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…it seems like a good time, for obvious reasons, to recall some of James Madison’s renowned Federalist #10 warnings about the danger to freedom of factions:
“The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice…
“Complaints are everywhere heard from our most considerate and virtuous citizens, equally the friends…of public and personal liberty…that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.
“It will be found…that prevailing and increasing distrust of public engagements, and alarm for private rights…must be chiefly, if not wholly, effects of the unsteadiness and injustice with which a factious spirit has tainted our public administrations”
“A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points…an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.
“The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, [by factions] have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished…”
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 of the blue and red polarizing headlines from the past week.
The American Right hankers for a civil war
Right-wing media and think tanks are aligning with fake feminists who dehumanize trans people
The Republican Party is dead: GOP strategist stunned by reception to Trump’s ‘unhinged’ CPAC speech
Republicans Are So Corrupt That They’re Celebrating Mitch McConnell Obstructing Anti-Corruption Bill
The Washington Post’s Anti-Left Bias Is Showing Again
It’s time for CPAC, the convention where conservatism goes to (loudly) die
Republicans get history wrong by naming anti-Green New Deal caucus after Teddy Roosevelt
Democrats Fail The Tolerance Test
Lefties Are Ignorant, Part Gazillion-And-Two: Update
Lefties Always Think That When They Lose, It Means The Rules Need To Be Changed
It’s An Essential Myth For Leftist Self-Regard: The Mythical Rise In White Supremacist Violence.
The Left Is Doubling Down on Schemes to Pack the Supreme Court
It’s Almost Like The Democrats Are Doing All The Stuff They’re Accusing Republicans Of Doing
The Left Excommunicates The Past, In The Hopes That By Making The Giants Disappear Their Own Diminutive Intellectual Stature Will Seem Adequate
1 thought on “The Danger of Factions to Freedom”
Very good and enlightening article. Great food for thought.