Talking politics on your blog or in your books – is it taboo?

Morgan Mandel posed an interesting question in her post on Acme Authors Link today:

Because of the primary election, my thoughts turned to politics and the role they play with authors and bloggers. I purposely avoid speaking of politics on my blogs. I don’t like to force my opinion on others or alienate people of opposite tastes. I only include politics in a very general sense in my novels. 
What about you? I’m not asking you to tell us your political opinions here. I just want to know your ideas about sharing political views.

Great question, Morgan! As I began to comment, I realized I had so much to say that I’d better post it here rather than cluttering up Morgan’s blog with an endless essay. So here goes . . .

I’ve never consciously considered whether or not to address politics on my blogs or in my fiction. Yes, I try to avoid offending people, but only in certain respects:

  • I never, ever knowingly insult or criticize people in my blogs or my novels, with the occasional exception of celebrities who are famous enough to be fair game. Online, I try to follow the old adage my mother taught me: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” In person, it’s another matter. I love dishing the dirt and badmouthing people – only when they deserve it, of course. 
  • With rare exceptions, I avoid using the standard four-letter words, because I know some people are truly offended by them. In my novels, people swear when it’s in character, but not to excess. Orally, again, it’s another matter. In fact, I was once almost banned from the YMCA for use of the F word. If you want to read a poem about it, it’s on the continuation page.
  • There are areas I find too offensive to write about. Excessive sex or violence, torture, child or animal abuse, defamation of minorities or the disabled . . .

I could go on, but when it comes to politics, I have no compunctions about sharing my opinions, whether people agree with me or not. So why don’t I write about politics? Simple – it practically never occurs to me. Politics is a frequent topic in my home, because my husband is executive director of a progressive advocacy organization who deals with political issues constantly. We live in New York State’s Capital Region, and politics here is about as dysfunctional and disgusting as it gets. When Stephen Colbert interviewed Elliott Spitzer last night, it made me long for the good old days before Elliott quit – that’s how bad it is! And I’m really sad that Obama isn’t turning out to be the inspiring leader we’d longed for, although I believe he has the smarts and the good judgment to redeem himself. He’d better hurry up, though, or it’ll be too late. That newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is entirely too charismatic and presidential-looking. Be afraid, Barack – be very, very afraid.

In short, politics is a downer, and it’s the last thing I want to think about when I’m at my computer. I won’t refuse to read other writers because of their political views, but I do admit to being turned off by people who use Facebook as a forum for ranting about their beliefs. If they do it too much, there’s a simple remedy – I hide them.

What about you? Do you share your political views in your blog or your books? As a reader, if someone’s political views offend you, do you boycott their writing as a result? I’d love to hear from you. And thanks again, Morgan, for the inspiration for this post.

As promised above, here’s “Anger Management,” my poem about using the F word at the Y – continue reading if you dare!

Anger Management

 

Kicked out of class! Not yet, but nearly,

for saying the F-word at the Y.

“I’ll see you after class,”

the teacher said, transporting me magically

back in time to seventh grade

when hormones started kicking in

and I wrote “Mrs. Joys can go to hell”

in ballpoint on the maple desk

and earned my first detention.

 

Wouldn’t you say “Fuck you” too?

Defenseless, crouching on the rubber matt,

my forearms picking up the sweaty germs

of those before me, under orders to love myself

while staring in unwanted close-up

at my haggard morning face with all its wrinkles

in the mirror of the aerobics room

while Celine Dion screeches

“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face?”

 

Wouldn’t you barf too? When your overweight ass

is waving in the air and the 90-pound instructor

sneaks up and orders you to bow still deeper?

“Fuck you!” The words slipped out like a sneeze.

One more time, she says, and I’ll be banned forever.

“If you can’t control yourself,

you’ll have to find another class.”

 

But can I control myself? This was the only class

I liked. Maybe I’m just too ancient and outspoken

to follow orders anymore. We’ll see. Anyway,

for now I’m playing hooky.

 

©2007 Julie Lomoe

Update: Three years later, I still go to this class. I haven’t said “fuck” again, and the instructor no longer plays Celine Dion.

15 thoughts on “Talking politics on your blog or in your books – is it taboo?

  1. Love the post and the poem, Julie. I would have said the same thing at the Y. I recently came across a piece I wrote about going to a gym and dealing with the perky little girl who was so sure I would have a wonderful time. I didn’t tell her to (#(#* off, but I came close. LOL

    Regarding the political issue. I think a good political discussion is great, as long as we stay on topic and not get into personal jabs and insults. I liked the fact that you expressed your dismay over Obama’s performance without calling him names. Too many people get into those “rants” and they are no longer discussions. They are personal attacks. Civil discourse is above that.

  2. I tend to keep my political and religious views to myself, but I don’t mind reading other people’s views that may differ from mine unless they are trying to cram their beliefs down my throat. In that case, I will avoid reading the blog or their books.

