Most of Us Are Too Insular, Too Closed-Minded
Including YOU. And me.
This column by Nicholas Kristof is entitled The Daily Me. (The phrase was coined by Nicholas Negroponte of M.I.T.)
Now that we all have access to the Internet, with billions of websites just a few clicks away, what news sites do we surf? Most of us try to confirm our existing beliefs by visiting those news sites that we already agree with. As Kristof says, “When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about…we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.”
And unfortunately — this was the most disappointing part — it doesn’t count as being open minded or “expanding your horizons” when you visit extremist websites that are the total opposite of your viewpoint, just so you can ridicule them. Damn it! It’s fun, but it doesn’t count.
So when pro-business pro-development people visit an Earth First! website, or liberals tune in to Rush Limbaugh, they’re not reaching out to the other side or examining other viewpoints. They’re just reaffirming their own beliefs by exclaiming “can you believe this shit?!?!?!?!?”
I’ll probably continue to check out WorldNetDaily, Townhall.com and a few extreme rightwing bloggers who aren’t worth naming. But I won’t pretend it’s for educational purposes; it’s just for laughs. And for that perverse joy in being appalled, horrified, that some sickfuck can actually be this — ahem — but I digress…
Almost half of all Americans now live in a county that votes Democrat or Republican by a landslide. In the 1970s this was true for only one third of Americans. We’re becoming more segregated by beliefs.
A survey of twelve countries found that Americans are the least likely to discuss politics with people of different viewpoints. Most surprisingly (to me anyway), the higher the education level, the more closed-minded a person becomes. High school dropouts were the most willing to discuss issues with people they disagreed with. College graduates “managed to shelter themselves from uncomfortable perspectives.”
Kristof ends his column with: “So perhaps the only way forward is for each of us to struggle on our own to work out intellectually with sparring partners whose views we deplore. Think of it as a daily mental workout analogous to a trip to the gym; if you don’t work up a sweat, it doesn’t count. Now excuse me while I go and read The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.”
cross-posted at Bring It On!