Argument (2746235958)

Winning the Argument?

This morning, there’s one more thing I’ve been mulling over, perhaps a conversation starter for our Friday.

Here’s a question: Are we liberals/progressives/lefties living in (and clinging to) the same sort of “bubble” that we often accuse conservatives of inhabiting? Do we tend to read or listen to almost exclusively bloggers, columnists or publications, or television news-related programs with only points of view we share — and avoid those we don’t?

Speaking only for myself, I think I am guilty. I do get bits of the “other side” now and then, but usually because one of the writers I agree with has linked there, often with a snarky lead-in making fun of the expressed viewpoint — and setting me up for how I should assess it. I even avoid following a link to Politico (a.k.a. Tiger Beat on the Potomac) if I can help it. I avoid Nice Polite Republican radio, mostly. The Sunday showz? Fuhgeddaboudit!

We may think that some of those bloggers/columnists/publications/shows are (to put it charitably) terribly misguided, so there’s no point wasting our time on them. But are we shutting off insights and points of view that may in some cases be reasonable, even if we don’t always share them? And if nothing else, would we benefit by reading or hearing how the “other side” thinks and feels?

Let’s face it, we’re not going to get much of a truly alternate perspective from reading FDL, Charlie Pierce, The Nation, Matt Taibbi, Paul Krugman, Glenn Greenwald, or Yves Smith, or from watching All In or Up with Steve Kornacki or Rachel Maddow.

I think back to Karl Rove on election night, having a very public on-air meltdown about the election results that put Ohio in Obama’s column. He and many other Republican partisans — safely in their bubble — could not comprehend that Barack Obama had defeated Mitt Romney. Are we creating the same sort of bubble for ourselves on the progressive side of the political spectrum?

How many of us here on the left spend any time at NRO, watching Fox News, listening to Limbaugh, reading the WSJ editorial page? Have we wiped Ross Douthat, Jennifer Rubin, Bill Kristol, Michelle Malkin or George Will off our radar?

A longtime friend “unfriended” me on Facebook a year or so ago, because he kept posting right-wing tropes about “the government’s budget is like our household budget” and “spending is out of control” and I would very quietly post something by a respected source debunking that notion. Apparently he didn’t want any facts to intrude on his perceptions, no matter how carefully and civilly I offered them. Am I that closed-minded? Are you??

I’m not sure how to combat that, but perhaps I’ll start perusing NRO or checking out the WSJ editorials, just as an exercise in increasing my scope. Have you thought about this, and have you any suggestions about how we can avoid that bubble that keeps out perspectives we don’t want to contemplate, even if we should?

Somewhat related: I came across an interesting article from 2011 in Columbia Journalism Review about The Backfire Effect.

…the backfire effect makes it difficult for the press to effectively debunk misinformation. We present facts and evidence, and it often does nothing to change people’s minds. In fact, it can make people dig in even more. Humans also engage in motivated reasoning, a tendency to let emotions “set us on a course of thinking that’s highly biased, especially on topics we care a great deal about.”

The entire article is worth a read. When we’re confronted with facts that are contrary to things we care about, we are inclined to tune out or double down. How can we avoid that tendency?

Photo: Benson Kua via Wikimedia, under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.