Doctors and the Price of Political Commentary

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This week I came across politically charged tweet from a noted physician author.  It was a caustic commentary on one of the presidential candidates.  I’ve seen this a lot recently: smart doctors wading into the cesspool of real-time political discourse.  Frustrated pundits believing they’ll sway opinion in 140 characters.  It got me thinking about political opinions and the physician’s public presence.  The two don’t always mix.

In this case, my relationship with the author is one of fantasy.  When I read his books I engage in a type of fantasy about medicine and its broader place in the world.  While he may not understand it, this fantasy is an unspoken arrangement of the quiet relationship I share with his voice and ideas.  Social transparency can come with the risk of readers understanding too much.  And like so many authors that I read, mystery fuels the fantasy.

Of course, this fantasy issue is as much my problem as anyone else’s.  Those who choose to listen to dialog must be willing to process what comes through.  Transparency is subjective and defined by our individual values.  Listening comes with its own responsibilities.

But independent of how much responsibility we choose to give our audience, public comments need to take into consideration how we’re perceived by those who listen.  Hard-edged political commentary in today’s climate comes with the risk of alienating half of your platform.

This may be more important if you’re in the business of asking people to buy your book, read your blog or trust you with their life.