Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Breaking News

Opinion

January 17, 2014

CECIL BOHANON: Political discourse divisive because opponents convinced they're right

That's why discourse on issues so divisive

As we are exiting the season of “peace on earth — good will toward men” and entering yet another legislative and political season, it seems appropriate to examine why contemporary political discourse has become so divisive and shrill.

Of course, when has political discussion been unifying and open-minded? Fair enough, but it certainly seems political discussion has become more mean-spirited today than it was in previous decades. Although I offer no solution beyond a general saccharine resolution that we should all be nicer to one another, I think there are at least three sources of today’s extreme acrimony.

First, there has been a glacial but important change in the proper role of passion in public discourse. James Madison, Adam Smith and Jane Austen all thought “passions” — or in modern parlance, emotions — were an essential part of human nature. They also believed public displays of passions ought to be restrained. Self-command was a cardinal virtue. It obliged individuals to mute their own feelings in public.

By the 1960s these traditional restraints on displays of public emotions seemed excessive and repressive. To be genuine in the expression of one’s feelings became a virtue. Today being “passionate” about a cause is something we admire — especially if we agree with the cause. Is it any surprise that we prefer political commentators who are strident compared with those who are more circumspect?

Second, the communications revolution of the past 20 years has led to increased segmentation in the media. The old media monopoly has been replaced with more diversity in news sources. This revolution can’t be turned back and it has many positive attributes. A byproduct of media segmentation, however, is that we live in a media “bubble” of our own making. Progressives get their news from MSNBC and the Huffington Post while conservatives get theirs from Fox and the Drudge Report, and never the twain meet. We pick news sources that reinforce and inflame our own ideological biases. This goes well with the modern desire to be entertained: It is so much more fun to be entertained than to have to think through a serious argument.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • LoBianco: Bigger ethics questions raised in House Turner review

    Members of the House Ethics Committee who will take up Rep. Eric Turner’s case face daunting tasks as they try to answer two questions: Did their powerful colleague violate any ethics rules in privately lobbying against a measure that would have hurt his family’s business?

    April 18, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor: April 18, 2014

    Attendees at the Tipton County Board of Commissioners meeting April 7 were treated to an appalling lack of both action and concern by the commissioners.

    April 18, 2014

  • Letter to the Editor: April 17, 2014

    On March 20 of this year I attended a public meeting of the Tipton County Economic Development Alliance. Members of this group include the three county commissioners, a member of the county council, two members from the city council, and the mayor.

    April 17, 2014

  • Hicks: Measuring the unmeasurable

    One aspect of economic research I think is especially powerful is the ability to measure or monetize the things that humans clearly value but for which a market price is not necessarily apparent. This is one of the aspects of economic analysis that gives it such dominance over other social sciences.

    April 17, 2014

  • Rob Burgess House of Burgess: Bush presents 'The Art of Leadership'

    On April 5, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy,” opened at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University. The display, which runs through June 3, boasts “portraits of more than two dozen world leaders” painted by Bush, according to the official literature.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bohanon: ‘Economics is fun’ in Vegas or in Bible study

    I am writing this on an airplane to Las Vegas. I’ll be attending the annual conference of the Association of Private Enterprise Education along with two of my colleagues and six of my students.

    April 16, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor: April 16, 2014

    At the time the agenda for the April 7 commissioner meeting came out, I was happy to see that the neglected commissioner board appointments were finally going to be addressed. These appointments had been in limbo for months on end.

    April 16, 2014

  • Hayden: Want better teacher ratings? Ask the kids

    The state may be back where it started, encumbered with a flawed teacher grading system, a year after implementing what were meant to be tough new standards.
    That was the general consensus of the State Board of Education days after teacher evaluation data were released last week.

    April 15, 2014

  • Letters to the Editor: April 15, 2014

    In a recent “public eye” article written by KT columnist Scott Smith about the proposed industrial wind turbine project; mention was made of the “new deal” brokered by Howard County Commissioners with E.ON.

    April 15, 2014

  • BRIAN HOWEY: Mike Pence for president in 2016? Stay tuned Mike Pence for president? The swirl of 2016 national ticket talk surrounding Gov. Pence intensified over the past few weeks. I sat down with the governor in his office on Tuesday to find out what he's really thinking. A few hours prior, the Weekly S

    April 14, 2014

Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Beau Biden Plans 2016 Run for Del. Governor Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Horseless Carriage Introduced at NY Auto Show Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Boston Bombing Survivors One Year Later Sister of Slain MIT Officer Reflects on Bombing
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll