As the 2016 presidential primary season plows ahead full force with televised debates and 24/7 news coverage, people who love talking politics will surely want in on the online debate.
Facebook political groups are becoming an ever greater presence in the national discourse, especially among millennials who virtually live on social media. Political groups come in all sizes and temperaments, and bare-knuckle verbal slugfests or highly partisan hater groups are easy to find. But if you prefer a dose of civility and intelligence in your political banter, here are five Facebook debate groups worth checking out:
If you’re looking for informed, spirited debate that pulls no punches, this small, private group (1,000 members) offers topical threads with a decidedly high-level of intellect and energy. Open Fire’s goal is to “create a non-partisan forum for intelligent discourse,” reflected in a set of guidelines (not rules) that are meant to foster a higher level of dialogue. The group’s admins encourage members to share their own original thoughts over regurgitated photo memes, and all dubious “facts” need to be supported by a valid source. (Full disclosure: this writer is one of the admins.) The moderators will quickly remove vulgar language and glib labels like “libtards,” “Repugantcans” and “Tea Baggers,” and members who repeatedly violate the guidelines are shown the door.
What also separates Open Fire from larger groups is its intimacy; you’ll soon feel like you’re getting to know the more frequent posters. Many “O.F.” members actually know each other in the real world through their careers (several come from the entertainment industry) or are long-standing Facebook friends, which makes for more affable disagreements. Yet while the language stays above the waist and the tone is mostly collegial, the longer threads can turn decidedly combative. And members who try to pass off partisan talking points as facts should be ready for some serious blowback. But most Open Fire threads reflect a fairly articulate and witty community, and you might actually come away having learned a thing or two.
Cheesy as the name may sound, it’s true – this group of 2,800 members offers news and politics without the vitriol of most Facebook threads. Its administrators describe the page as a place for “respectful exchanges between interested independent, progressive and liberal Facebook Friends.” They take that charter seriously with a detailed list of do’s and don’ts that their well-informed members mostly follow. Yes, it’s predominantly left-leaning, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find serious debates and some spirited cross-talk. It’s sort of like “Morning Joe” without the overbearing hosts.
If your idea of political discourse is pithy memes, this larger group of over 4,250 members may be the place for you. The bi-partisans at The Exchange claims theirs “is a discussion and debate group for anything political or academic, as well as our great tradition of sometimes doing neither.” Most of the original posts here are memes – those supposedly witty graphics that have quotes or stats listed over some largely irrelevant photo – which can make for an easy scan of the day’s topics and are often good for a few chuckles. If you like your current events in bite-sized quotes from Richard Belzer or satiric faux National Geographic covers, you’ll find an endless stream here. But the Partisan Exchange is also a place for unfiltered and often unrefined exchanges of opinion, and almost every point of view seems to be represented. The group’s Golden Rule: the administrators may not delete any posts or comments made by a member. So if you want a place to say whatever is on your mind without fear of censorship or blowback, this may be the group for you.
Modern Money Planning Committee
Though the formerly named “Deficit Owls” (835 members) have a more specific charter – discussing economics and Modern Monetary Theory – their threads are among the best political discussions you’ll find anywhere. Peppered with real experts and post-graduate degrees, the 780 members are not afraid to write a short thesis on why deficit reduction harms the economy while targeted stimulus debt does not. If you enjoy reading Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman, you’ll love hanging out with this gang. It’s like taking a graduate level econ course with no final exams. Beware: repeat visits will cause your IQ to go up.
The Truth the Mainstream Media Ignores
This massive group of 21,800 members doesn’t just talk politics. They post and discussion links on a wide range of topics, from science to religion to GMOs and more. The common denominator is the quest for knowledge and truth. Cynicism is plentiful in their discussions, but the members are intelligent and informed. On the downside, the threads are surprisingly short (especially for a group this large) and many posts get no comments at all. So a day on this page can become more informational than interactive. But if you like reading news you’re not likely to find in traditional news sources, this could be the place for you.
These are some other groups worthy of consideration:
- Republicans, Libertarians, Democrats, Political Debate Arena
- Politics Time
- Conservative America
- Political Junkies
- Politics Does Not End On Election Day
Regardless of which debate group you join, give yourself time to get the lay of the land before shooting off a lot of pointed, half-baked opinions. Debate groups tend to be unforgiving of people who don’t know basic facts and spout FOX News or Media Matters partisan talking points. But if you think you have the makings of the next Rush or Rachel, a Facebook political group may be your place to show your stuff.