It is a common refrain that the internet and social media have created an outrage cycle trafficking in fake self-righteousness and click-bait. People don’t want to consider the context or any redeeming factors in a world of 140 characters. This view isn’t entirely true–or at least it’s not the whole picture.

What has really happened is that social media has dumbed down our discourse across the board. Outrage is just one result of a dumbed-down discourse. Another problem is that simplistic and shallow populist language, meant to appeal to the lowest common denominator, is encouraged. Politicians are taking note and changing their language for easy sharing.

After one of the 2012 presidential debates, the pro-Obama hashtag #BindersFullofWomen was trending. The Democrats official Twitter account even got into the act, tweeting an image of a binder filled with attacks on Mitt Romney. Big Bird also got memeified, and Barack Obama seemed to be addressing his language directly to Twitter when he said at the third debate, “We also have fewer horses and bayonets… …We have these things called aircraft carriers and planes land on them.”

There was little mention of the fact that Governor Romney filled half the top spots of his administration with women, whose resumes were found in the binders. Joking about the phrase was too funny to resist, and for Democrats, a cheap strategy to spread their message about Romney viral to win reelection.

Politics may be war, but sometimes it seems like a war on American democracy when craven politicians pursue their own interests at the expense of honest debate.

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