Mistaken Identity

Experienced poker players say that if you don’t know the patsy at the table, it’s you!

It might be true!

I pride myself on being open-minded; it was part of my training.

Few people, however, look at both sides of an issue. Why bother when we know we are right? 

I am concerned about polarization in our country. Political disagreements are not new, but today, disagreements separate friends and family and create class warfare. 

Conflict resolution requires that we “seek first to understand.” So I decided to subscribe to news and opinions from the other side. 

This practice has had a surprising impact! I’ve become more polarized! 

I couldn’t figure out what was happening! I usually love to look at both sides of an issue.

I decided to explore what was causing the increased polarization of my views, and I think I’ve found the answer!

I’m the patsy at the table!

I credit Ezra Klien with my “enlightenment.” He has a new book out titled “Why We’re Polarized.” I highly recommend it.

Some of his key points follow:

-Media is a business, and businesses are in business to make money. The media does this by “capturing eyeballs.” 

-Media executives know that we are naturally drawn to positive things about ourselves and negative things about others. They exploit this by focusing news on political extremes from the other side, feeding our bias and bolstering our identity.

Research shows “Identity” more than ideological differences drives polarization. Studies indicate that political affiliation today explains consumer preferences and social behavior better than any other single factor. 

Media captures the largest audience by taking negative fringe views and portraying them as “mainstream” for the other side. Elected officials do the same thing to rally their base. 

We’re being duped! 

I’m fascinated by current events, and I spend a lot of time staying “informed.” Like the rest of the sheep in the corral, it’s polarizing my views. 

I decided to test Klien’s hypothesis by conducting an experiment. I started ramping down my “news” from all sources, focusing on positive and inspirational things. 

The result? 

 I’m less angry!  

Maybe the country isn’t as polarized as we are led to believe? Perhaps we simply need to stop feeding our identity? 

I’ve decided to delete most of my news feeds and cancel some subscriptions as well. This is not an “ignorance is bliss approach,” rather, I’m winnowing down the negative crap and replacing it with things that are affirming and inspirational. 

Someone said, “We are what we eat!” Looking at my waistline, it’s hard to dispute.

Maybe we are what we read (and watch) as well!


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2 Replies to “Mistaken Identity”

  1. HI Tim,
    Nice post! We are definitely living in a more divided and polarized society these days (who let that genie out of the bottle?). It would be nice to somehow ignore all the negative and angry crap (ignorance is bliss, they say) but I often find that while you can do that with media, it’s hard to ignore people’s behavior. You know, the guy that cuts you off on the road and then slams his brakes on, the guy who yells at the cashier or waitress, the cop that kills a POC because he can, the list is endless. But you may be right – they might just be what they read and watch!! Have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


    1. I agree! I think there is a lot of anger in todays society. Whether anger feeds polarization or the opposite I’m not sure. Media certainly adds gasoline to the fire.

      Happy Thanksgiving to your family as well.

      Tim Sent from my iPhone



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