    By the way, I enjoyed the poem.

  3. Hi Julie,
    I’m flattered that I inspired you!
    Like I mentioned in my blog post today at http://acmeauthorslink.blogspot.com I don’t go out of my way to discuss politics there. Frankly, it riles up too many people, and that’s never been my intention for writing blog posts. Now, if one of my books were about politics, then that would be a different story. In that case, it would fit in with my brand. Right now, it doesn’t and I don’t want it to either.

    Morgan Mandel
    http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

    • Hi Morgan. Sorry I didn’t answer you sooner; for some reason your comments always seem to land in my “pending” or “spam” files. I don’t know why, because I know you’ve been here before. Please don’t take my neglect personally!

      I don’t mind riling people up, but like you, I don’t write books about politics, and I prefer not to think too much about them in real life either – except Albany politics, which are so bizarre as to be stranger than fiction.

  4. Julie, that poem was too funny.

    I chose not to deal much with political issues on my current blog, although I’ve often thought about starting a second blog devoted to removing all incumbents from their comfy little offices (yep, all of them).

  5. Love the poem. I DO talk politics on my blog. Rants, really. I didn’t used to, but there’s so much damn s**t goin’ down lately I actually changed the blog’s mission blurb to include an “occasional political/social/economic rant” or two, lol.

    So now it’s official. My readers know I have the right to speak my mind on my blog if I think something is f**ked up. And I get lots of hits and comments on those rant days, too. The silent majority is waking up, thank god, and I feel there is a change a-comin’ in this land.

    Great post. Thanks for the nudge reminder to visit here more often, Julie.

    The Old Silly

  6. Hi Maryann, Jane and Patricia. Thanks for checking in, and I’m glad you liked the poem. I’m due at the Y again this morning for another Nia class – yup, that’s what it was – but with a different instructor who’s less uptight about language. I promised to bring her a copy of the poem.

    Re: politics and blogging, there’s so much more to say. As you can probably tell from my post, I’m left of center, but not radically so. I admit I’m surprised when one of my online cronies admits to being to the right of center and/or espousing beliefs I don’t agree with.

    It’s actually really positive to have these kinds of exchanges, because it opens my eyes to the fact that people all along the political and religious spectrum can be smart, sensitive people. Sometimes I tend to forget that and indulge in stereotyping – especially because most of my in-person social life tends to revolve around my Unitarian Universalist congregation and other folks who think the way I do.

    So let’s keep the dialogue going!

  7. Morgan already got my comment on this topic, but I think you and I are on the same page.

    And I’d have muttered, “fuck you” too, under the circumstances. Glad you managed to “control yourself” so you could still attend the class you liked! LOL!

  8. I’ve piggy-backed off other bloggers, and like yourself I gave credit where credit was due.

    And I do use politics to a degree. In fact, my protagonist carries a few of my beliefs, although he is willing to blow people and things for the cause up while I am not.

    Stephen Tremp

  9. SNORK! I mean, the Celine Dion would have been absolutely the last straw!

    I also commented on Morgan’s blog, and as I said there, to some extent my politics are bound up with my overall view of the world, so it’s inevitable for me to bring them up at times. I try not to go too soap-boxy and in my fiction, I really want to avoid being didactic, because I find that pretty boring to read. But yeah, if you look for political content in my work, you’ll probably find some!

  10. Holly, Stephen, Lisa and Marvin, thanks for droppping by, and I’m glad to hear you do address politics in your writing.

    I gave a copy of this poem to my other Nia teacher, who loves it! The instructor I wrote about is actually excellent as well, but I somehow don’t think she’d appreciate the poem, so I haven’t shared it widely.

  11. Julie, I just blogged a book review this morning that addresses how I feel about politics in fiction. I think it’s a good thing if it’s done right, and I feel the same about blogging politics. We can’t see past the ends of our noses if others don’t speak out and share their thoughts. And it’s imperative we learn to see other viewpoints.

    I don’t do it much on my “official” blog, but I have a secondary blog where I’m well known for my social/political commentary and those posts get the most hits and the most discussion.

    I don’t get nasty. Well, like the F word, maybe just a tad here and there when I’m very riled, but not in general. There’s always a good way to have a discussion about any issue. I only avoid people who disagree with me if they are too rude about it, such as name calling. I won’t stand for that. Disagree, fine, but realize the person you disagree with has feelings, after all.

    If you’re interested in my review, it’s here:
    http://lkhunsaker.blogspot.com

  12. My Sports Blog gives my views, but through a fictional characters approach. Seems easier that way. It’s a little over the top at times. But, Hell if I told people exactly how I felt about religion, ( I think Christ was a socialist–he cured the sick, and asked for no money in return), my site would be clogged with some very harsh comments, for sure, probably more than I could handle. But I follow the advise of Tony Pierce, ‘How to Blog 110.’ Pretty much no-holds-barred approach. You’ll eventually find a following. Speak from the heart, and just keep writing.

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