The Yale study that pretends to shift conservatives into liberals, made famous at the Washington Post (behind a firewall), finds that when you empower people to deal with threats, people become less fearful, and less conservative.

It makes sense if conservatism, at its evolutionary core, is our defensive thought pattern, and liberalism is the hopeful one. Not a leftist caricature of cowardly fear, but rather a tendency to see threats: to which you might respond with bravery or cowardice. Fox has manipulated that not-so-crazy not-so-pathetic impulse, stoking it over and over. But in nature, conservatives are the defenders — protecting what we have, and liberals the ones who encourage a little more risk taking — open to change.

If most people — and all swing voters — are a bit of both liberal and conservative, then the Democrats need to get better at explaining why we are capable defenders. When Fox claims we want open borders, we need a really good answer, whatever it is, at that moment. In my experience, progressives usually ignore that and just go back to talking about compassion. Fear — the sense that Democrats are not good defenders — is where the leak is.

### It's not "fear" that they studied ###

The Yale study shows a few flaws, especially as it transforms into headlines. Telling people to imagine they are superheroes in a study would be the equivalent of *actually* dealing with threats and empowering people in real life. In other words, the study finds that if we secured the border and won the war on terror and defeated our political opponents and had everything under control, people would become more liberal. And I totally agree — said the right way, I expect conservatives agree, that they are the defenders of the nation, and if you really took away all the threats, there'd be less need for conservatism.

Instead, it's a focus on dealing with threats. Maybe by fear. Sometimes by bravery. Superpowers — what the study uses in an imaginary setting — are obviously not a real-world solution to turning conservatives into liberals. What is? Making clear that amongst the idealism and compassion, we are capable of defending the country and dealing with threats.

### What if you believe Democrats deal with threats better? ###

This is where communication techniques are key. I don't hear much active listening when progressives talk about families being gassed at the border. Over and over, conservatives say we want open borders. If we want to win them over, we either convince them, as in the Yale study, that we have magic super powers, or we tell them a real plan to defend the border or otherwise deal with the threat at the moment they express that fear. Our sound bites and memes need to cut from being pure-empathy to about 50/50: empathy, and (we hear you!) we have a plan to keep Americans safe.

Stephen Tue, 11/27/2018 - 22:06

What words would you use to share this photo and this story? What are the best communication techniques and frames about the current border crisis?

Story Behind Viral Photo of Diapered, Barefoot Migrant Children Fleeing Tear Gas

Please share cleaner, shorter versions in the comments, or take this as you like and create memes from it! (I don't want credit if you like some of the wording, but would love links back.)

"Whatever you think about how we should deal with our border, we all need a moment to let this image be real to us.

If you live in a world where you have not had to flee with your children, feel thankful for that. Whatever you think we should do at the border, let the reality that this is happening have a moment of your heart.

We're seeing a mother who gave birth, fed her children, was afraid every time they got sick, quite likely took them to church every week, and at some point made the choice that fleeing with them was the best thing she could do for them. Whatever you want to do at the border, see her. Whatever your politics, make sure she has some choices better than watching her children face hunger and violence.

Goal: Get people to open their hearts, the first step of the cascade — not yet pushing for policy change, though I think the heart-opening is the hard part, and the policy change screams out once hearts are open.

Audience: A wide swath, all the way from:
- Centrist voters who dislike both Democrats and Republicans, and who see liberal insults of the GOP as part of the hyper-partisanship; who feel like spectators, who need to be invited to participate.
- Conservatives such as Pro-Life voters who are really Christian, who are more blind to suffering rather than compassion-less (though it looks the same to make liberals who see the suffering and don't realize how people could fail to focus on it.)

Stephen Tue, 11/27/2018 - 18:14

George Lakoff asks and answers: "Why are staunch Republicans fine with tear gassing refugee children? It's the conservative moral hierarchy."

This list feels like a dangerous exaggeration to hand to liberals. This is a way to listen to conservatives less. I'm not saying you can't find bits of truth in this list — I'm saying that this is definitely not the whole truth, that this is the worst angle to see conservatives, and that this list in the hands of liberals will make us less capable communicators.

I think calling it a "moral hierarchy" is also an exaggeration — not that you couldn't find some support for that view, but it's incomplete and negative.

I think it's much more powerful to see a "focus hierarchy" for many issues. Conservatives are more focused close to home: they care more about this side of the border, where "the law" is a key ingredient, than the other side of the border, where parents are fleeing with their children.

For liberals, the answer then is to find stories of humanity from the other side of the wall, detailed and personal, to bring them into focus. We need the story of a parent from Honduras, someone with a name, someone with kids who have names that are in our story, what they faced there, why they made their decisions. We need to begin the story away from the US and US law — away from the points of contention — and have a limited, memorable, personal couple of stories of refugees that we repeat over and over.

For progressive who want to help, who want to win elections, the answer is not to figure out what we dislike the most about conservatives and reinforce it, but look for commonality — especially use things like this moral hierarchy to look for *blinders* and filters, and try to counter them. There's a big difference between someone wearing blinders that prevent them from seeing an evil, from someone who rubs their hands in evil glee.


I strongly recommend that liberals read Lakoff's "Don't Think of an Elephant." But then combine the ideas with Arlie Russell Hochschild's "Strangers in Their Own Land" which actually listens to conservatives, and "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt that aims to see the best in conservatives (where, from the list above, it's clear Lakoff is looking for the worst.)

Stephen Tue, 11/27/2018 - 14:57

Take a look at Cannon Thomas, Ph.D's Politics and the Catastrophe of Us and Them: We have to change the way we view the opposing party for our nation to thrive. The article favors what I call "floater" centrism: it lists a whole bunch of acts of violence all by one side, and draws the conclusion that we're all equivalent (floating between the parties) instead of calling out each transgression and holding an ethical center. This is what a therapist might do (it is in Psychology Today) but misses something vital for politics. What would rooted centrism look like? What would it mean to speak truth when evil occurs, without false equivalence nor tribalism?

I agree there is a "catastrophe of us and them," and we cannot divorce voters we disagree with, we have to find ways to communicate and convince. "False equivalence" doesn't help, and leads the people who want (radical) civility and people who want to stand up against evil to get into squabbles when we should be implementing new strategies together. We're not doing radical civility right — it's not what Gandhi or King did — if you can't draw a line and speak the truth that the protest in Charlottesville is evil.

Are you angry at an act of homophobia, something that will endanger your friends, or at "Republicans"?

The "Catastrophe of Us and Them" does not come from drawing a clear line against hate or evil and standing your ground: it comes when you say "they" are wrong in every way, a simmering vague anger. I think that gets us in more trouble, this sense that we just hate each other in general (for being who they are; shame) rather than being very angry for specific actions and choice (for doing or supporting specific actions; guilt). It's especially bad when it's not personal but you're still angry: if it's not your family, if it's not your story, then share the story of people who are personally under attack — especially on social media.

People can still be conservative and earn my respect if they reject the hate coming from the Republican party: neither false equivalence nor tribalism. If you want to be effective when there is something worth getting angry at, look at your posts and conversations, and see who villain is. Is the group drawn in the smallest way possible, so people can stop participating in a specific wrong without changing overall allegiance? That's an effective, non-tribal way to draw real lines.

The article talks about breaking down us and them, which is great, but it's not realistic to list acts of violence all from one side then give a gentle hug-it-out answer. We need to break down the us and them between individual voters while getting ever more clear about right and wrong.

Please participate and help me tune this! What are good vocabulary terms for the two types of centrism, the one that declares the parties always equivalent, and the one that has values free of partisanship that it defends? What examples do you have, of this being done right or wrong? Critiques welcome!

Stephen Thu, 11/08/2018 - 16:47

An awful lot of us are pissed off at partisanship coming from politicians — and our friends.

The ideals of a democracy where we talk to each other and are all trying to make this country better, with different views of how to make the country better, they are failing. The center is not holding.

What does it mean to be a centrist? Are you roadkill on the yellow line, getting nothing done? Equivocators who think every party at every time in history is equally half-bad, unable to discern? Should you be pissed at the partisans? Do you make it your job, while conservatives should be balancing the budget and providing for the common defense, and liberals are looking out for people who have more than their share of struggles, to hold the center, to hold the country balanced and demand fair play? To call out lies and corruption, to actively hold the center and punish politicians who bring in the swamp?

