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Old 30 May 2018, 07:54 PM
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Ponder How can we talk to people we disagree with on the most fundamental levels?

Inspired in part by hearing this: https://www.npr.org/templates/transc...ryId=560195583

Before the 2016 election, I was not all that interested in seeing or understanding the other side. I saw that they were also not interested in seeing or understanding my side.

At the same time, I knew then, and know now, that there are people who think very differently from me, who genuinely think their way is best for everyone -- they are not acting out of evilness, but (from my perspective) out of misplaced values, mistaken assumptions, etc., but are still motivated to do what they think is right and best. Sometimes I've learned that people I liked and thought were nice and good had views I found abhorrent.

After the election, I became fascinated by the phenomenon of motivated reasoning, and I think it explains a huge amount of what is going on in our country right now. (It's always at play, but more strongly so when emotions are high -- including when someone is fanning the flames.)

All of these things have led me to thinking that we need to figure out how to talk to each other, and make each other feel heard. Even if we are not going to change our positions, we need to hear each other, and be able to speak civilly to each other. Because motivated reasoning shows that people justify doing what feels right, being able to calm the emotions around these issues really matters, even if you can't actually change minds. And, going in without an agenda of changing minds, but instead trying to understand the other person, can actually lead to minds changing.

One of the big challenges is either blaming -- they started it, they're doing it to me, etc. -- or not getting pulled back into that familiar pattern. But it can be interesting to see what happens when you drop the rope. Instead of responding in kind to vitriol, observing that the person has strong feelings and asking them about what they are, why they feel that way, etc.

I am trying it out as best I can, though I don't always succeed, and sometimes I just want to debate. But I think it's an important issue. I also think it is beneficial even if the other side doesn't do it back.

I'm very interested in what you all think.
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Old 30 May 2018, 09:05 PM
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I think the problem is that one side keeps doing this, and the other side takes advantage of it to move the window towards them. Yes, the bad side here are conservatives.

I can look back over my years being aware of politics, and it has certainly changed. When I was first aware of politics, it was during the Reagan administration. At the time, people had more productive conversations than they have now, but the rot that led us here was already starting. Liberals try to understand, and conservatives responded by making the term "liberal" into a dirty word. We have gone further and further down that path ever since - the left trying to understand the right, and the right using that understanding to hijack the nation. Even the beginning of Trump showed this - how many different articles have been published on understanding the Trump voter, and why so many people would vote for him? I've read dozens, and I haven't come close to reading them all.

You also have one side telling everyone what they believe, and how important some things are to them. I can't tell you how many people I know that said that the problem with Clinton was the lies, and that we had to bring integrity back to the WH. These are people who swore at the time that character matters when it comes to the President. Church going people who would swear that they would only support someone who they believed led a moral life.

Then Trump happened. And everyone who ever made that claim was revealed to have lied through their teeth when previously asked what they actually think. So, you could have spent twenty years, starting from 1995, listening to everything that conservatives had to say and truly understanding them. And then, if you drew a logical conclusion from that, you would have to decide that Trump would never have had a shot at the nomination, and once he had it would be rebuked by the rank and file republicans, such that he wouldn't have gotten a single state. And I know how impossible that is, but I live in Utah, and if they followed what they said they did, no way could he have won the state. But he did, and the presidency.
So, what now? Do we listen to the conservatives again, and try to understand them, and see if we can find some common ground? Or is that just being Charlie Brown to their Lucy van Pelt? It seems that more and more people, especially people of color, are deciding that they aren't going to have another go at the football. They are going to stop pretending like listening to conservatives has any benefit. And sure, that means that no one is getting through to anyone else. But I'm fairly sure that no one (OK, almost no one, you can find anecdotes like in the article, but that's a long way from data) has been getting through to anyone for the past 30 years, we've just been polite enough to pretend. The conservative side has become reactionary enough that it is past time to pretend.
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Old 30 May 2018, 09:43 PM
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There are two main types of conservatives in America: the kind who are vile misogynistic racist homophobes, and the kind who are willing to put up with the former because they're willing to throw women, minorities, immigrants, and LGBT people under the bus as long as they can get tax cuts and reduced regulations on industry.
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Old 30 May 2018, 09:55 PM
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I wish I could go all smug right now and sympathize but feel this isn't a problem for us here in Ontario. But of course that was never really true and it's even less true now in the run up to our provincial election. We have people prepared to vote for Rob Ford's heinous brother because he's the leader of the PC party, despite everything that we know about him - and none of it good. I could have coped if the PCs won under almost anyone else. I can't cope if Ford gets in and it absolutely kills me that a lot of people who do not like him are still going to vote for him because they are either angry at the current govt or because they are buying his line of crap about cutting taxes and blah blah blah. I find it's not a big problem for me because almost everyone in my circle of family and friends feels the way I do, if anything many are further left of centre than I, but I am finding I need to be more careful what I say in more public settings and it bothers me that this is because I really don't want to get into so called "discussions" with people who aren't really discussing anything, they're either ranting or lecturing.

