If Only We Were Nicer

3 Quarks Daily is a good place to visit for online intellectual stimulation. They publish original content on Mondays; the rest of the week they link to articles on “science, arts, philosophy, politics, literature”. Even the (moderated) comments are often worth reading. Unfortunately, somebody at 3 Quarks likes to share articles that purport to explain or address political polarization.

If you’ve visited sites like 3 Quarks or read prestigious publications like The New York Times or The Atlantic, you’ve probably run into Jonathan Haidt. He’s an American social psychologist who writes lots of articles and books like The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion and The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. The 3 Quarks Daily’s search function turns up almost 60 links to things by him or that mention him (going back to 2004).

There was another one this morning: “The Polarization Spiral” by him and a co-author. The subtitle is: “How the Right’s Monomania and the Left’s Great Awokening Feed Each Other”.

The best way to read this piece — if you’re inclined — is to skip to the end and savor the conclusion:

The polarization spiral, which is fed and accelerated by social media, is making extremists on both right and left more extreme, more powerful, and more intimidating. Both sides feed off of each other. Both sides are essential for a polarization spiral. And that means that neither side can win by attacking or humiliating the other side. Such tactics only serve to energize the other side.

It’s a classic “both sides” analysis. If only those far left extremists on Twitter and Facebook would calm down, stop criticizing well-meaning people so much and in particular stop saying nasty things about right-wingers, we wouldn’t have such polarization in this country. The right wouldn’t care that America is becoming less homogeneous, less patriarchal and less Christian. They wouldn’t feel the need to make minority rule permanent or launch the occasional coup. No more gun worship or right-wing terrorism, no more teenage girls forced to give birth, no more pervasive lies, no more demonization of immigrants from “shithole” countries, no skepticism about the climate crisis. Hell, we could even have universal healthcare!

In other words, there would be much less polarization if only we were less judgmental. You can’t argue with that.