News from Tim Howe – Tue 5 Dec, 2017

Big Al asks: “Don’t we have enough anger in our world without pouring more gasoline on the fire?

NATIONAL VIEWS

The anonymity of social media nourishes anger

BY KAY S. HYMOWITZ InsideSources.com

Most readers are probably aware that the normal, habitual acrimony between America’s political parties has been strengthening into something resembling Montagues and the Capulets or the Crips and Bloods. We either believe global warming is a theory cooked up by communists or we are convinced downtown Manhattan will be uninhabitable within the next decade.

Some of us might disinherit our children if they married one of “them.” We don’t just vote for different people, we think the other guy belongs in the lower reaches of Hell. Even those who define themselves as independents hate each other.

Like many people, I blame social media — at least in part.

A close look at recent American habits suggests we were already well on the road to extreme Red-Blue polarization before Facebook and Twitter came into our lives. In fact, researchers have been watching America grow more divided since the late 1980s.

Gerrymandering has concentrated red and blue into separate districts, but the re-districting shenanigans of state politicians are far from the whole story. The decline of manufacturing in the Rust Belt and parts of the South, along with the rise of tech and service-based economy on the coasts, has created starkly different experiences and attitudes among Americans in different parts of the country — and a red-tinged world-view largely unrecognized by existing media and politics.

That changed in the late 1980s when the radio show of the choleric Rush Limbaugh was syndicated; Fox News added another microphone for red grievance in the mid-’90s. Sensing a market opening, other cable networks, most notably MSNBC, jumped in to fill the void for Blue voters, now seething from what they viewed as Fox’s fake news.

During this period, Americans were “sorting themselves into like-minded communities,” the Brookings Institution’s Elaine Karmack has written. “Red states have gotten redder, blue states bluer and the same hold for counties.”

Meanwhile, as the Pew Research Center has found, partisan gaps on just about every issue have been widening. In 1987 red and blue voters had a lot of common ground when it came to attitudes toward the environment, the social safety net, and the size and effectiveness of government. That is less and less the case today.

If cable news and talk radio amplified already existing red and blue divisions in class, culture and geography, social media turned those divisions into a tribal Cold War. Social media de-humanizes personal interactions, taking them out of the dining room, the neighborhood store and workplace and into a nowhere we call cyberspace.

In real life, even in the politically segregated country that we’ve become, you’re bound to run across some flesh and blood “others.” You may hate the contents of the political sign on Mr. Jones’ lawn, but you know he runs a pretty good hardware store and he sweeps his sidewalk every Sunday.

Mr. Jones and Ms. Smith, in other words, are embodied human beings who arouse a complex set of reactions. But in cyberspace where we lack the body language, facial expressions, voice inflections and other cues that we use to get a read on someone, it’s easy to reduce people to caricature. Mr. Trump Supporter or Ms. Progressive: that’s all we know and all we need to know.

The relative anonymity of social media also nourishes the anger arising out of our divisions. Making a nasty comment in cyberspace is very different from doing the same to someone you might have to see at the supermarket. No wonder 64 percent of social media users say their online encounters with people on the opposite side of the political spectrum leave them feeling as if they have even less in common than they thought.

No, social media is not the perpetrator of America’s tribal Cold War, but it is a dangerous accomplice.

Kay S. Hymowitz is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor at City Journal. She is the author of the book “The New Brooklyn.”

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Comments:
  1. On December 5, 2017 at 10:37 am,
    CFS says:

    You think you’ve seen anger?

    Just wait till Trump fires Mueller and pardons Flynn.

    • On December 5, 2017 at 12:06 pm,
      Big Al says:

      I would really be surprised if that happened. He may not be a great communicator, but I am not convinced quite yet that he is stupid and that would be really stupid!

      • On December 5, 2017 at 1:44 pm,
        jhpace1 says:

        I heard today on the Rush Limbaugh show that Trump may keep Mueller simply because he is “the devil you know”. Firing Mueller would force the Deep State to replace the man with someone more vitriolic to push their agenda in Trump’s face.

        The Progressives/Left/Communists/Globalists hit a real roadblock when Trump won the US Presidential election. Is this the Right’s/Christians/Populists/Other Side’s last grasp on maintaining a hand at the political tiller for the nation? The scandals coming out of Washington D.C. appear to be equally on both sides of the aisle. Yet look at how each is being treated by the mainstream media. (The media betrayed the American public long ago when they were promised an utopia back when yellow journalism should have been a Fourth Estate. Instead, we have ivory tower syndrome being spread by propagandists who also feel no pain when reality intervenes.)

  2. On December 5, 2017 at 10:54 am,
    CFS says:

    President Trump is supposedly highly intelligent….

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Congress and the budget (all times local):

    1:20 p.m.

    President Donald Trump is predicting that Congress will come together quickly to reconcile differences in a sweeping tax overhaul passed by the House and the Senate.
    Trump says in a meeting with a half dozen Republican senators at the White House that he calls the joint House-Senate conference committee “the mixer.”
    Trump says, “everyone gets together and they pick all the good things and get rid of the things they don’t like.”
    In reality, the conference will involve tough negotiations over differences in the two versions of the tax bill that can be approved by both chambers.
    Trump says the end result will be “perfecto” and something will come out of conference “pretty quickly.”

    But his tweets have to be overly optimistic!

  3. On December 5, 2017 at 11:48 am,
    CFS says:

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is strongly disputing a claim by outdoor retailer Patagonia that President Donald Trump “stole” public land by shrinking two national monuments in Utah.
    Zinke calls the claim — made in large type on the company’s home page — “nefarious, false and a lie.”
    Zinke says in a conference call Tuesday that “it’s shameful and appalling” that Patagonia and other retailers “would blatantly lie in order to get money in their coffers.”
    Patagonia replaced its usual home page Monday night with a stark message declaring, “The President Stole Your Land.” The message called Trump’s actions to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments “illegal” and the largest elimination of protected land in American history.

    • On December 5, 2017 at 12:08 pm,
      Big Al says:

      I really don’t know enough about this deal. What I do know is that The Donald is not liked at all by most people!

    • On December 5, 2017 at 1:47 pm,
      jhpace1 says:

      How can taking land away from the government and putting it back into private hands be “stealing”? The government is the worst custodian in human history, compared to private ownership. (Corporate ownership is between governmental and private ownership, and falls under the fascism watch.)

      • On December 5, 2017 at 10:11 pm,
        CFS says:

        technically, it goes into state’s hands

        • On December 6, 2017 at 8:48 am,
          Big Al says:

          Thanks for bringing that up CFS. I am amazed that Patagonia printed that deceiving message.

  4. On December 5, 2017 at 1:59 pm,
    GH says:

    This article seems like a facade to me, Al.

    The divisions in American society have been deliberately fomented.

    Just look to the owners/controllers of the mass media and the ivy league to pick up the trail of who are responsible.

  5. On December 6, 2017 at 5:44 am,
    OOTB Jerry says:
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