Last edited by Sue; 30 May 2018 at 10:19 PM.
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Old 30 May 2018, 10:08 PM
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And yet --

over the last 30 years, many people have changed their position on gay marriage.

And that one has definitely not gone in the conservatives' direction.



I think there is definitely an aspect of one-sidedness to the problem. Shortly after the election, one of my local libraries held a how-do-we-take-to-each-other-about-politics event. It was very carefully put out as politically neutral; and at the start of the meeting we were in fact asked not to say anything that indicated our particular political stances.

But as the evening went on, however careful everyone was trying to be, our political stances started to seep out; and it became clear that everone who'd shown up, although we were in a very red area, was well on the blue side of the spectrum.

It's hard to talk with people who don't want to be part of the conversation.



And sometimes it's me who doesn't want to. I got through Thanksgiving dinner, as a lot of people probably did, by trying and mostly succeeding in keeping everyone to a no-politics rule.

However -- getting through an occasional dinner is one thing. Getting through the next century, say, without communicating with each other isn't going to work. We're all stuck living in the same country. And even those who don't care what country they live in and have the money to leave are still stuck living in the same world.
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Old 30 May 2018, 10:24 PM
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Very good points by all of you.

Erwins, you hit upon what I think is the biggest key. You said "they are not acting out of evilness, but (from my perspective) out of misplaced values, mistaken assumptions, etc., but are still motivated to do what they think is right and best." And that is the key. At one point, all sides were focussed on what they thought was best for the country, not the party or themselves. Nowadays, it is not quite as clear, especially with an administration that appears to be overtly looking to enrich itself rather than serve the nation.

I've been following politics for over 30 years, and the level of discourse has eroded at about the same rate as the length of the soundbite. So, hit pieces are how you "debate" your opponent and diamatrically opposed is how you select your voting position.

Someone put a chart up on Twitter that expanded upon some earlier work demonstrating visually how polarised the political process has become in the US.

Chart is huge so I have it here as a link from a reddit page.

https://i.redd.it/psizsi66wey01.png

This tells me that for the most part, elected representatives are no longer voting on the issues with what they view is the best for their constituents. They are voting based upon how they can demoralise, defeat and destroy the other party and their supporters.

Although, I do believe that not all politicians are like that. It has just become the du jour thing, and was hastened by the election of the current president. I do think that Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush Sr, Reagan and Carter all had the better interests of the country at heart. And I think that with these politicians, if an idea came from the other party that would achieve that aim, they would take it. But, some of their secretaries, appointees and deputies were not of that class. Specifically, I don't think Cheney was looking out for the best interests of the US during his tenure as Vice President. Likewise, Darlene Druyun, under-secretary for the air force under Clinton was only looking out to ensure her enrichment after she retired.

Don't get me wrong, there were and are honourable people working those jobs, Colin Powell, John Kerry etc, but the bad apples can make an administration fall.

But to your big point, erwins. How do we talk to each other. I see it in three forms...

First, the politicos need to be able to talk. Having an insult match between pundits, or having a Kellyanne Conway pile of messages is not discourse. It is entertainment and fuel for anger. Those who deal with politics need good, moderated round tables whereby issues are discussed rationally and clearly.

Second, those of us at the voting end of the political spectrum need to stop making anyone who does not agree the enemy. I've seen situations where people who can't agree on an issue dehumanise the other. For goodness' sake, they are both still Americans.

