We haven’t watched network news on any kind of regular basis for decades. So when we are with family where they watch the evening news I am struck by the urgent tone of the “breaking news” stories -- one after the other -- along with the jarring music underlying it. If I were to check, I would bet my heart rate would be elevated just from the tones -- without even hearing the words. Same technique whether the program is “conservative” or “liberal”. I prefer to get my current news in written form or podcasts. And to delve deeper into topics with full books. Knowing that you are being manipulated is the first step.

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This is a great article, but it leaves the most important question unanswered: Why is "taking responsibility for what you let into your psyche" such a hard thing to do? 87% of Americans think polarization is a major threat to the American way of life, and it's obvious to many that the media is a major driver of that polarization, so why are Americans still unwilling to walk back from our addiction to negative media coverage?

Telling people to "take responsibility" for their media consumption is unfortunately like telling an alcoholic to "take responsibility" for their alcohol consumption. The problem can't be solved by simply "choosing" the correct option. Instead, we need to treat the public's demand for negative news for what it is - a deeply rooted subconscious psychological addiction to negativity. Until we more fully understand and explicitly name negativity bias as the root cause of these issues, we'll continue to effectively tell alcoholics to "just quit drinking", and polarization will continue to get worse.

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Mar 13, 2023Liked by Julian Adorney

Bonhoeffer’s Law of Stupidity keeps coming up. Both polarities are incredibly stupid. Maybe the external act of liberation needs to come in the form of excellent, accessible-to-all satire that hits both sides. As the Enlightenment project used to do. Moliere, Voltaire, Pope. Maybe a team of great writers, actors, etc. could pull it together. Satire that everyone could understand. Artfully done so as to suggest a way for both sides to save face.

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I agree that civil discourse is paramount.

However, right now one political party is systematically working to dismantle our First Amendment rights in this country. Until that is resolved, which requires a real fight, a “can’t we all just get along“ argument falls a little flat with me.


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Mar 13, 2023·edited Mar 13, 2023Liked by Julian Adorney

I think a huge thing to change is the need for humanism to become more visible rather than "left" and "right" politics. A reassertion of the universal dignity (and that is universal rights as opposed to equity and inclusion which is not about equality in reality... being a marxist product I have a deep dread of where it will lead....The kind or equity and inclusion has been seen before, which is why universal human rights are so much stronger) - politics and media need to be far more nuanced than as it is currently

- breaking away from click bait media and political stereotypes will be hard as lobby groups and investors in both circumvent the intent of real democracy and media. (and you'll notice fund both sides or political opponents) The illusion of choice... And the illusion of free media too...

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At a community meeting on how to build better relations with the police, I was corrected for suggesting that “civility” be a component of such meetings. Apparently, “civility” is a word used by white power mongers. I told my accuser that she ought to be thankful that I believe in civility. I am not going to suffer such fools with such civility in the future.

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All good in theory but we live in the real world. Look at what schools are "teaching. " is it a one sided or two sided situation? Even more so in colleges and increasingly in the workplace where people are INTIMIDATED to stay silent or conform. I often ask people with whom I disagree ( the conversations are civil) to define the labels and derogatory terms they use as well as what they mean by hate speech which they want to prohibit or make criminal . Rarely do I get an answer. And these are people who are reasonable, civil, etc. A second question I pose is what exactly do you or those you look to want. The answers are always utopian in nature without little if any regard or thought to the practicalities of policies or proposals. Finally, as alluded to in some other comments, unless one stays in touch with the "noise," one will never be aware of the fact that we have two sets of rules and laws that are applied or enforced on the basis of identity and politics. Silence will not fix that problem which I submit has a lot to do with the frustrations that so many Americans feel on a daily basis.

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The violence comes from the Left... The Left firebombs pregnancy centers, the Left loots, burns, and riots... The Left - BLM thugs and Antifa terrorists - burns buildings, takes over streets, destroys businesses, and decimates neighborhoods. Look at the cities - all run by the Left - the destruction, the crime, the lawlessness... That is the Left -- that is the Democrat party.

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Yep. Both sides are doing it. Both sides are dishonest and blind to their own role. Positive feedback loop. Ego. Doubling down. Orwellian. Foolish.


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Mar 14, 2023·edited Mar 14, 2023

Very thoughtful. Yet you fall into your own trap here: equating Clinton's "“basket of deplorables” line" with "President Trump with “good people on both sides”".

Trump's statement was the very definition of civility. Too darned civil, in a sense. Would it have been preferred if Trump said "bad people on both sides"? I'd prefer being accurate: some good people and too many bad people on both sides. But that's just me, the scholar. The civil thing to say was what Trump said.

