What is the problem with contemporary political debate?
There might not be a single, simple answer to this question. It could be a variety of things — some of which might be framed in several different ways — depending on what you think the purpose of political debate is. For my part, I think the problem lurks in the Outrage Economy. People don’t want to feel stupid, so public ideas have to protect the psychic construction of the self as intelligent(/commonsensical), savvy, and entitled to their opinion. So instead of having public debates where people engage with each other, we have public events where one party tries to confirm the prejudices of the audience while the other tries to outrage the audience. Because outrage is profitable, the cycle continues.
People might not agree with me on this, and that’s fine. Or they might agree with me that the Outrage Economy is a problem, but not as great a problem as something else. Continue reading “Quick Post: Why #OpenLabor isn’t the political movement you’re looking for #auspol”
Following on from yesterday’s post about wanting to see more journalists acting as the audience’s avatar rather than as a hostile pseudo-expert, today’s ‘Things I’d Like to See in the Media’ entry is somewhat difficult — and almost counterintuitive — to explain. I want to see public intellectuals engaged in debates where they advocate positions contrary to their usual.
I am not convinced that most of our opinion writers actually understand the positions they’re arguing against. This was certainly true of any person who used the phrase ‘race to the bottom’ with reference to the major parties’ asylum seeker policies. Both ‘sides’ of politics are equally guilty; there is simply too much reward for misrepresenting your political opponents’ argument.
We also have a culture where we are encouraged to reject unconditionally and uncritically any arguments that don’t suit our political position. The only valid positions are the ones that are compatible with our intuitions. Just as two people could not come to different correct answers to the question ‘Is there a largest prime number?’, the Laws of Rationality demand concurrence in political, social, and cultural questions.
The sort of thing that we need in our media is a space in which people agree to advocate for positions that they do not personally hold. If this is a rational discussion, people of sufficient intellect should be able to construct their opponents’ political positions in ways that are convincing and satisfying. Continue reading “Things I’d like to see in the media: contrived debates #auspol”