Content Editor: Adam Daroff

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cheering vs Arguing.


I've said it before and I'll say it again: Americans suck at arguing about politics.


Most of what the political "arguments" we see on social media aren't  arguments at all, they're what I call "cheering."

Cheering is basically yelling "our team rules!!!"  or "your team sucks!!!" really loudly. It's a great way to get people who are already on your side to get off their butts and pay attention, and maybe even get involved in political activism. That's obviously important. But it's also obvious that just yelling "my side is awesome" isn't going to persuade anyone to join my side.


Actually, cheering can often be the opposite of persuasive. What looks like an awesome cheer from our side usually looks moronic and evil from the other. In fact, members of the other side often use our cheers to make us look bad to people who we might have been able to persuade to join us. Both sides do this, and actually it's one of the only forms of argument that we're any good at.




Thursday, September 7, 2017

How do we deal with Nazis?




It's crazy that we have to ask this question in 2017, but....what do we do about Nazis in America?

Courtesy of Anthony Crider. Shared under Creative Commons 

It's become clear, especially since Charlottesville, that there are a disturbing number of Americans who explicitly support white supremacy, antisemitism, and actual, honest-to-goodness fascism.

How do we deal with these people?

Now, this is a blog about politics, and I’m a political scientist, so the question I’m asking here is how we deal with Nazis politically. 

I'm not going to talk about what to do if a Neo-Nazi or White supremacist or  KKK member is coming at you with a club, or a car, or an armored division. Those are certainly problems, but they're different from the problems that I'm most worried about right now.

What I'm worried about is how we can keep these sorts of people from hijacking our political process. They can vote after all - they're American citizens - and we've already seen that they can convince other Americans to join their cause, or to vote for someone like Donald Trump. It already worked once, how can we stop them from doing it again?

We have two options. First, we can persuade Nazis to stop being Nazis. As preposterous as that sounds, it's possible, and we already know how to do it. But even if that doesn’t work, we can convince the rest of the country to join our fight against them.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Political Persuasion 201: Stop Trying to Win.



We suck at arguing about politics. This is partly because we always have this dream of how we want the argument to end. We’re going to make some amazing point and all of a sudden our opponent is going to see the light and realize...

Edited from original at xkcd.com.

The idea that we can really “win” a political argument, and force our opponents to wallow in their own wrongness is seductive. But it’s something we need to give up, because it’s NEVER going to happen.

Think about it – have you have you ever seen someone arguing about politics suddenly change their mind and admit they were wrong? It’s pretty rare.

This doesn’t mean political arguments are worthless though. Arguments can change minds. But only if we stop trying to win them.

Monday, July 10, 2017

How to Learn About Science Like a Scientist



Politics these days can feel like a war between those who believe in science and those that don’t. Many conservatives are ignoring the scientific consensus on climate change, while President Trump lives in a word of "alternative facts," yelling "fake news!" at any scientific results he doesn't like. But conservatives aren't the only ones who have trouble with science. No matter what side they're coming from, media reports about science almost never the whole story, and sometimes they get it totally wrong.

 As a scientist, this has been a pet peeve of mine for a while, so I was thrilled to find1 this excellent piece on Last Week Tonight, where John Oliver breaks down this issue:




Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Breaking News: 0.00003% of Trump supporters said something dumb on Twitter





Did you see this? NPR Tweeted Declaration Of Independence, And Trump Supporters Flipped Out.


 I have to admit, I got a rush of Shadenfreude when I heard about this – it confirms everything thing I believe about how dumb Trump supporters really are.

But then I took a step back, and remembered that I hate stories that treat the internet comments of a few dozen people as “news,” and then use it to make claims about how millions of Americans think and act.

I know it's just meant to be fun, but I think that these sorts of articles are actually harming our ability to be talk intelligently and persuasively about politics, by feeding our most powerful biases and making us worse at constructing good arguments.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Treason



What do you think about this?



 I can only imagine what's going through your head. What kind of short-sighted idiot would say such a thing?

This is America after allThe freedom to "defy" and oppose the President is at the very core of who we are as a country.  Heck, it's practically out duty as citizens to oppose our leaders when they do something evil or stupid.

After all, this isn't a dictatorship....yet.

The fact that people actually believe this sort of thing about Trump just shows how dangerous he is.

Right?

Well, maybe not.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Don't Get Distracted



Effective activism in the Trump era is largely about deciding where to funnel your energy. You can’t have a march or rally or an internet campaign about every crazy tweet Trump fires off. You need to pick your battles and focus on the stuff that really makes a difference to people’s lives.

This is harder than it sounds.


The Terrible Budget that Doesn’t Matter

On March 18th President Trump released his budget proposal and liberals on the internet went bananas. They had a good reason to be concerned. The budget proposed slashing funding for a number of critical departments and programs, like the National Institute of Health:
…and even the program that funds “Meals on Wheels”


These memes make it sound that we need to ensure that Trump’s budget isn’t passed, in order to protect our health, and our seniors. 

But what these memes don’t tell you (and what their authors might not even know) is that even in the unlikely event that Trump's budget passes, it wouldn’t have any impact on the funding of any of these programs.

That sounds too bizarre to be true, but to understand why it is you have to spend a few minutes wading through…

The American Federal Budget Process!