It's what they used to call "the Christian thing to say". Ugh, I'm a secular Jew, but I appreciate the sentiment: the decency of acknowledging that most people think of themselves as having good intentions, and honoring that intention in them all. Even while knowing that in fact there is also plenty of malice and bad intention in everyone; including perhaps particularly those who think of themselves as the party of good intentions, and who exempt each other from having to control their own bad intentions.

Trump was, quite obviously I think, trying to restore normal civility on this question. He said it as a traditional mantra for civility, that "Christian thing to say". He presumably hoped it would enable him to fend off the demands from the media that he and everyone else join in its own factional incivility. Plainly he failed.

Sadly, you join in that failure. You embrace the media’s false adjudication of this instance, in order to declare an equivalency between what was actually civility on one side and incivility on the other.

Here I have to suppose some readers are jumping up and down, hoping to dismiss my point by branding me a deplorable Trumpist or even a Unite the Right supporter. A very uncivil way of dismissing the point. And a wrong guess about me, too.

The problem of restoring civility is actually well-revealed by this case. It is a problem of who it is that adjudicates what is civil. Is it done by a fairminded social arbiter, something that at least supposedly used to exist in the legendary matron at the dinner party; or at least a balanced batch of arbiters, which perhaps still exists in the Senate with its traditional rules, and its maintenance of a degree of balance by requiring supermajorities to get action? Or is it done by a faction that is free to redefine the word to its benefit and to privilege its own incivility -- and has grown accustomed to so doing?

In practice it is done nowadays by a collective ideological faction, the one that dominates by supermajorities in the public discourse spaces and media and educational processes. It effectively controls the question of civility by means of false definition, coupled with abusiveness toward disagreement.

That is why it usually defines itself as "civil", as the very party of civility; and defines any strong, serious criticism of itself as "uncivil" and needing to be driven out of the public discourse space.

It is the same false proof-by-definition that it has come to use for many another matter. Plus its same silence-the-others method that has come to be known as 'cancel culture'.

It is why, even in the Senate, abusive, literally bigoted language is the norm on the part of many a progressive Senator. They simply don’t know any better. The words have been redefined in their minds to favor this behavior, starting with the word “bigotry” itself. Fortunately, sometimes there still is civility in the Senate, where elections as well as rules ensure a measure of balance. It is far worse elsewhere, on college campuses and in the media.

This factional domination of the civility question is in fact itself the greatest single locus and source of incivility in our society. While it's by no means the only source of the incivility we suffer, it is able pretty much all by itself, given its positions of power in the commanding heights of the discourse spaces, to ensure an ever sharper polarization and incivility in our body politic.

Overcoming the hegemony of this faction in our discourse spaces; overcoming its entrenched practices of abusing its hegemony; overcoming its methods of enforcing its preferences by false definitions and by defamation and exclusion of others: this is the heart of the problem of restoring civility.

Our various factions would at least have a chance of settling down into a more civil place, if we first overcome this abusive hegemony. No real progress will be made on regaining civility if we don't.

With my best wishes for your good will on this.

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The Left threatened and intimidated Supreme Court justices... The Left destroyed cities in 2020... The Left firebombs pregnancy centers... The Left is violent.

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I never understand articles like this. It isn't like the old days of Democrats and Republicans having policy differences among normal politicians and their supporters. Today Republicans are bigots. It is very hard to be civil to people who constantly displaying their bigotry, call a coup plot a tourist visit and are trying to tear down free speech.

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Well said.

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I know a number of people who live in Chicago. I hear none of those complaints. Its worse problem is being on the Mississippi which allows guns and drugs to easily come in. My daughter just returned from a nice trip to Seattle. I am afraid these urban areas and the other big cities keep the rest of the country funded and progressing.

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Which cities were "wantonly" burned down. That you compare a few minor disturbances to an effort at a coup d'etat is everything wrong with Republicans and the right. In New York there were some serious looting and then the police acted like thugs. All in all it was a big nothing. The focus on BLM and wokeness is why is hard to avoid seeing Republicans as bigots. Half the country, not really, engaged in the Civil War to preserve slavery. It isn't much different today.

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I want to take everything in this article to heart. However, it's not obvious to me how tapping into a deeper sense of identity than partisanship and recognizing that every human is incommensurably complex will help me to see through the "illusion" of fear. It's impossible for me not to recognize while doing this that those opposed to me are expressing the heartfelt desire to expunge from my culture all the things, factors, and philosophies that I believe make my country viable and worthwhile. It is not obvious how recognizing the aims of others, aims I consider evil, will lessen my fear no matter how sincerely I simultaneously recognize their humanity. This problem is a lot more complex than Mr. Adorney and Mr. Johnson are herein willing to admit.

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