To Discuss Politics or Not to Discuss Politics

That is the question, whether it’s nobler to keep your mouth shut than to risk fortune by venting. Okay, so we all have political opinions. That’s how political writers make their living. For other writers, the question isn’t neatly resolved. You can take a political stand, but at the risk of alienating half your market. On the other hand, if that half doesn’t read you and isn’t interested in what you write, you might gain readers you otherwise wouldn’t have.

With indie, this is different than the days when political opinions to the right of Joe Stalin could hamper your chance at publication. It still does, if you write science fiction or fantasy and aspire to win a certain award. Yet, invariable, expressing political opinions runs the risk of ticking off half your potential readers.

This isn’t to be confused with a simple statement of political alignment. Some readers care about such things, but most don’t, which is why this conservative has no problem reading the works of a certain self-avowed socialist, because he tells a rip-roaring good tale. But once we make a habit of giving political comments, it will tick some readers off. That’s a given.

That was on my mind when I thought about commenting on Democrat outcry at Trump’s firing of James Comey, even though they’ve heaped scorn on the FBI Director since before November. There’s something Orwellian there, though I wondered if I should blog about it. Simply pointing it out is bound to raise hackles, and cost readers. It then became an question of whether I wanted to take that risk. It’s very similar to keeping your political views secret lest it harm your career with traditional publishers (I once argued Ann Coulter as a counter example, but she’s a political commentator, and that’s different). At what point does refraining from political comments cease to become prudent and become an exercise in cowardice?

That’s not an easy question for a general blog like this. Where a blog is narrow in focus, say, on science, theology, history, or writing, injecting modern politics can be a non sequitur. It’s something that doesn’t really belong, so you don’t go there. You can go political, of course, but there’s a greater risk of alienating readers. Even a general political comment, such as the 180° turn by the Democrats on Comey, has that risk.

What, then, is the solution? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t even have an answer for myself, and I have gone political on occasion. What I can tell you is that while I generally don’t care about an author’s political comments, the moment that strays into demeaning readership, I’m gone. Such as one author I really liked who essentially said he didn’t want people who believed as I did as fans. I took him at his word and haven’t read him since. Yet there are those who are as equally put out simply by being the member of another party, or liking a politician they despise.

Honestly, I don’t particularly care what someone thinks of my opinion, but just because you aren’t ashamed of your opinions doesn’t mean it’s prudent to shout them at every opportunity. Yet I’m also not comfortable with silence out of convenience, or claiming to hold an opinion just to make sales. There has to be middle ground somewhere.

Unfortunately, I don’t know where that’s at.