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Immigration

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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:

  1. SEDUCES with loaded, heated language and childish name-calling that appeals more to emotion that reason.
  2. BLINKERS by using cherry-picked facts, and ignoring or mocking opposing arguments and evidence rather than actually addressing them.
  3. TRIVIALIZES by focusing on “straw-man” issues whose value in re-enforcing biases is clearly greater than their substance.
  4. BULLIES by making you feel like a dupe or a traitor if you even listen to the other side.
  5. 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.
  6. FRIGHTENS by portraying the other side as not just wrong, but a dangerous, evil enemy, replete with wicked hidden agendas.
  7. “CLANS,” that is, plays the “us vs. them” identity politics game of associating the other view with groups or people (implicitly) “inferior” to “us.”
  8. “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 . . . there were plenty of examples of how polarization fools us into believing we’re well informed, whereas in reality we’re simply being manipulated. For example, there were many passionate editorials about the issue of immigration. Reading them might make you feel well informed about it. Wrong. Because immigration is not the subject of these editorials. Immigration is the object of them. The real subject is the “bad guys” who disagree with you. Immigration is simply a stalking horse, used to show how idiotic or insensitive the other side is. Do a quick check when you read an editorial. How much of the it includes factual discussion to support a position about the issue…as opposed to the other side’s position on the issue? The terrible truth is, the emotion many of us have about an issue is often much greater than what we actually know about it. That is the dangerous, insidious poison of polarization at work.

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 a few of the week’s most polarizing headlines, from the left and right:

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