Personally, I'm frustrated with the centrist movement, overall, in the US, who I think have been AWOL. Overall, too many people are playing false-equivalence games, instead of calling out each civility-rule-breaker proportional to how much they break the rules.

Centrists are needed to hold the center: to get pissed when one party gerrymanders or pushes real voters off the rolls, to stand against that, to block it from the center. To have an idea of what is going on in DC and state capitals, so they can call bullshit. Not to get their news from facebook and have even-sized lists of indiscretions from both sides. To know which Democrats lie often and which don't, and which Republicans lie often and which don't, and hold them to the same yardstick, whether it turns out the one party lies more than the other or not — "false equivalency" leaves centrism spineless and powerless.

If you are not furious at Wall Street money, that's not centrism, that's corruption.

If you are not as upset at racism or sexism as the left, that's not centrism, that is a failing.

Are you a fan of the center: who are the centrist equivalents to McCain or Sanders? They both held strong views but nonetheless were generally respectful to their opponents. Meanwhile many who claim to be centrist sell out to Wall Street as badly as any on the edges.

The Two Centers: What is the third way between left and right?

There are really two “third way”s between left and right — which we don't yet have words to differentiate.

One way is to be a total corporate and Wall Street stooge. The “swamp” that Trump talks about (and so far hasn’t cleared) is clearly a “third way” between people like Sanders and McCain who had strong views and an ability to work together. There are a whole lot of politicians who stand up against people like Sanders and McCain, who prevent campaign finance reform so that money can rule from the center. This “third way” often enjoys the wedge issues: we all fight about immigration or abortion or guns, while Wall Street wins quietly in the background.

Another “third way” would be to stand strong: to call a lie a lie whether it came from left and right, to work against gerrymandering, to be furious when voters are kicked off the voter rolls. Is that you? A movement here would try to drain the swamp while encouraging us not to hate each other over different views on abortion or guns even if we strongly disagree. A strong center, that stands against corruption and subversion of democracy, while encouraging active listening and breathing room on social issues where ordinary, non-corrupt people simply disagree.

That second “third way” barely exists today. Gerrymandering and election manipulation are particularly vital: without gerrymandering, many more seats would be centrist. People volunteer on the left and on the right: there’s nothing stopping a million centrists from demanding an end to gerrymandering. Get organized, make it happen.

Communication Techniques for Talking with the Center

For progressives, the holidays can be a trap: if you get angry at a trolling angry uncle, all your relatives see two partisans in conflict. Conflict triggers the amygdala, triggers defensiveness, reduces the sense of hope and community — in other words, the family conflict itself is going to push listeners to circle-the-wagons conservatism, going to convince young relatives to stay the hell out of politics. Progressives thrive on hope. How do you get there while being trolled?

A couple of key tactics to consider:

  • Active listening is always where to start. Make sure the people who dislike politics hear you listening politely to your conservative relatives with each conversation, even if they don't deserve it. Find all the many places you agree with centrists, and let them hear that agreement before inviting them to agree with your ideas. The holidays are coming — think of listening as a gift, model what you want from less political and less partisan family.
  • Oppose trolling from the center. Let the "left" be for bigger government programs and wealth redistribution. Every American should believe in the Statue of Liberty, of being a light to other nations where people in danger might come for asylum. When Trump is at his most vicious, don't turn it into left-vs-right, but everyone-vs-Trump. Create a supermajority in your conversations.
  • The last step of Nonviolent Communications is making clear, achievable requests. Instead of "requesting" that centrists give up their independence and join you, cut your goals down to size: ask them to start standing up for the Center that they say they believe in. Ask them to become active in opposing election fraud, or some other activity that already feels true to their values. Let them discover for themselves where the electoral fraud comes from, that's what will make it stick.


Are you a Bedrock Centrist, or a Floater Centrist? Do you hold to your values, get active in supporting the center, or just float between the parties no matter what they do?

