Author Topic: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion  (Read 776 times)

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Offline MH

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Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« on: December 10, 2017, 08:44:31 am »
I am changing my thoughts on public discussion again.

I used to think that the weight of thoughtful popular opinion would always exceed that of ignorance and trollish noise.   Well, maybe not always but in the preponderance of cases.  Now I am starting to think that the 'basics' of discussion - things like agreeing on sources, methods of discussion, mutual respect etc. - can erode invisibly underneath the media that dominate.

That is to say, if you have cable news as your medium, then "the" public will fall behind the norms of that medium in deciding how the discussion will go.  So the cable network, and guests will form their own behaviour norms and that will be "the" debate.   

In the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s as this happened (and earlier) our abilities to engage with information eroded.  We lost the ability to engage deeply with facts, we lost trust (better - CONTINUED to lose trust) in political leaders who were not on "our side", we saw politics as rounds of boing in between commercials, etc.

So when the dominant medium changed in 2010s to "social medium", it relied on a lot of the aspects of "public" engagement that were baked into to the process from the beginning.  These were now gone, eroded.

So I am now thinking that this erosion was worse than any of the members of "the" public realized.  By "the" public, I refer to conservatives and liberals who are in touch with issues as discussed by mainstream politicians, who follow mainstream media as I define as anything from FOX News to the most centrist and balanced sources.

The change in my thinking comes from the creeping ability for mainstream politicians to "get away" (sorry, lack of a better word) with standing behind people like Judge More, with outrageous statements and so on.  Admittedly, I am talking about America here.

Nonetheless, I am going to start getting more reactionary about pushing people out of the conversation if they don't listen, don't use real sources, and don't discuss in good faith.

https://www.docdroid.net/YfzmpFP/what-is-homosexuality-a-scientific-fact-or-a-perversion-events-political-discussion-forums.pdf#page=5

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guest4

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2017, 09:33:13 am »
Sadly, this girl has taken to heart the advice that Muslims should not engage in argument, but instead of leaving she merely shuts others out. 

Offline bcsapper

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2017, 10:31:46 am »
It used to be that you could pretty much trust most sources of information, and those you couldn't were obvious.  If Reginald Bosanquet or Angela Rippon read it me from a notepad on the desk in front of them, I believed it.  If Barry at work told me he read it in the "Sun", maybe not so much.

Now, anyone who doesn't line up confirmation before banging on about their favourite source of wrath deserves what they get. I don't think we have lost the ability to engage deeply with facts so much as we have not developed the ability to engage deeply now that we have access to all of them, and everything else too.

« Last Edit: December 10, 2017, 10:44:54 am by bcsapper »
Time for bed said Zebedee...

Offline Gorgeous Graham

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2017, 11:06:20 am »
People are stupid.  People have very high levels of debt, people borrow on their credit cards at 20% interest.  People can't even get their own house in order which is a pretty simple thing, how are we to expect them to stay informed & make the best conclusions about policy from that information?  Look at the debt governments in the West have because people want it all now & ignore future problems caused by it.

The stupidity of people via their priority of short-term gratification despite the long-term consequences is destroying the world in many different ways.  Sure there's smart people who have their shit together but they're the minority.  When those long-term consequences come to bear there's going to be a shitstorm, and we saw it once with the 2008 global recession.  Expect these things to continue.

What good is majority rule when the majority are idiots, and the minority who have their shit together are made to suffer by the tyranny of the majority?  That old narrative of the elite capitalists making the working poor suffer as they steal their wealth & corrupt our democracy, yet we ignore the majority using government to steal our money via taxes & misspend it on dumb shit while racking up huge debt to support themselves & their feel-good projects.

Maybe government should be used to force regulation on the elites who exploit us, while at the same time focus on limited government to prevent the dumb majority from exploiting us.
"The economy has been relatively strong but Trudeau has chosen to run deficits year after year & has said will continue to do so well into the future.  This means we'll be in a worse & more vulnerable financial position when a recession hits when we HAVE to run deficits again." - Me, Oct. 3, 2019

Offline wilber

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2017, 02:02:53 pm »
Haven't been over there for a long time. What forum was that in?
"Never trust a man without a single redeeming vice" WSC

Offline MH

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2017, 04:16:45 pm »
I don't think we have lost the ability to engage deeply with facts so much as we have not developed the ability to engage deeply now that we have access to all of them, and everything else too.

