2017 has been an interesting year for politics, particularly American politics. On these shores, we had an election for the history books, one which pitted the wife of a former President against a billionaire reality show host.
To say it was surreal is an understatement. In every barbershop, office cooler and pub, people were discussing the pros and cons of each candidate. However, for good or bad, 2017 also saw that discussion led not by cable TV or newspapers, but via social media.
Some experts call Social Media the great equalizer. Everyone can have an opinion and broadcast it live and in living color. From the articulate and cerebral to the passionate and brutally honest. If you feel a certain way, you can let people around the world know it. The Close Protection world is no different, we are an industry made up of men and women who put their pants on one leg at a time, same as anyone else. We have feelings and opinions and issues we hold close to heart. –And there’s a need to express them.
However, in a super charged political climate, I’ve seen the discourse between Protectors become more and more heated. There used to be an age-old rule, never discuss politics and religion publically as it will always lead to disagreement. Well, these days that rule has been boxed and put on the shelf. I see members of our community paint whole religions with a broad brush, making disparaging comments or posting offensive “memes” all under the guise of expressing their opinions.
The same goes for politics. Nowadays, it’s not enough to cast a vote in support of your politician of choice, you now have to go on at length about how members of the opposing party are everything from terrorist supporters to child molesters. Any articles or video clips that support your arguments are linked to and displayed on your social media page, and fact checking comes in a distant second to sensationalism.
All of this can be chalked up to human nature in the digital age, but should we as protectors hold ourselves to a different standard particularly because of the sensitive nature of the clients we serve? In a profession that has long considered itself to be impartial and “existing to serve” are we saying one thing and doing another? Can we really have so forceful an opinion on social media of this member of a political party (or the party itself) and then think we can be called upon to do work with that client type (or client) at a future date?
I know as an agency owner, I’m paying close attention to what an agent is saying online and that’s weighing heavily into my decisions of what types of assignments to put him on, or if I’m going to use him at all. Make no doubt about it, words carry weight and when you put a thing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of a host of other popular social media services, it’s tough to take those words back.
The political discord has gotten nastier on the national level, and that discord has had the trickle-down effect of making the interactions in the comments section between fellow protectors also get nasty. Whereas in the past, two Protectors with mutual respect for each other might agree to disagree, there are now many occasions where those disagreements come attached with words that we can’t repeat in a family publication.
So, can I expect two guys who just had a pissing contest all over Facebook to now work together on a detail? Will they really put their political differences aside, ones they were so passionate about online and do what is right for the sake of the assignment (and the client)? Speaking of clients, if they find out that the VIP they are protecting is a strong supporter of the opposing political party, will that now affect the Protectors work performance? These questions should be a non-issue in the “textbook” world, but unfortunately in the reality of today they must be asked.
So, when you put up that inflammatory Facebook post about a politician, and your associates with even stronger political views, comment, just know that others are viewing it and making judgments on it about your ability as an effective close protection operative. Someone might have been about to pick up the phone and offer you a choice assignment but then had second thoughts based off of the things displayed on your page.
To some, talking politics is a must, and they will accept the consequences that come with their right to say what they believe in. However, I caution Protectors to be aware of the ramifications of their actions both as it relates to future employment/client engagement and team morale. The news can be fake but our role as Protectors must be 100 percent authentic.
Keeping Your Edge – Is Politics Driving a Wedge Between Protectors?
By: Elijah Shaw
Elijah Shaw is the National Director of the North American Bodyguard Association and an international security consultant.