This week the vitriol seemed a bit less pungent

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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 weekWas it because it was the Easter/Passover week of hope and renewal? Or maybe the pent up pop of the release of the Mueller report? Whatever it was, the vitriol seemed a bit less pungent—or at least effective—with the tirdest of tropes and invectives being trotted out to educate and inspire the respected bases. If it wasn’t so serious, it would be just boring.

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 inspiring blue and red polarizing headlines from the past week.

More to explore

The Damage of Bashing the Other Side

This week offers a wonderful textbook case for one of the favorite technique of polarization: Instead of arguing the pros or cons of a controversial issue with the goal of working toward resolution, cynically use—indeed, supercharge— that issue to bash the other side.

Patriotism and Diversity, Shallow and Deep

What we need is a deeper patriotism and a deeper diversity, each of which values citizens as individuals with their own combinations of values and beliefs, instead of pigeonholing them or criticizing them for failure to live up to our preconceptions.

The Stewardship of Creation

In addition to being a vegetable farmer, I’m a chef and cooking teacher. …I’ve spent the last twenty years thinking about issues of animal welfare and the ethics of eating meat.

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