First Steps To Approaching The Political Divide

Consumption does not always refer to what we put into our stomachs but our minds as well. When taking into account triggering political rhetoric, “fake news” accusations, and severe nationwide divide, it all begs the question: How do I process this information and approach it in an effective way? Many aspects of the current political discourse are harmful to marginalized people and evoke strong emotions. As feminists, we must consider the best methods of approaching political discourse that would encourage progress and gender equality. Below are ways in which you can sort through information and react in a productive, impactful way.

Don’t Ignore It

It’s easy to delete social media or filter out certain topics from your feed. In fact, studies show that liberal leaning social media users are more likely to delete/unfriend people with different views. New trends are flooding the internet: “Post pictures of your pets instead of news articles!” or “Spread love instead of talking politics!” I think we can all agree that it’s not only aggravating to read about the current political climate (whether it’s in the news or the comments of someone’s status), but it’s exhausting as well. Despite this, is ignoring the news really helping you?

In order to enact change, we must remain informed. Although removing political talk from your life may offer a faux sense of peace, it buries the real problems.

 

Approach With An Open Mind

It is important to not only understand, but open political discourse. This relies on knowing what is happening in the world and forming your own opinion. It is easy and common to accept all the views of your political party and react to news according to those beliefs. However, I urge you to explore all viewpoints before settling with one.

 

Don’t Desensitize Yourself

Now that you aren’t ignoring politics, it’s time to take it one step further. It’s easy to see headlines or hear political talk and think to yourself, “Of course, here we go again,” then read with a sense of dejected calm. And with everything that is happening, how can we not? But this is where certain cliches have value: if you don’t stand for something, what will you fall for?

Knowing what is happening in the world is not enough. We are in the midst of many political fronts that affect millions of people both nationally and internationally. We deserve the right to news anchored in facts, not meritless claims. Yes, depending on political alignment, news will inspire different reactions from different people. But we should all be exposed to all real news outlets so we have the foundation to process our opinions. Fake news is becoming a real problem, especially with credible media outlets getting banned from White House press events while others devise headlines that distract from real legislative problems.

 

Approach All Conversations With Researched Facts

This leads to the next step in consuming politics productively: ways to actually discuss issues and problems we are facing. With the prominence of this political crisis, the taboo of politics as a conversation topic takes a backseat. Political discussions are found everywhere whether you’re chatting with a colleague, waiting at a bus stop or sitting at family dinner. The facts are accessible, despite claims and outrage that nothing the media reports anymore is true. So, what is the best way to cull through information and focus on what is important?

First things first, know your websites and news sources. Look for key markers on whether or not your source is reliable, and read more than one source to gather several perspectives. Facebook is now introducing a feature that will help this problem by marking fake news articles as such. Although it is not promised to catch them all, this is a start to reading a credible story. When you read an article, especially online, also research the publication or website that it is posted on. Are they neutral? Do they cite several other sources with their claims? Are you sure it is not satire? If the answer is no to these questions, check for other sources. Once you have credible sources, take a step back and look at yourself. Are you seeking knowledge from a neutral standpoint or to affirm your preconceived beliefs? Are you accepting of fake news simply because it is convenient for your politics? Do not allow loyalty to a certain party augment your reality.

Photo by Jose Moreno

Keep discussions grounded in facts and approached with sensitivity to differing views. Depending on political affiliation, people rely on different sources for their information. Not only this, but based on geographical location and social media algorithms that track what you click on, the things you read/view about politics are likely to be very different from someone who opposes your stance. This immediately sets a disconnect, and how else can we confront that divide other than through logical discourse?

Now that you’ve found your information, focus on the approach you need to take in order to discuss it. Conservative thinkers, as shown in a psychological study, tend to value moral attributes such as patriotism, respect for authority and purity above all else. Meanwhile, liberal thinkers value equality, fairness and protection the most. In order to have effective political conversations with a person who has opposing views, appeal to the basis of their political morality.

At the moment, the self-proclaimed alt-right thrives on the idea of liberal thinkers being overly sensitive or “special snowflakes.” Prove them wrong. Lashing out will only perpetuate the notion that activists are hypersensitive about “nothing.” Appeal to the root of their beliefs, and find common ground.

By: Sabrina Canepa