It was an essay of an SMS from a dear friend of mine, and it left me as white as a bleached sheet under a UV light.
I won't include the full details, because I adore this friend of mine and I want to try repair any damage to our longstanding friendship. But in summary, they hurled invectives and vitriol at me, accused me of being jealous of their career/financial success, slammed me as being politically biased and declared they would be defriending me on Facebook and didn't care if we ever spoke again.
Then Anna Bligh drove out of the Government House gates, and I had to go and be a journalist. A biased one, apparently.
What was the cause of this outburst from my friend? What had I done?
Well, friends, I had done what I realise now was Mistake 101 of social media - I got into a political discussion on Facebook.
My friend had updated their status complaining about the private health insurance means test legislation passing through the federal lower house. A few people had weighed in agreeing that hospital waiting lists would blow out under this move. I left a message saying while I accepted that point, it did strike me as problematic that people earning less than the $83, 000 cut-off had to subsidise healthcare for those earning much more. I said that a public health system should cater for anyone who wants to access it, even the very rich. But I added that money gives those people a choice that others (who may work hard also, but just be in professions that earn less) don't have.
At least, that is what I can recall stating. I can no longer access my actual comments because my friend made good on their threat and defriended me.
How do you write the emoticon "sadface" into a blog?
Last week, hours travelling on the campaign bus between destinations afforded me a lot of time to think about what I'd written, and how I'd managed to so badly offend my friend.
To be labelled politically biased upset me greatly. I work very hard to ensure all of my reporting is as objective as possible. I have no party affiliation; and have friends and acquaintances with views across the political spectrum. My father, for instance, would have no problem with me telling you that he is a great admirer of the work of John Winston Howard.
|LET'S JUST AGREE WE ALL HATE RAY MARTIN|
I get envious of other people's money sometimes, but I'm generally OK with what I've got. I've had a stupidly fortunate life. I know ultimately I've chosen to be in the profession I'm in, even if I could have used my brain and education to get into a more lucrative one.
I've always tried to put truth at the centre of everything - but if I can say one thing about growing older and do more journalism-ing, is that there really is no one particular "truth". Unless it's evidence-based, peer-reviewed, scientific fact - it's often not much more than opinion.
|WHO AM I KIDDING LOOK AT THAT FACE|
I COULD NEVER HATE RAY MARTIN
I've always admired my friend's drive and success, and I've never resented them for it. But it seems what I thought was a relatively throwaway remark about the nature of healthcare, was taken as a very personal attack on their life choices and philosophies.
Truth, or opinion? Talk about a political divide.
My friend has yet to respond to any of the messages I have left asking to talk. I hope that they do. I don't think petty politics is worth losing a grand friendship. But maybe that's not my choice anymore.
Am I the only one to experience something like this? Was it my fault - for expressing a view, or for expressing it specifically on Facebook? Can you ever be friends despite your politics? And if you can - how?