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the echo chambers

Increasingly in both our countries (the United States and Canada) being conservative means a rural "family values" voter while to be a liberal means to be an urban "elitist" voter. In other words, two solitdes who do not comprehend each other. But is it quite that simple?

I was listening to CBC radio on Sunday where the discussion centered around the conservative party of Ontario having the same type of existential crisis that the Republicans have in the States. There are the deplorable racists, the hard core evangelicals and the old school fiscal conservatives who are more progressive on social issues (ostensibly libertarians) all vying for the soul of the same party and all trying to get along.

That same day another program interviewed Ken Stern, a progressive New York agnostic Jewish male and former head of NPR, who spent one year living with the other side. He registered as a Republican and lived among people he had never really overlapped with before for any length of time. He wrote a book called “Republican Like Me” and ended up becoming an independent after being a registered Democrat for many years. Stern’s point was the echo chambers on the left and the right have been busy dividing Americans and that aside from a few pivotal issues there is more similarity than divergence among the voters. His conclusion was that this new divisiveness was mostly the result of people having stopped listening to each other instead of focusing on their own tailored made news which only help to feed political and cultural divisions.

This is happening in Canada as well where the political right has coalesced into an uneasy truce between factions that used to not fit together but now attempting to form a common front. Here it has also become the leftist elite against the "common man" right which is not exactly an accurate portrait of reality.

The answer in both countries may just lie in dismantling the opposing echo chambers and have people talk to each other again and leave the "shock jocks" from both the left and right media to their own devices.

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Ken Stern

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