I think we should be asking rhetorically — it's too aggressive a question for one-to-one openings, Radical Conversation Cycle style, but a good question to float where everyone will want to answer to themselves "I'm a Bedrock Centrist."

Stephen Sat, 10/13/2018 - 17:12

Have you given up on communication techniques to politically opposed voters? Don't bother with active listening, don't bother with framing, because it's hopeless?

The results of how the we handled Kavanaugh should change your mind.

Instead of blocking Kavanaugh, this fight seems to have roused Republican voters who may have stayed home in November:
Poll: Amid Kavanaugh Confirmation Battle, Democratic Enthusiasm Edge Evaporates

How do you think that happened? Why and how were we outmaneuvered on an issue that initially looked like it might break the GOP coalition apart?

All those techniques like active listening, strongman arguments, and asking questions — the left has mostly given up on those techniques, arguing that they don't change voter's minds. We don't use them, we don't try to engage when Republicans try to frame an issue with "believe evidence" or that the Democrats are out to get Kavanaugh no matter what. We let the facts speak for themselves, despite decades of experience that facts only speak within stories.

Early Post-Mortem on Kavanaugh: Unframed Attacks by the Left

This week, we hear this over and over now: "Well, Kavanaugh lied, that should be disqualifying." What does that imply? That implies that the worst thing we have about him is lying under oath. Forget the sexual assault — we have, we've moved on to lying. This really is us being out to get Kavanaugh, looking for another reason. That is the left's frame: Kavanaugh sucks, we'll get him on something.

What is the Republicans frame? That's easy: you can't trust Democrats.

Some things the Democrats and allies did wrong:

We needed to define how Kavanaugh could be found not-smeared by the accusation. What did we want? When would it be enough? Without having that exit, it seemed, and in some ways was, unfair to Kavanaugh. If 2% of these accusations are false, what did we want Kavanaugh to do to prove he was in fact in that 2%? Without that, we seemed to be (in some ways were) entrapping Kavanaugh. Leading senators should have gotten together and made clear demands, with a promise to back off if conditions and evidence were both met. Without that, we lose many voters we don't need to lose, and fail to set a good precedent of how sexual assault accusations should be handled.

We needed to ask for what we wanted.

We need to pick one or two or maybe three disqualifying points, and build everything around them. We've accused him of sexual assault, and have not held back when weak and fuzzy accusations come in. Dr Ford's sounds serious; some of the follow-up, it has not been my impression that it is consistently on-target, serious and solid. We should have been saying to wait — we should have made sure the whole country saw us say "wait, listen carefully, just like we have with Dr Ford, don't judge so quickly" — making it clear we believe Dr Ford after hearing her testimony, after looking at what evidence we have, and the rest has to wait. Show that we have lines.

A few seconds thought on possible Democratic catch-phrases with appropriate frames:
"Believe her long enough to really investigate." #believe-her-investigate
"Why are you afraid to investigate."

These frames, with the underlying frame of Republican unwillingness to trust women long enough to even listen. If our frame is an unshakeable "believe women," we have a minority of voters. A looser version, designed to help people understand why we believe what we believe rather than present our allegiances, could have moved the country forward on both improving how we deal with sexual assault and on dumping Trump.

Stephen Thu, 10/04/2018 - 16:08

Here's a gentle action that might change the frame for congresspeople and congressional staffs regarding sexual assault — that I hope could work well in conservative districts:

Just a few people could easily recreate this at a townhall meeting, perhaps when people are taking their seats before the speaker is ready to go, or get mobile butcher-paper easel to take notes and ask people to participate while they are bored in line waiting to get in.

Personally, (just my opinion, other ideas welcome!) I don’t think it’s helpful to make it explicitly about Kavanaugh: this is a first step that sets the frame, remind people of what is real. If you have a hostile Senator, this might be a way to connect with female staff or supporters. Stir up thoughts with this exercise, work the crowd trying active listening and especially (especially if in a conservative district) encourage people to keep talking until they talk past their bullet points.

The exercise below has been making the rounds on facebook. I find it illuminating, and think that re-creating it at political events might expand understanding. See the action idea to the right, and let me know if you try it.
What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted?
“I draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other.

Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they've been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, 'I stay out of prison.' This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, 'Nothing. I don't think about it.'

Then I ask women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands. As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine. Here are some of their answers: Hold my keys as a potential weapon. Look in the back seat of the car before getting in. Carry a cell phone. Don't go jogging at night. Lock all the windows when I sleep, even on hot summer nights. Be careful not to drink too much. Don't put my drink down and come back to it; make sure I see it being poured. Own a big dog. Carry Mace or pepper spray. Have an unlisted phone number. Have a man's voice on my answering machine. Park in well-lit areas. Don't use parking garages. Don't get on elevators with only one man, or with a group of men. Vary my route home from work. Watch what I wear. Don't use highway rest areas. Use a home alarm system. Don't wear headphones when jogging. Avoid forests or wooded areas, even in the daytime. Don't take a first-floor apartment. Go out in groups. Own a firearm. Meet men on first dates in public places. Make sure to have a car or cab fare. Don't make eye contact with men on the street. Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.”

― Jackson Katz, The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help

Stephen Mon, 10/01/2018 - 21:39

Politics today are described as "tribal" — most people start with their allegiances and judge or filter each fact based on those allegiances.

Image of judge's scales: a lifetime of beliefs heavy on one side, one fact on the other

When we encounter a single news story, a single fact — say a veteran having their adopted child torn away over a technicality, or a supreme court justice lying under oath — many people stick with their party lines. The fact, so troubling to the other tribe, just bounces right off their filters: "I don't want to think about this for long, since it threatens my team."

The response by political opponents to this filtering is astonishment and judgment. Which is pretty powerless: pointing out someone's hypocrisy doesn't take away their right to vote. We desire that our opponents see this fact, and switch to our team. We remember this fact with all the others that support our side — they filter it away.

If you want to be effective, you can't make big changes quickly. One fact can't tear down many years' worth of allegiances, and if you try, you just harden people's defenses.

You want to get people to judge politicians based on the facts, rather than judge facts based on politics. This means letting go: if the end of a conversation requires a shift in loyalty, it's too much, and your conversation accomplishes nothing but giving them practice raising their shields. SELF-CHECK: The scales won't move. If you hope the scales will move, you'll probably undo your own efforts.

How can you set a smaller goal: What techniques make facts sticky? How do you keep people focused on the facts, instead of jumping to a judgment that will be based on their allegiances?

Image of judges scales: a single small fact on one side, nothing on the other

Two techniques that work well:

1) Nonviolent Communication (NVC) recommends ending conversations with a request. Most political conversations have an implied request: tell me I'm right, give up all your beliefs and accept my beliefs instead. Not surprisingly, this fails — and leads us to say "facts don't work." But facts that don't require judgment can work. Do you have a tear-jerking story of a child who grew up American, and is being sent to a country where they don't know the language? Don't scream about Trump: don't put Trump on the scales at all. Instead, ask the conservatives in your life if they'd like to work with you to right this wrong.

2) Let people talk past their talking points. Lots of people like to talk if you listen. Lots of people have good hearts. Lots of people have heartless partisan soundbites. They will keep talking past their soundbites and remember their hearts, if they feel heard instead of judged.

Stephen Mon, 10/01/2018 - 15:13
Imagine your position as a fortress, and solid counter-arguments are cannons. A "Gish Gallop" is like bringing automatic tennis ball launcher a quarter mile from the walls of the fortress and turning it on. The defender comes out and whacks the tennis balls away. No chunks are torn from the walls of the fortress. But to anyone watching, it sure looks like the attacker is wearing out the defender; with so many points, some must be true? In politics today, the Gish Gallop is used most often on climate change. The reason that almost all the world's scientists are wildly wrong changes from moment to moment and post to post, but there are always many reasons. It is a challenging tactic to counter. I think the best techniques should aim to slow the conversation down. In the analogy, keep your eye on the first ball. Don't hit the ball away, see where it lands: ask them follow-up questions, get them to keep expounding.
Stephen Sat, 09/08/2018 - 21:23

First draft -- Help me write this!

