Morality, Politics and Persuasion | Scott Adams and John Wood, Jr.

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How do we overcome the bitterness of American politics and change the way things are done?

“Left of Bernie,” yet a consistent defender of President Trump; author, commentator and creator of the comic strip “Dilbert” Scott Adams is a fascinating or infuriating voice in the political conversation, depending on who you ask. But Scott is schooled in the art of persuasion. I enjoyed talking to Scott about the practical ways we can repair our politics. Better yet, I got to challenge Scott to sharpen our own understanding of how to bring Americans together. Mr. Adams doesn’t disappoint.

[Apologies for some audio issues in this recording! We’re fixing our remote recording setup. But please enjoy.]

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3 thoughts on “Morality, Politics and Persuasion | Scott Adams and John Wood, Jr.”

  1. Erica Etelson

    As a BA participant, I’m always eagerly on the lookout for the values and goals John Wood believes we share in common (and Scott Adams is more dubious about). Do we all want the same thing? I don’t think we do. Once we go beyond vague goals like “I want a better life for my kids,” things start diverging wildly. “Better” for me means a society in which the health and well-being (another vague term in need of definition) of all people (in the whole world, not just the USA) and the natural world are paramount. “Better” for someone else might be a society in which technology provides those who can afford it with a life of leisure and longevity or a society governed by Randian notions of winner-take-all competition or by religious or secular patriarchal notions. My vision of the good life is so different from most Reds (and most Blues) that I find most (but not all) dialogues to spin out for lack of a shared foundation. But it doesn’t keep me from continuing to keep talking, keep trying.

    On the other issue John and Scott discussed–polarization and whether it is a bad thing (which BA presumes it to be) or a good thing, as Ezra Klein argues…as a political activist who’s also a BA member, I ruminate about this contantly. I think Klein is right that big important things don’t happen without ferment, heat, passion — collective states of mind that we associate with polarization. And as John always reminds us, what MLK was so genius at was getting the big things done w/out being violent in word or deed, without “othering” or treating opponents as enemies, though he was certainly extremely passionate. In fact, he was considered a polarizing figure in his day though we look back on him as a national hero. More recently, social justice thinkers on the Left have been talking about going “hard on structures, soft on people,” which is a MLK-esque concept I like. I can be fierce in my condemnation of systems and structures I see as oppressive or corrupt, but that doesn’t mean I have to be fierce toward the people who believe that those systems and structures are wholesome and legitimate. There’s also a difference, for me, in how I might address a person in high power versus my Republican relative or neighbor or even a stranger on social media. I reserve my fury for the elite and, even there, am reflecting on what style of advocacy is likely to yield the best results. I’ve spoken out recently, for example, about the baby Trump blimp which I see as cruel and dehumanizing, at the same time that I see Trump himself as among the most cruel and dehumanizing people on the planet.

  2. Virgil Torbert

    I listened to this very intellectual discussion which I found hard to follow but here is my comment.
    BA purpose is to address polarization and I found this discussion lacking
    I believe a major driver of the polarization in our country is our current President. In fact I believe his election was based on building walls which he is doing every day. Your guest suggested that the problem was he is not suited to address the pandemic problem but would be his choice to deal with China. That assertion in my view is absurd. He bases his approach on zero sum in all his dealings. So in all his deals there is a winner and a loser. That is not the solution to our problems. We must understand that we are in a global world and cooperation is the only solution. The current pandemic is a classic example.

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