Finally, we need to cut down the noise. Post-truth is the buzzword, whereby truthiness is its predecessor. Conspiracy theories abound in US politics, to the point where there is a sizeable amount of Americans that still believe that President Obama was born in Nigeria and George Bush authorised the terror attacks of Sept 11. We need to cut out that noise and focus on what is best for the US. Should there be a wall? Maybe, but determine logical and rational reasons for it. Is there a need to renegotiate NAFTA? Perhaps, but let's allow market data and business inputs inform the decision. Is it time to call North Korea's hand? I don't know, but there needs to be something better than conspiracy theories fuelling the decisions cycle.

Very good question. I'm glad you asked.
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Old 30 May 2018, 10:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UEL View Post
This tells me that for the most part, elected representatives are no longer voting on the issues with what they view is the best for their constituents. They are voting based upon how they can demoralise, defeat and destroy the other party and their supporters.
This is something I have felt most of my adult life since the 80s, that what has hurt the US a great deal is the ever increasing "Winning at all costs" attitude that continues to grow through all aspects of life: sports, business, and politics. Somehow, compromise became conflated with loosing and if one does not get ones way, one is not winning. Everything is a conflict and must be won.

The pendulum my finally be swinging back with younger generations. At least I hope so.
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Old 31 May 2018, 01:18 AM
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Erwins, I think it’s an excellent question, and far more productive than what either side, in my opinion, seems to be doing right now.

A few years ago my marriage was in crisis, and our counselor told us, “You will never approach a problem from the same direction. Stop trying to convince each other, and find solutions that work for the marriage.”

This may be wishful thinking, but I’d like to see this happen in America. Why can’t we offer solutions that address both sides’ concerns, and at least speak to the majority in the middle?

For example, can we make it a lot easier for immigrants to some in from South America, offer illegals a path to citizenship, and create a boarder where exotic pet, drug, and human trafficking can be diminished? That seems sane to me. Are there a lot of centrist liberals or conservatives who would say no to that?
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Old 31 May 2018, 02:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
It's hard to talk with people who don't want to be part of the conversation.
Do you suppose that’s why so many of the conservative-ish members of the forum don’t post much anymore? I mean, it’s obviously technically true—they certainly aren’t a part of any conversations here, but do you suppose that’s due to some inherent dishonesty (or general ambivalence to, perhaps even endorsement of various forms of bigotry) as, say, crocoduck_hunter suggests?
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Old 31 May 2018, 03:04 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
...It's hard to talk with people who don't want to be part of the conversation....
Is that the only conclusion you could draw from that situation?
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Old 31 May 2018, 03:49 AM
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Is that the only conclusion you could draw from that situation?
I certainly don't conclude that any individual conservative -- or liberal, for that matter -- didn't show up for that reason. Lots of people undoubtedly had something else to do that night; or needed rest more than conversation; or didn't hear about the meeting; or didn't have available transportation; just for other reasons that come to the top of my head.

But about twenty people did come (it's a small town, that's a good turnout for things of that sort.) And that's a really unlikely random distribution -- not unlikely in Ithaca, maybe; but really unlikely where we were.

I suppose I could conclude that conservatives don't use the library in question; but that also seems very unlikely. In this area, it wouldn't get much use if that were the case; and it gets enough use to have needed -- and to have funded -- a significant expansion fairly recently.

ASL, I'm concerned that the more conservative people who were on these boards may have felt the boards were becoming hostile to them. I did value the voices of some who have disappeared or nearly so and who were both conservative and reasonable. I usually disagree with the opinions; but I want those voices to test my mind against.
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Old 31 May 2018, 03:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erwins View Post
At the same time, I knew then, and know now, that there are people who think very differently from me, who genuinely think their way is best for everyone -- they are not acting out of evilness, but (from my perspective) out of misplaced values, mistaken assumptions, etc., but are still motivated to do what they think is right and best. Sometimes I've learned that people I liked and thought were nice and good had views I found abhorrent.
My suggestion, get hold of and read this book.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)
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Old 31 May 2018, 08:09 AM
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I'm reading a book that's relevant at the moment too - it's called Enough Said: What's gone wrong with the language of politics? by Mark Thompson (former director general of the BBC and current CEO of the New York Times Co.)

I've not had time to read the whole thread and offer any thoughts yet though...