I agree with your post, except for this last bit.  I think we're saying the same thing, but we DID have the ability to engage deeply far in the past, when there was a smaller scope of knowledge required to understand policy.  We now have too many facts, and too many policies and haven't needed to deal with any of it for a long time.

Offline MH

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2017, 04:42:24 pm »
People are stupid.  People have very high levels of debt, people borrow on their credit cards at 20% interest.  People can't even get their own house in order which is a pretty simple thing, how are we to expect them to stay informed & make the best conclusions about policy from that information?  Look at the debt governments in the West have because people want it all now & ignore future problems caused by it.

Right, but people were dumber in the past and democracy (arguably) worked better.  The sea-change in the information landscape requires an adjustment and perhaps even - gasp - some DESIGN.

We design roads so that stupid people can drive, but we don't design our political processes. 

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The stupidity of people via their priority of short-term gratification despite the long-term consequences is destroying the world in many different ways.  Sure there's smart people who have their shit together but they're the minority.  When those long-term consequences come to bear there's going to be a shitstorm, and we saw it once with the 2008 global recession.  Expect these things to continue.

I expect some kind of reaction, or we will be doomed shortly.

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What good is majority rule when the majority are idiots, and the minority who have their shit together are made to suffer by the tyranny of the majority?

T'was ever thus, in some way.  But continue...

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That old narrative of the elite capitalists making the working poor suffer as they steal their wealth & corrupt our democracy, yet we ignore the majority using government to steal our money via taxes & misspend it on dumb shit while racking up huge debt to support themselves & their feel-good projects.

Maybe government should be used to force regulation on the elites who exploit us, while at the same time focus on limited government to prevent the dumb majority from exploiting us.

Well that's a start but the devil's in the details.

Offline TimG

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2017, 05:44:19 pm »
It used to be that you could pretty much trust most sources of information, and those you couldn't were obvious.
I disagree. In the past you had no choice but to accept what you were told by the media because there was no other way for people to know otherwise. Now we have choices and the bias of the traditional sources has been exposed. It did not suddenly start and there was no 'golden age' of trustworthy media. We were just naive.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2017, 05:46:51 pm by TimG »
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Offline TimG

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2017, 05:53:47 pm »
Right, but people were dumber in the past and democracy (arguably) worked better.
In the past people were more compliant because they had no access to information that would allow them to challenge what they were told. Now we have so much information that people have to choose the information to consider instead of accepting whatever is available. The side effect of too much choice is people are now choosing information based on what makes them feel comfortable which, in turn, has divided society into incompatible echo chambers that cannot communicate with each other because they can't agree on the basic facts.
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Offline Gorgeous Graham

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2017, 06:11:55 pm »
Right, but people were dumber in the past and democracy (arguably) worked better.  The sea-change in the information landscape requires an adjustment and perhaps even - gasp - some DESIGN.

We design roads so that stupid people can drive, but we don't design our political processes. 

Driving is pretty simple, and doesn't change too much over time.  Politics is very complicated and always changing.  That's hard for dumb people to grasp, to constantly stay informed. 

The problem of designing our political processes is that we did this a long time ago and tweaked it over the last 150+ years, but society has changed.  Corporations & their money have more power than ever, and information technology has changed as you say, among many more social changes...yet we designed a system that is purposefully very difficult to change, and the last time it was altered Quebec never signed off on it and it almost broke the country apart on multiple occasions.  Now we can't even get rid of an unwanted Senate.

If we could change our system, what would that look like?
"The economy has been relatively strong but Trudeau has chosen to run deficits year after year & has said will continue to do so well into the future.  This means we'll be in a worse & more vulnerable financial position when a recession hits when we HAVE to run deficits again." - Me, Oct. 3, 2019

Offline MH

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2017, 06:46:56 pm »
In the past people were more compliant because they had no access to information that would allow them to challenge what they were told.

Well... hmmm.  We are starting to slip into weird reverse-time-travel-blaming here.  And with a leftist bent, too.

ie. 'The Greatest Generation' were loyal, brave, unquestioningly patriotic vs. 'The Vietnam War woke up America'... or something.

But interesting thinking nonetheless.

