We, as Americans, cherish the freedom and right to disagree—which we do, often deeply about important issues that need resolution. But polarization undermines that freedom by tightening prejudices rather than opening thought, thus diminishing the chances for finding resolutions and moving forward. So while polarization may feel like a righteous champion of freedom and right, it is in fact just the opposite—a stick jammed in the spokes of the democratic discourse of freedom. Here are some of the common ways it does it:
- SEDUCES with loaded, heated language and childish name-calling that appeals more to emotion that reason.
- BLINKERS by using cherry-picked facts, and ignoring or mocking opposing arguments and evidence rather than actually addressing them.
- TRIVIALIZES by focusing on “straw-man” issues whose value in re-enforcing biases is clearly greater than their substance.
- BULLIES by making you feel like a dupe or a traitor if you even listen to the other side.
- FLATTERS with language and a tone that makes you feel like an insider, who, of course, agrees with them because you “get it” … just like they do.
- FRIGHTENS by portraying the other side as not just wrong, but a dangerous, evil enemy, replete with wicked hidden agendas.
- “CLANS,” that is, plays the “us vs. them” identity politics game of associating the other view with groups or people (implicitly) “inferior” to “us.”
- “TRIBES” by using the knowing winks and nods of sarcasm, coded language, words in quotes (suggesting they’re misleading) and innuendo which you, as a member of the tribe, of course, will understand without explanation or justification.
This week… same as last week. And the week before. And the week before… Depending on your perspective, comparing the two sides of the “debate” may seem like false equivalency. But to those who feel finger-pointing rancor is inherently destructive it’s good to remember that pissing back even harder is not the best way out of this mess.
When reading these examples, check the above list and ask yourself: regardless of whether you agree or disagree, is this really advancing an intelligent resolution through the persuasive, rational arguments of advocacy…or simply fueling the fire of conflict through the divisive, emotional manipulations of polarization?
Here are just a few examples of the polarizing headlines, from the right and left, that dominate today’s political “thinking.”
America’s Real Divide Isn’t Left vs. Right. It’s Democracy vs. Oligarchy
The GOP Is a Profile in Cowardice
Trump’s Latest Tweets Are Not Just Racist, But Part of a Broader Reactionary Attack on the Left
Republican lawmakers refusing Medicaid expansion responsible for premature deaths of 15,000+ people
Republicans Are The New Confederacy, Part Infinity
Republicans don’t even pretend to be offended as they embrace Trump’s racism
He can’t even be a competent fascist
Why you can’t be nice to neo-Nazis or their enablers in the GOP
Democrats Hate America and Americans
The Democrats Are Running Against Prosperity
Democrats Hold a Terrible Hand of Race Cards
The Left’s Demonization of Conservatives Becomes Dangerous
Why the left hates this nation
Jihadist Evil Unites with Leftist Evil
Democrats Declare Anyone Who Loves America Racist
The Democrats 2020 Campaign Theme Is You Americans Are Terrible
Why the democrats hate the Constitution, hate God, hate America and automatically see racism