(eta) One related thought I've had for a while, which isn't to do with the book, is related to those "XXXX Bingo" games that go around ("Sexist Bingo" or "Gun Control Bingo" or "Alt-Right Bingo" or whatever) where you're meant to cross off all the stereotypical phrases that the "other side" might use, and declare yourself to have won (the argument?) when you've got them all.

Apart from being pretty unhelpful in general, one set of phrases that tends to crop up on those a lot - especially "Alt-Right" ones, maybe - includes things like "Logically..." or "Speaking rationally...". These are presented as annoying things that people say which are a cue to ignore them. I find that completely unhelpful; apart from the dismissive attitude, I'm absolutely not prepared to concede that "our side" (meaning the lefty one, or "my side"!) has no rational or logical arguments in its favour and has conceded that style of argument entirely to the "other side". That's just wrong, and completely counterproductive. No doubt some would argue that it's not meant to be taken like that, and that they're just spotting these phrases as fun shorthand, or something - but it's a clear implication of the meme. It also suggests that the people expressing it don't actually understand - or can't be bothered to engage with - any arguments, which is also unhelpful.

There is actually something in the book that touches on this, and it's to do with the conflict between "rhetorical rationalism" and "authenticism", but it's more complicated than just applying the labels, and as I said I've not thought it through yet.

Last edited by Richard W; 31 May 2018 at 08:20 AM.
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Old 31 May 2018, 01:38 PM
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Thanks for all the thoughtful replies. I'm thinking about all of them.

I'm curious about the idea that some have expressed that listening to the other side, or trying to understand the other side is risky, or zero sum, so if the other side doesn't reciprocate, you've lost something? Do I have that right? What happens if you go into it without an agenda?

Richard W., that sounds like it would be maddening. I can see how it could have originated as shorthand for arguments that pretend to be logical but are not, or arguments that suggest that their side is the only one using logic. And certainly those lists are the opposite of the kind of listening and seeking to understand that I have been thinking about. I don't blame people for being frustrated with how debates do turn into a sort of rote exercise though.
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Old 31 May 2018, 02:18 PM
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Aha, the board's back - it had disappeared for a while for me!

Here's another article (a Guardian Long Read) that I think is somewhat relevant, about the ACLU's trade-offs between supporting free speech, and supporting white supremacists:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/201...harlottesville

There's a slightly hopeful paragraph at the end (my emphasis below), although Waldron is talking about a specific and quite rarefied argument, so his impression that people are starting to communicate better doesn't necessarily apply more widely...

Quote:
What will happen in the country as a whole is uncertain but one lesson of Americaís free-speech history is that entrenched norms do change. Jeremy Waldron, the legal philosopher, already sees things evolving. ďThereís been a greater willingness on the part of free-speech advocates to concede the serious harm and evil that free speech can do,Ē he said. ďPeople no longer talk in heroic terms about todayís neo-Nazis the way they did about the neo-Nazis marching in Skokie.Ē The debate on both sides, he feels, has become ďslightly less hysterical, a bit more concessiveĒ.
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Old 31 May 2018, 04:24 PM
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IN GENERAL, the board here is very open for conversation on either end of the political spectrum....

except for topics about abortion.

We have had wonderful, constructive conversations about guns and gun control, but there are a cadre of members who will shout you down if you mention anything other than unrestricted availability of abortions. This is the one and only topic where I believe the board quashes discussion. Yes, the tendency of the snopes board is towards the left, but I've seen some great debates on topics. If we are seeing fewer conservative viewpoints, it is less from the liberal bent of the board and more from... well, I'm not sure why. I suppose there is the "I don't agree with these people on politics, so I'm going somewhere that I agree with." Politics, though, is a small part of the whole snopes experience. Maybe we need to restart the initiation threads....
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Old 31 May 2018, 06:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Winston O'Boogie View Post

We have had wonderful, constructive conversations about guns and gun control, but there are a cadre of members who will shout you down if you mention anything other than unrestricted availability of abortions.
This is the only place I've ever been where I feel like a conservative when the subject of abortion comes up and this is coming from someone who fully supports a woman's right to choose!
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Old 31 May 2018, 08:46 PM
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Last night I was given a reminder on Facebook as to why I have to stay away from certain types of political discussion.

