Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Internet memes are no substitute for discourse

Date: 5/22/2015

Sometimes I grieve that political debate in this country has been reduced to sharing a meme or two daily on Facebook.

Generally I don’t share them, and if I do I try to make sure they are actually accurate in the information they present. Now, I do have some conservative friends on Facebook and several of them regularly share memes.

In the past I would check the accuracy of memes that confounded me and write a response usually with a web link that would show the meme was simply propaganda and not fact. To my amazement, my friends and in-laws seldom appreciated my efforts to present a correct version of what they posted.

So I stopped this practice, Generally I look at what people post, but I seldom comment. I pay much more attention to cute animal videos.

Memes, like talk radio or blogs are generally appreciated the best by people who consume them in order to find support for their own preconceived ideas. Most people don’t want their set of beliefs challenged, especially by themselves.

So I just put up with the memes that call “liberals” all sorts of names. I’m assured that I’m not that sort of “liberal” so I shouldn’t take offense. I scroll past the memes about Hillary Clinton. I’m not a supporter of the former Secretary of State, but that doesn’t matter. I still have to see such things apparently in a vain effort to get me to change my mind about a candidate for which I already don’t care.

As much as I try to ignore these little digital dollops of opinion, one really stuck in my craw for its amazing ignorance. One of my friends posted a meme that stated colonists had more freedom under the British than we do today.

What utter tripe.

When I questioned him on it, my pal responded the Brits had no gun control.

Really. Gun control or the lack thereof sums up “freedom.”

Let’s consider, for a moment, life in colonial America. The colonists had no voice in the British Parliament to debate the need for taxation. Remember “no taxation without representation” from grade school?

If you were a woman, African-American or Native American, your “freedom” under colonial rule was limited to say the least, especially considering most African-Americans here were slaves, Native Americans were barely considered human and women had very few rights as individuals.

Did you know that in several colonies, you could not vote if you were a Jew, a Quaker or a Catholic? Even after the establishment of the republic, voting rights were often simply extended to white males who owned property. If you were someone who rented, you were out of luck.

Freedom of speech was also quite different. You could be prosecuted for criticizing the government or if your religious beliefs were not mainstream.

Recall why Rhode Island was founded? The Puritans, who came to this country for religious freedom, had no sense of that right for anyone else. Roger Williams, who questioned the theology of the establishment, was convicted of heresy and sedition and started Rhode Island to be a haven of religious freedom.

And what about gun control in British America? Professor Robert Spitzer writing for the Washington Post noted, “In 1619, the Virginia House of Burgesses passed a law making the transfer of guns to Native Americans punishable by death. Other laws across the colonies criminalized selling or giving firearms to slaves, indentured servants, Catholics, vagrants and those who refused to swear a loyalty oath to revolutionary forces. Guns could be confiscated or kept in central locations for the defense of the community. And in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the state and federal governments conducted several arms censuses.”

Believe what you want. That’s your right as an American, but what is your responsibility is to question, research and think about issues. Simply sharing something you’ve downloaded from a political website doesn’t substitute for real discourse.

Despite my concern for this meme my friend posted, I love the guy and will buy him a beer the next time I see him. After all, he gave me an easy topic for a column.

Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.