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Now we have so much information that people have to choose the information to consider instead of accepting whatever is available. The side effect of too much choice is people are now choosing information based on what makes them feel comfortable which, in turn, has divided society into incompatible echo chambers that cannot communicate with each other because they can't agree on the basic facts.

People used to have proxies give the information to them, and could only debate facts that didn't align with their world-knowledge.

I agree with the second sentence completely, but it could be fixed if we had proxies who didn't try to use unfactual information.

Offline MH

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2017, 06:57:01 pm »
Driving is pretty simple, and doesn't change too much over time.  Politics is very complicated and always changing.  That's hard for dumb people to grasp, to constantly stay informed. 

Well I'm not going to be a slave to the analogy but how much HAS driving changed since the 1950s and how much has our political system been changed to adapt ?

In other words I stand on my point.

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The problem of designing our political processes is that we did this a long time ago and tweaked it over the last 150+ years, but society has changed.  Corporations & their money have more power than ever, and information technology has changed as you say, among many more social changes...yet we designed a system that is purposefully very difficult to change, and the last time it was altered Quebec never signed off on it and it almost broke the country apart on multiple occasions.  Now we can't even get rid of an unwanted Senate.

If we could change our system, what would that look like?

Great question.  One thing that the Liberals and Conservatives BOTH did federally - which is great - is reduce the amount of 'big money' in the system.  How did they do it ? By reducing Corporate donations AND Union donations. 

So change is possible.

I have posted this thing many times over the years, but I still like it:
http://www.ppforum.ca/sites/default/files/final_report_public_engagement_eng.pdf

We have the greatest information exchange medium arguably every devised at our fingertips (WE ARE USING IT NOW!) and we can't seem to understand that it was MADE to be used for politics.  When I bring this up, people inevitably think using the web for real politics will mean that politics will become like MLW, or this place, or the comments section on YouTube but that's a limited view.

Offline TimG

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2017, 07:15:36 pm »
I agree with the second sentence completely, but it could be fixed if we had proxies who didn't try to use unfactual information.
The problem with facts is there very few of them. Most decisions we have make are based on uncertainties which may be expressed as probabilities at best. This often requires people to make judgements based on values rather than facts. People are generally unable to empathize with people who have different values and that is why the echo chambers have evolved. Much of the divide between the left and the right comes down to values and the relative priorities used to resolve inevitable conflicts between values.
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Offline MH

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2017, 07:29:40 pm »
The problem with facts is there very few of them. Most decisions we have make are based on uncertainties which may be expressed as probabilities at best.

Sure, but even expressing reality as you have here is tantamount to advanced calculus in today's political discourse.

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People are generally unable to empathize with people who have different values and that is why the echo chambers have evolved. Much of the divide between the left and the right comes down to values and the relative priorities used to resolve inevitable conflicts between values.

And yet these same people insist that there is a 'Canada' with 'Canadian Values'.  Separating out an area in which details can be discussed, and trade-offs can be proposed would be a sea-change and huge leap in actually making 'politics' where before there was grandstanding.

Offline Gorgeous Graham

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Re: Thoughts on Democracy and Discussion
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2017, 07:42:21 pm »
The problem with facts is there very few of them. Most decisions we have make are based on uncertainties which may be expressed as probabilities at best. This often requires people to make judgements based on values rather than facts. People are generally unable to empathize with people who have different values and that is why the echo chambers have evolved. Much of the divide between the left and the right comes down to values and the relative priorities used to resolve inevitable conflicts between values.

True enough.  But statistical probabilities are still based on facts.  We can't predict the future but we can make the most logical guesses based on the info.  This is how baseball teams win these days, nobody can predict future performance but using past stats you can make very educated projections instead of just instinctual guesses.

Values are just what we choose to use that info for, or what outcomes we want given that info.  The garbage comes when people manipulate or selectively choose facts based on their values in order to argue that their values & by extension their policy stances are superior. I think we're all guilty of doing that.  And we all like to think that our values & pet policies are determined by the facts, but that's often not true.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2017, 07:44:37 pm by DuckFace »
"The economy has been relatively strong but Trudeau has chosen to run deficits year after year & has said will continue to do so well into the future.  This means we'll be in a worse & more vulnerable financial position when a recession hits when we HAVE to run deficits again." - Me, Oct. 3, 2019