An acquaintance of mine (who has somewhat mixed political views, generally tilting towards soft libertarianism) posted this meme claiming that Tim Tebow used to kneel during the National Anthem at his games to protest abortion, contrasting the reaction to when Colin Kapernick did it. Now, as it happens, I support abortion rights and I also support Kapernick's protest, but I also like the truth, so I posted a link to the page here debunking it. In comes a guy saying I'm wrong and proceeding to rant about how much he dislikes Kapernick. Three times, I explained that wasn't what I was trying to point out; I was talking about Tebow's behavior, not Kapernick. And three times, he came back with similar rants about Kapernick. So, I shrugged and walked away. Maybe someone else can calm him down.

That's where I break down: when I'm faced with people who Just. Won't. Listen. (Or in this case, Read.) I've run into that in face-to-face encounters, and had to be removed from the situation by friends who could see I was on the verge of losing it.

It can be frustrating to deal with the people who have an answer for everything -- it's been pointed out that it's pointless to argue with a die-hard conspiracy theorist, because they're so obsessed on the subject that no matter what you say, they will bring up yet another obscure fact or source and eventually will come up with something you can't instantly debunk. The only way to avoid this is to become as obsessed as they are, in which way lies madness (or Vincent Bugliosi's Reclaming Hitory ). But at least you can have something like an actual conversation.

So, if I had any lingering thoughts of trying to get into politics, that pretty much quashed them. There would be people I just can't deal with.

That said, it would be nice to find some common ground with people who take generally opposing views, but it's gotten progressively harder, and I, admittedly, have gotten less interested in trying. Too self-absorbed I suppose.
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Old 31 May 2018, 08:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sue View Post
This is the only place I've ever been where I feel like a conservative when the subject of abortion comes up and this is coming from someone who fully supports a woman's right to choose!
I mostly don't like to go into detail on my reasoning regarding abortion, because I've found that it just makes everyone mad. So I generally just stick to saying I want to keep it safe, legal, and available to whoever chooses it.
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Old 01 June 2018, 03:21 AM
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Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter View Post
There are two main types of conservatives in America: the kind who are vile misogynistic racist homophobes, and the kind who are willing to put up with the former because they're willing to throw women, minorities, immigrants, and LGBT people under the bus as long as they can get tax cuts and reduced regulations on industry.
Pretty much. I feel a need to reiterate a rule I have: even if youíre claiming more noble, more enlightened reasons for charging with a racist, stinking mob full of assholes, youíre still charging with a racist, stinking mob full of assholes.

Even if his supporters claim to have voted for Trump for reasons that arenít racist, that doesnít change the fact that his platform centered around one idea: certain people arenít fully human and thus arenít deserving of the basic rights due to them. Donald Trump proposed no policy or anything besides his one idea. Even if they believe that he did propose other ideas, in voting for him, they gave tacit approval to Donaldís racism, demonstrating that it wasnít a dealbreaker for them.

But I have to admit that Iíve been biting my tongue and eyeing this thread warily. We should try to talk to each other and not just fling memes and insults at each other; even if we donít change each otherís minds, we can still benefit from hearing each otherís arguments and gaining an understanding of each other. I am Christian, yet I subscribe to several atheist channels on YouTube, because hearing their arguments, helps me to understand mine a little more and again, I learn about how they see the world.

The problem is, the whole reaching out and talking to people whose views differ from ours, only works in a situation where both sides are interested in an open, honest discussion. Itís based on the presumption that all sides are acting out of good faith. Unfortunately thatís not the case regarding a lot of groups on the Right.

The GOP has so embraced the racist wingnut vote and has basically become a doomsday cult, willing to burn down everything, if it would keep the other side from winning. Rightwing politicians and their followers have made it abundantly clear that they are not interested in a debate or in hearing anyone elseís arguments. Under those circumstances, debating would be a waste of time. If you get a discussion going with someone like that, the best thing to do, is to count your losses and get out, once youíve realized that theyíre not interested.

Compromise is also a good virtue, one that should be practiced, but there are somethings in life that canít compromised on. Sometimes, it does come down to Right or Wrong and under those circumstances, centrism is a monstrous load of bullshit, thatís somehow even more irritating than outright cruelty.
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