There is a bit of noise on the internet about civility:

Personally, I think that the options that fall under "civility" are usually the right choice, and name-calling almost always counter-productive.

I'm not sure what our frame should be; it's not as simple, not a binary. I think groups that want Gandhi or King style resistance should be exploring ways to get us out of the civility-incivility frame. It might be best expressed with a graphic, something that we can dump into all the articles.

Let's look at war, where people often takes things seriously: In war, you want to know your enemy. You seek out what works. You try different things. You try to understand the enemy's power and capabilities, and don't expect fairness or rightness to prevail on its own; in the end, you need power.

In posturing, trying to get into your opponent's shoes and see things as they do is often seen as a weakness. Actions are often based on identity: people protest angrily or try to have civil conversations based on whether they are drawn to angry protest or civil conversation, not because in a particular situation ones works better. Posturing acts as if someone with power is watching: we make threats into the air to the DNC that they will lose the next election if they don't stop taking the corporate money, but what we are asking is that the actual people in charge not be in charge —we're right, they're wrong, so something should happen.

None of the people in my circles calling for incivility are actually ready to launch military strikes against ICE. The most serious might put their time and bodies on the line to blockade ICE: this is the most radical response I've heard of, and it's an action that I think is acceptable to people calling for radical civility and also those upset with civility — a sign that we are arguing the wrong frame.

So perhaps the frame is that on one side is posturing and focusing on yourself, and the other side is engaging power and exploring what works. (1) Nice-Nice Civility and (2) anger and (3) shutting it out and not caring — these are all right next to each other, personal preferences or things you posture for your social group. They are all opposites of a range of tactics that focus not on yourself but on the issues. Speaking truth to power and tactics from radical civility in the Gandhi and King tradition are over on that side, along with get out the vote campaigns. Tactics that might look very similar at a superficial level might be on opposite ends of the posturing vs reality-aware efforts to create change.

There is lots of talk today that what is happening in DC is related to fascism, so let's look at the lessons from Nazi Germany: Politely using active listening techniques to encourage a slightly Anti-Semitic German citizen to vote against the Nazi party in 1932, or dropping bombs on Nazi Germany in 1942 both were reality-aware, power-aware techniques. Having a fist-fight with a Nazi in 1932 where no one changes a vote, and bystanders are discouraged and close their hearts a bit, was posturing.

So, what is the frame that encompasses these ideas? What words stand out — or an image —that would let radical civility be counted as non-posturing, and spending your time tone policing allies while not speaking truth to power be declared posturing? How do we keep the radical civility movement from being associated with nice-nice civility / tone-policing? .

(I doubt we can use the word "civility" and not wind up with a frame that is primarily about civility, with tone police and Gandhi grouped together.)

Stephen Cataldo Sun, 07/01/2018 - 16:04

Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a 'Feckless Cunt' for her role in enabling and covering for atrocious Trump administration policies such as separating parents and children, an insult which blew up, and became the story:

I would do anything to help those kids;
I hate that this distracted from them,
so to them, I am also sorry.

For those who believe in the communication approaches made famous first by Gandhi and King, Bee's failure to help people focus on the issues she cares about is a clear object lesson:

1) When the techniques from the world of ahimsa, nonviolent protest or radical civility are not used, when we name-call even 10% as rudely as our opponents, our incivility buffers listeners from the wrongs being committed. This is how we lose the political fight against Trump.

2) Calls for radical civility are in danger of being used by be-nice civility. When the techniques from the world of ahimsa, nonviolent protest or radical civility — techniques that all involve training and work to be be better communicators — are associated with be-nice, everything-is-ok civility (and perhaps even tone-policing our allies), it means we won't be able to recruit people in our own movements, won't be able to get people to come to the trainings and try out these techniques. This is how we lose the chance to create a movement that can win the political fight.

Civility is often about being nice to the person you are talking with at the expense of whoever is getting hurt; radical civility has to be about facing what is going on in the world — while keeping ourselves, our egos and our communication techniques from becoming a distraction or buffer to the real story. In this sense, radical civility and be-nice civility are actually opposites.

