These days, I have to severely limit the amount of time I spend reading examples of the utterly unhinged and fractured rhetoric coming from the fringes (and moving closer to the center, goddamn it). At times, it seems pretty hopeless.
Late last year, the NYT published an article titled “I’m Right! (for some reason)” that attempted to address the too-common problem of trying to counter emotional attachments to an idea with facts.:
In a forthcoming article in Psychological Science, written with Todd Rogers of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership and Craig Fox of U.C.L.A.’s Anderson School of Management, we report on experiments showing that people often believe they understand what is meant by well-worn political terms like the ‘flat tax,’ ‘sanctions on Iran’ or ‘cap and trade’ — even when they don’t.
That’s not much of a shocker, of course. The real surprise is what happens after these same individuals are asked to explain how these policy ideas work: they become more moderate in their political views — either in support of such policies or against them. In fact, not only do their attitudes change, but so does their behavior. In one of our experiments, for example, after attempting to explain how various policy ideas would actually work, people became less likely to donate to organizations that supported the positions they had initially favored.
Interestingly, asking people to justify their position — rather than asking them to explain the mechanisms by which a policy would work — doesn’t tend to soften their political views. When we asked participants to state the reasons they were for or against a policy position, their initial attitudes held firm. (Other researchers have found much the same thing: merely discussing an issue often makes people more extreme, not less.)
Read the full article: nytimes.com
It’s no major answer, but I think it points in the right direction. This morning, I ran across a piece about Living Room Conversations (livingroomconversations.org), and I have a bit of hope. They seem to be trying to prove the concepts that the NYT piece highlighted.
From the article:
“Transpartisanship” is the genteel word for what they’re doing. Blades has been involved in similar types of projects for about a decade, but this is a fairly new school of political thought, which posits that people can come together to find some common ground without abandoning their core beliefs.
The gathering this month marked the first time Blades and Meckler had met in person, and each brought two like-minded friends. The occasion was the latest installment of Living Room Conversations ( livingroomconversations.org), Blades’ latest national transpartisan project that she co-founded with former GOP operative Amanda Kathryn Roman, who lives in New Jersey.
It involves one or two co-hosts pulling together an intimate gathering of folks who might believe they agree on little politically - until they sit down together to listen to one another’s perspective. Civilly.
Eventually, they find places they agree. That’s what happened between Blades and Meckler, and it should give hope to a nation locked in scrums over guns and immigration and taxes.
Read more: sfgate.com
I’d love to see such ideas become more widespread.