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very good…and reminds me of some of Dorothy Dinnerstein’s work on language. Of course, this style of communication is more popular with men. It’s competitive, aggressive and though some women have imitated it, it’s still largely more male. Who listens to talk radio, for example?
(Admin comment: relocated comment due to reorganization of blog.)
I agree with your approach.
What counter-strategies do you have in mind?
We saw, in the days after Tucson, that finger-pointing & blaming only contributed to polarizing, even demonizing. The volume rose, but not illumination.
Countering the megaphones of PTR, backed by empire-sized fortunes, is a big challenge.
I reflect sadly that what really demonstrated the dangers of Nazism, and inoculated much of Europe against such appeals, was the catastrophe of W W II.
In the US, we have already had our genocides in the killing of so many Indians, and the 5000 lynchings between 1765 and 1940. What do you think it will take to reduce the spread of this malign influences?
John, I have spent the last year visiting political blogs, posting and interacting with others from across the spectrum, and I have developed ten counter-strategies that I have found to be effective in turning manipulative language “right-side out”. Like the strategies I identify in this talk, most of these counter-strategies are linguistic strategies.
I have just started giving a different presentation at workshops so that others can learn to quickly identify these polarizing strategies, and respond to and counter them in real time (in person or in the blogosphere). The object, and the effect, is not to defeat others, but to lift up both sides, and the level of interaction. Groups interested in hosting one of these workshops can contact me.
Yes, the challenge is huge. But many people have expressed a sense of relief at seeing manipulative tactics explained and clarified. This gives us a sense of where to begin . And it is not just the use of polarizing language that is a challenge — the information age itself is exacerbating the problem.
As to what we can do to reduce the recurrence of catastrophes such as genocide or ethnic cleansing, this is a profound topic that I have no special qualification to speak to. But each of us is responsible for learning accurate history and understanding the circumstances that can lead to these events. If we see our own political culture and our own language being degraded in ways that could possibly open the door to such disasters, our own silence would be our enemy. Each generation has to find its voice and face the challenges of its own time. There is no let-up, it seems.
Hello Kathryn. It was nice seeing you again yesterday afternoon. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had to go back to work. I just viewed the video of the talk that you gave. The idea of language being used in this strategic way is very interesting. Words are symbols. We should all recognize the ways in which language is used and at the same time not fall into the same polarizing practice that seems to be so popular throughout history. My coworker is very right-wing and is often brutal in his speech. I have a daily front row seat to his tirades. It seems that my knee-jerk reaction would be based on emotion and would not be helpful. Therefore, I do not get involved. I am very interested in learning more about this topic so that I can present information in a way that does not do damage. Thanks for your work.
Over the last two years I developed counter-strategies to polarizing talk and am giving three workshops this month (April/2011, see “Events”) to share the counter-strategies with others. Participants identify polarizing linguistic strategies, then practice using the counter-strategies. So far, my emphasis has been on how to counter “trash talk” or “tribal talk” when it surfaces on blogs or threads. But I am also working on some exercises so that participants can practice using the counter-strategies face-to-face as well.
There is a lot of polarizing speech being used on conservative talk radio, and your co-worker may be repeating what he hears. Unfortunately, many on the left are also imitating the polarizing talk. It is much harder to “see” it when someone on “our side” (regardless of which side we are on) uses it. But it is not healthy for either side to use it, and it presents a challenge to our democracy in the information age.
Glad to see you are not responding in kind to your co-worker. There are other ways to talk back, and to contribute to a productive political dialogue.
Listened to all six parts, very interesting. Even reposted on google+. However… this is presented in a very academic setting. We now live in a world of attention deficit: there are just so many interesting things to hear about and do and explore; its hard to pick just one, and we are now all children running wild in a candy store. I fear your talk is that bit of candy wrapped in plain paper on a back shelf — it will be discovered by few.
Can you summarize the basic ideas & points in some punchy, direct, short essay? Something 3-5 or even 8 paragraphs long, something that I could point friends and enemies at? I have a high-school friend who I can no longer talk to, because he’s adopted this kind of language (in this case, something about liberal medieval philosopher kings lording it over peasants and death camps and hyperinflation; its word salad, I can no longer parse and rebut) I’d like to see your message get out and be more widely heard; the lecture video won’t accomplish this.
Thanks for your comment, and I appreciate the points you are making. This particular talk was made at a gathering of the League of Women Voters in 2010, not in an academic setting. But I do understand your concern about the talk ‘losing’ viewers with some of the background / introductory info I give.
I have revised the talk for 2012, eliminating much of the intro, cutting to the chase with the 7 strategies, and it has 25 min. of media clips, so it has a faster pace. This talk will be videotaped soon and should be uploaded by the end of March 2012 (mid-April at latest). In addition, I will have a separate, shorter video that offers linguistic counter-strategies uploaded, too.
If you want to share an article with a friend, you might want to read columns, etc. that I have written that are posted on my home page. Your experience of being barely able to communicate with a person who has been dear to you in the past is not unusual. I hear all the time from my audiences (Democrats and Republicans) that friendships and family relationships are being damaged by political polarization. You might find the counter-strategies helpful in dealing with that: and these can be used by the left in countering the right, or vice-versa — but the object (and in my experience, the effect) of the counter-strategies is not to heighten conflict, but to reduce it.
And I will continue to write on this topic and I am trying to get the information out in other forums. Thanks for your suggestions!
I’ve been very impressed by your speech, which I think is extremely important. For what it’s worth, I appreciate the historical background.
When it occurred to me that not many people would listen to the whole hour and a half, I started doing an ideas summary with links to the videos, but then I noticed that the youtube links weren’t public, and it’s possible that you don’t want your speech treated the way I’ve been handling it.
I’ve taken my summaries and a post about your speech private, though I’m hoping you’ll let me spread the word. If you’d want to see what I’ve written, let me know.
I’m very sorry if I’ve created a problem for you.
Nancy- It is not a problem for me that you have written a transcription & posted it elsewhere, and that you shared the video. This is public information. I appreciate that you informed me of this.
My 2012 video (with 25 min. of new & different clips) should be posted on this site around the end of March 2012.
Someone who was at the lecture said you said the links are public, so I’m going with that. I’ll take down my summaries if you want them down.
What I’ve written is here:
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