly where the duality of writing, and specifically political writing comes into play, as perceptions are molded by the impressions of the author.
Perception is Reality
During my time in the Marine Corps, one of the most irritating statements I would hear was "perception is reality." This clichéd phrasing was oftentimes used as a means by which to berate a younger marine for doing something that went against regulation, or perhaps as a response to their moronic behavior.( be that lighting each other on fire with isopropyl alcohol or running head first into a metal storage door).
As this was the Marine Corps, I heard this nearly every day. The message behind the statement was that how you present yourself is how people will see you. regardless of your intentions.
If you do not care for the opinions of others this is relatively unimportant, however, if you are writing or speaking with the intent to change or attack these opinions, this concept becomes a staple around which one can base their writing.
Molding the perception of an issue twists the reality of said issue in the mind of the reader.
For example, let us address the national debate around gun control. This is an extremely divisive, and in more recent years, actively protested topic. Something as simple and sure-fire (pun-intended) as a statistic commenting on the number of gun-related fatalities a year seems like something that could only be used on one side of the gun control debate.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the NCH (National Center for Health Statistics) over 45,222 people died in 2021 as result of a firearm misusage.
Now, this figure could be paired with the statistic that gun death has overtaken auto accidents as the leading cause of deaths in adolescents and you would have a very solid stance for gun control. (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2201761)
I would imagine nearly everyone can agree that the death of an innocent, especially that of a child, should be avoided in any way possible. Those who support gun control certainly believe this to be true, and have in fact used this very statistic in support of their arguments.
Conversely, those who are strong opponents to gun control could point to the statistic that nearly 4,000 children under the age of 15 die due to "unintentional injury" a year, or that auto deaths have been the main cause of death for children for the decades despite the hundreds of laws
enacted to protect the well-being of children in any sort of dangerous activity. Even furtherer it could be written that firearm related injuries have gone up with the increased gun control policy of the last 5 years.
Correlation is not causality but when it comes to swaying a readers opinion this type of statistic is persuasive to some.
Perhaps the argument would then be made that all these laws haven't hindered an increase in child fatalities and they certainly wouldn't help with gun-related deaths either. Second Amendment arguments aside, this is another statistic I have seen used to defend against gun control.
If one desired to take this argument even further they could simply "pull the rug out from under" both of these perspectives by forming another based on the fact that of the 45,222 gun related deaths over half of them (54 percent) are suicide.
From this statistic one could ask the questions: "If guns are for protection, how come most deaths are not attributed to self-defense? Does a gun make suicide easier? Who are you defending yourself from if the statistics show you that you are your own worst enemy?"
However, one could also explain that the "issue" is not the guns, or even the ease of access to them. Rather, the mental health of the gun owner should be taken into account.
All of these are valid perceptions that could lead a reader down an entirely different path of opinion.
This is just one statistic, one angle of thought on an issue I spent only a few sentences explaining, yet we can already see the web of complexity that could form. Following this, we begin to understand the level of debate (based on personal experience and knowledge) that could be generated by this.
As a political or philosophical writer one must be aware of these nuances, and the importance of perspective. This control (or rather, lack of control) of duality in writing is what allows for such a diverse mix of articles and opinions.
It is the writer's/speaker's ability to either satisfy both sides, or at the very least understand that a single fact can be interpreted more than a single way, that allows them to write from many perspectives and maintain their personal beliefs at the same time.
In the estimation of this author, this duality is not constrained to the political, but can be perceived across all aspects of human interaction.
As an example of this, how would you interpret the 45,222 gun deaths in 2020? What perspective would you support? Is using this duality as a writer just hypocrisy with extra steps? I'd love to hear your opinions below.