Exposure to opposing views makes us MORE polarized

Exposure to opposing views makes us MORE polarized

For my entire career in media - as a news reporter, a TV reporter, and a radio show host - I have always told people: "Get your news from multiple sources."

I say this because I understand how different people at different outlets will have different views on what parts of a particular story are newsworthy. Or whether a story is newsworthy at all.

But maybe I've been wrong.

From the leftwing Vox.com:

The researchers were testing the collision between two popular models. In one, “contact between opposing groups can challenge stereotypes that develop in the absence of positive interactions between them.” In the other, “exposure to those with opposing political views may create backfire effects that exacerbate political polarization.”

It was, in other words, a test of the simple theory: Does hearing out the other side make us less polarized, or more?

The backfire theorists won the day. The results of the month-long exposure to popular, authoritative voices from the other side of the aisle was an increase in issue-based polarization.

Obviously, this is a social media experiment more than a interpersonal relationship study. And we all know that people behave much differently on social media than they often do in face-to-face interactions.

I've always been able to discuss politics of good faith with different opinions. So, I might not be the best person to assess what's going on here.

But maybe social media is making us worse. It's a prominent part of Matthew Hennessey's recent book "Zero Hour for Gen X."

In a world that makes it easy to throw anonymous digital stones, the meaning of personal responsibility becomes diluted. Gossip, smears, rumors, lies and threats metastasize online. The conditions for social conflict are optimal. Is it a coincidence that the 2016 presidential campaign was the most scandal-ridden, bottom-feeding election in living memory?

Journalist Nicholas Carr charted the effect that the Internet is having on our brains in his 2010 book “The Shallows.” “Our ability to learn can be severely compromised when our brains become overloaded with diverse stimuli online,” he writes. “More information can mean less knowledge.” Worse, says Carr, digital overload makes it harder “to distinguish relevant information from irrelevant information, signal from noise.” In computing terms: garbage in, garbage out. In human terms, millennials think that if it’s not online, then it doesn’t exist.

You can hear my recent interview with him here.

Pete's Prep Sheet: Friday, Oct. 19, 2018

A Republican candidate in Minnesota is recovering after being attacked by a leftist, but the concussion will take more than a month to heal. He blames national Democratic leaders for inciting violence against Republicans.

From Hans von Spakovsky: "[P]ublic confidence in the integrity and validity of elections is critical to increasing voter participation." Spakovsky is a conservative and former Federal Elections Commissioner.

There's a Golden Girls cereal. For real.

If you want to see the debate between the candidates for NC Supreme Court, here's the link. The incumbent is Republican Barbara Jackson. Here's my take on what I saw:

Pete Kaliner

Pete Kaliner

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