I don’t often post or comment on politics, but I couldn’t help but note the events transpiring around Chick-Fil-A.
Yes, it is a public relations nightmare. And, if I learned anything in my years as a “communications professional,” I recognize that the company’s recent online missteps will have someone’s head on a platter.
It was bad form and shortsighted to have a fake identity respond to a comment. Not shockingly, this company’s representative underestimated the public’s knowledge and resourcefulness.
Anyone who studies social behavioral patterns, especially online, would have anticipated - warned - the company that the loudest and most obnoxious voices participate in this virtual space; reasons for which span from diassociation, anonymity, etc. So, PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
However, the underlying importance of the Chick-Fil-A fiasco can be reviewed in two paradoxes:
— First, the structure of a democracy allows for and celebrates the existence of multiple perspectives, stances. In this context, we find those who support the LGBT community and those who don’t. However, no matter your team, what a “civil” society must remember is that these two are allowed to co-exist.
Therefore, as much as I am a supporter of the LGBT community, I cannot ignorantly cast a stone against Chick-Fil-A. Do I agree with them? No. Do I find it necessary to spread equally hateful commentary about a company that by democratic terms has the equal right to stand by their conviction? No.
Democracy functions to serve the needs of the collective. And, as history indicates, these needs are often served when one group collectively voices their opion…the loudest; which leads me to my next point.
— Second, the hopefullness of the Internet to serve as a new public sphere, the conduit to a better democracy, an equalizer is quixotic. Instead, “the problem therefore seems to be that opinions are exponentially available in cyberspace, yet their massive presence reduces their significance . .participants in computer-mediated discussions are more ready to talk than they are to listen” (Pinter and Oblak, 2003).
More concerningly, we are an over-informed generation pummled by feeds, newcasts, opinions, emails, data, charts etc. We find ourselves avoiding potentially disruptive interactions in fear of being inundated with more information; or, worse publically exposed as having a stance. In a way, the pendulum has many swinging towards an online hermitness found in private networks, curated lists and closed invite-only statuses. This overwhelming publicity has so many retreating; and as a result we have become timid and disengaged -two fatal blows towards democratic success.
So, what we have are incredibly informed folks who remain silent - in both action and speech - and a society whose inevitable success depends on the participation of this group.
Instead, we have extreme factions that exercise neither civility nor informed thought dictating which way this country moves.
The question then is how to remind those - the level-headed, centered, informed, sympathetic, timid, apathetic, etc., - citizens to engage in the debate and to take a stand?