Who’s responsible for Trump? We all are (along with social media)

This morning, I was listening to a Radio Canada program reading excerpts from comments they had received after interviewing three Canadian Trump supporters to hear their views on the American election’s outcome. In those tweets/e-mails/comments, people were lashing out in mean ways (ways people take when they feel protected by anonymity) on both those three individuals for the views they upheld and the network for organizing this talk. Tonight, I got to hear the actual interview, the one that caused this liberal-progressive audience to explode in insults. What I listened to though were three well articulated persons expressing and justifying with good arguments their support and agreement for Trump’s campaign (with some restrictions) and election. I cannot help but admire their courage for ever accepting to go out on public radio knowing the backlash they would have to endure and facing a radio host that obviously was not being impartial (and incidentally not doing her job correctly). She even went so far as to question each of them on their views about gay marriage, death penalty, and abortion in an ultimate attempt to force fit them into the stereotypical views she held about Trump supporters.

Suffice to say this left me somewhat disappointed with that radio host, who failed at being a journalist that morning. However, this also made me grateful towards Radio Canada for taking the initiative to find people with opinions and values that opposed it’s agenda. That all got me thinking and made me want to add my two cents to the debate.

I for myself do not share the opinions that were voiced by the guests: I think Trump election is a step back and will spell potential catastrophy for the world at large. However, what I can’t deny is that some people hold views that are more conservative than mine and we’ve ignored them so much over that last couple of years for the sake of progressive ideals in so far as to create an immense divide in society. A divide so great that when all the people on the other side of that chasm decided to pull on the little line of communication linking us to them we call elections (and really the only time when our opinions are truly confronted), it won them the Trump election.

Who is at fault? us and them really. We’Re guilty for not discussing and debating among ourselves, for not trying to understand each other’s concerns and most importantly for not taking the time to reach out, listen and take the time to explain our respective views. At the risk of sounding condescending and demagogic, I’ll maintain that progressive ideas have the higher moral ground and are the way forward: that is empirically justifiable by a quick look at history. There really is no debate to be had about the need for civilization to progress, but there is a discussion to be had about how we should proceed towards this inevitable goal and at what pace should this process go. All of us will agree on that. Those that seemingly don’t most often have quarrels with the means rather than the principle. Paying attention to their arguments, understanding them, putting them in context and then making compromises while demonstrating that there’s something in it for then as well will go a long way towards making everyone happy and content that they’ve had a chance to partake in this collective endeavor called democracy.

Did we at one time take a step back to hear those people out? To understand where they came from where they wanted to go? It’s the failure to do that that got us where we are. Failure on both sides of the chasm, as I don’t foresee a Trump administration benefiting them either. I’ll admit those previous arguments were not really not mine. I’ve seen them pop out on a Facebook post and this hopeful Wait But Why article has hinted on them. However, now comes my own opinions about the matter or rather the likely explanation.

Yes, there’s always been divides in societies, counter-opinions and different point of views. That is an extremely good thing insofar as there exists channels of communication for those views to confront each other, otherwise, it’s all for nothing. Nowadays, we can no longer call this a simple division, it’s a canyon. A gap so wide very little information gets across to the other side even though we live in an age where communication has never been so easy. What’s responsible for this paradox? the information bubble (in large parts). Social media’s entire business model is built upon feeding us content we’re likely to look at. Our friends, well they’re our friends because they think just like us and those websites we visit, well we wouldn’t visit them if they didn’t agree with our values.Consequently, the fact we now mostly rely on the Facebook feed and biased news websites to gather our daily regimen of news and opinions isolates us from diverging points of views. And that’s abstracting the immense influence the media we read has on our opinions, which only furthers the issue. Those individuals on the other side of the canyon? they live under the same influences and face the same invisible barrier.

Over the years, partly because we get ever increasing parts of our information through social media and partly because news agencies can now only survive if they cater to specific views and values, we have isolated ourselves in our little information bubbles. It used to be that newspapers – albeit with agendas – were much better at giving us facts on which we could as citizens form opinions and confront them with those of others in the then offline world, because the public space was all that there was for communication. Nowadays, all we get are editorials and opinions and whenever we read something we’re not in agreement with, we’re quick to discard and expel it from our information bubble and move on to things that reassure us in our views. Other’s have called it the echo chamber effect, but it’s entirely equivalent. And since we no longer discuss politics and ideals outsides of our little circle because it’s seen as antagonizing, we’ve completely lost sense of what others  really think, those people poorer or richer than us, the unemployed and the employed, the city dwellers and the countrysiders, the religious and the irreligious.

The only time when we get to face each other now is during election time, and it’s done through a simple ballot that gives us two options.

No wonder the world has become so polarized.

 

One thought on “Who’s responsible for Trump? We all are (along with social media)

  1. Hello. I think that the phenomenon of “information bubbles” is not new (the communitarianism always exist), but it has very quickly increased in recent years with the almost systematic use of Big Data for a whole bunch of applications (media, social networks, advertising) and more broadly the one that needs to be targeted commercially (almost all, even humanitarian organizations). Most worrying is that with the growing of collecting data (connected objects, mobile application, online video games) this is not going to work out. In France, I recently experienced this digging of ditch with friends with I thought I was on the same wavelength. I was able to measure the impact of digital communitarianism in the radicalization of thoughts. For example people I met in alternative movements who tell me today share misogynist, xenophobic or complotist points of view with bloggers known for their extremism in the matter. I also think that people are increasingly educating to swallow information predigerate and the fact that quantity prevails more and more on quality does not help anything. I also think that history repeats itself once again. A century ago the world was (not yet globalized) had experienced the same kind of phenomenon … we know what that led to.

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