I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour. But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment. — Mahatma Gandhi

Radical civility needs to be able to talk about horrible things. This is the tradition it comes from: there was not equivalence between British colonizers and Indians struggling for independence, nor was their equivalence between those who wanted Civil Rights and those opposed.

Do you want to see America go through a movement, so when the next generation looks back, the list of victories of nonviolent movements talks about Gandhi, King, Mandela, and the wide awakening that happened after Trump was elected?

I think if we want that to be the case, we have to break the associations between radical civility and be-nice civility, and learn and then teach how to express anger at the wrongs being committed in a way that we no longer are the distraction.

So far, I don't think I've seen a radical civility movement that makes this clear: in the civility groups I've joined, you get in trouble for judging opponents as responsible for their actions, but not in trouble for judging them as not responsible their actions — rather than stick to avoiding judgment and sticking to communication and mobilization.

The Democrats and also the Left have been failing in recent years partly because we aren't good at expressing anger: being willing to face how bad certain actions are without dipping into name-calling and techniques known to backfire, known to make the debate itself into a distraction. The main exception I can think of is Michelle Obama, who does not hold back on how bad certain political choices are, but simultaneously doesn't insult and does invite everyone to get on the side of decency or justice.

Bee is describing how incivility becomes a buffer between listeners and what the Trump administration is doing. There are things worth being angry about, and figuring out techniques for communication that don't tone-police that anger downwards, but instead help the real issues be heard. Suggestions: "No Stale Anger" and the following sections, page 50 of Cognitive Politics, or join Social Media Responses for Respect and Tolerance.

Stephen Cataldo Sun, 06/10/2018 - 15:12

I am skeptical that saying the president has lost it is and is "like a child" is helpful in an era of blue lies. We would actually do much better if we (liberals) steelman Trump — quite a job — but find something we can defend Trump against overreach, which at the same time makes the other accusations feel more real (it's no longer a spitting contest.) I think the accusation that "100% of the people around Trump…question his intelligence and fitness for office" is already being disputed by some people who would have to be in the 100%. Trump, imo and before framing this down to merely effects of old age, has made evil decisions, used racism for the purpose of obtaining power, etc. "Like a child" is not the right key, is not our frame. I do think encouraging supporters of the Trump movement to lock down in their support of individuals who will wind up fighting in the future is a powerful political tool, acceptable (if not beautiful) within civility conversations. If people feel specifically loyal to Trump or Bannon before they fight, it is a more fragile movement opposing us than one of pure loyalty, where Republicans can call each other racist and incompetent in the primaries and then unite again. In an era of blue lies, we have to put chisels in the cracks before the fractures, or only the smallest flakes will be removed. Trump being a loser is something that every time a left-y person says it, causes more wagon-circling: we shouldn't make that accusation. Just point out the evidence, without any conclusion. { SMART vocab: say why, but skip the conclusion. }

Radical Civility Cycle: Reflect and Agree

A lot of Trump supporters feel that they are on the losing end of innuendo and gossip — and with Fire and Fury, they're probably right. That makes this a good time to agree that this is too gossipy, and perhaps reflect back that we all should stop accepting innuendo in politics — people on the border of being reasonable might be motivated to be more reasonable now, and it may stick..

If you are willing to agree that this is gossipy, what do you want past Trump supporters to see and agree on?

When Trump was running, this is what I saw: He tried to divide ordinary Americans. I'm not saying that conservatives or liberals do this. A lot of politicians on both sides, a lot of nonprofits trying to get funding, they try to divide us. For me, the recent accusations are scattered. I am furious that people were willing to vote for the man behind the Birther accusations, a man born with a silver spoon in his mouth who screws over the small businesspeople who work for him, a man with multiple accusations of racism and overt and nasty sexism — he brags about worse than what Bill Clinton tried to keep secret. We should not have elected such a man, should not have given him our trust. And who is behind him?…

We are looking to be saved. Half of American voters looked to a benevolent billionaire (who inherited, not even self made) to stand up to other billionaires; half turned to someone who got rich by keeping the very rich satisfied. People doing work create the wealth. We need working class and middle class and professionals creating the wealth to run this country — not turn on each other because we disagree on social issues.

Stephen Fri, 01/05/2018 - 13:16