“Members of the opposing political party are not just worse for politics – they are downright evil.” Would you agree with that statement, as more than 40 percent of Americans did when researchers asked it a few years ago?
What about this one: “We’d be better off as a country if large numbers of the opposing party in the public today just died.” Believe it or not, twenty percent of Democrats and 16 percent of Republicans went so far as to wish death on fellow Americans with different political views.
Many of us have perfectly fair reasons for disapproving of the other side’s politics, but with polarization crippling our government, enraging our communities, and even weakening our national security, we’ve reached a breaking point. We can’t go on like this.
The good news is that we don’t have to. While research shows that Americans loathe each other’s partisan identities, plenty of other research shows that when it comes to actual policies, we have a lot in common.
But don’t just believe the statistics; believe your own eyes and ears. On July 30, in partnership with CivicLex and YOUnify, we’re inviting the greater Lexington community to come together for a day of problem-solving across political divides.
Here’s how it works: people from every part of the greater Lexington area and from across the political spectrum come together to learn about, discuss, and tackle a critical national issue. With some help from us friendly public policy nerds, participants will work together to craft solutions, then continue working together in the coming months to go out and advocate for those solutions.
We’ll be addressing a topic familiar to anyone with a smart phone: digital disinformation and free speech.
In the past two years alone, Americans have struggled with rampant misinformation about the effectiveness of masks, the safety of vaccines, and the fairness of our presidential election. We’ve also faced serious questions about whether it’s possible to crack down on misinformation without undermining our sacred right to free speech. Consider the lab leak theory, which was denounced as a conspiracy theory before many experts began taking it seriously.
Some false information stems from genuine misunderstandings, while some is the result of malicious campaigns designed to confuse and demoralize. Some targets people of color, immigrant groups, or people with a particular political leaning.
It’s hard to agree what the truth is when every person you meet is living in their own unique screen world. Social media platforms and search engines use secret algorithms to shape the information we get but give us no insight into how they work or what kinds of content they elevate. Figuring out which media sources to trust can seem like a puzzle with pieces that shapeshift every time you play.
At the July 30 event, we’ll get into questions like “Should tech companies be held accountable for misinformation on their social networks? Who should hold them accountable? Is there any way for the government to get involved without violating the First Amendment? How can we better educate ourselves and our children to navigate information online?”
These are not simple questions but there are plenty of possible solutions out there. What we need to do next is dig into them, consider the pros and cons, and commit to working together across ideological lines to craft an approach we can all get behind.
We hope you’ll join us on July 30! Learn more and register at ourcivicgenius.org.
Civic Genius is a nonpartisan, nonprofit civic engagement organization working to overcome political polarization. CivicLex is a local nonprofit organization building civic health through education, media, and relationship building.