Wednesday, February 7, 2018

NONPARTISAN POLITICS IN THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Open-mindedness may be the key against prejudice and misinformation

The spread of political propaganda and fake news on platforms like Facebook have inadvertently broken many friendships and even families. One example is a fraudulent article from the United States claiming that a Democrat was arrested for falsely accusing 2017 Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore of pedophilia. Another is a hoax from the Philippines alleging Vice President Leni Robredo conspired with former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.


Propaganda and fake news become viral by touching on political sensitivities. Regardless which side of an issue they belong to, diehard supporters can react aggressively and respond with insults. These include attacks on a person’s intelligence and sexist remarks, as well as threats of rape and violence.

As the stories mentioned above and similar others create a divide among people, a more neutral approach to politics on social media becomes urgent to avoiding unnecessary rage as well as misinformation. A nonpartisan mindset overcomes blind rage by focusing on objectivity, free thought, and reform. This allows proponents to set aside personal and political biases so they can hold a more constructive dialogue over a problem.

Such an attitude is helpful in social media where heightened emotions can prevent people from recognizing truth from falsehood. No one, however, is immune to prejudice—or put positively, to having an initial mental framework of understanding the world, as discussed by German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer in Truth and Method. Nevertheless, reaching an informed opinion remains possible with patience and tact.

Active Listening

Effort is key to political neutrality. Whenever conflict arises, full attention must be given to what the other is saying so that both parties can reach mutual understanding, if not agreement. This is called active listening: a structured form of listening and responding that begins by withholding judgment.

For instance, in an argument on whether vaccination causes autism, rather than calling the opposition “dumb,” listeners can respond by asking, “Why do you think so?” Succeeding questions then aim to gather more data such as the speaker’s sources of information, personal beliefs and values, and feelings about the issue.

The end goal is to build rapport that hopefully leads to a resolution.


Fact Checking

Anyone who shares unverified content puts thousands at risk of misinformation and even violence. Such was the case when a piece of Islamophobe fake news threatened mass hysteria in 2016 by claiming that the Swedish Transportation Administration banned Christmas lights on street poles to avoid offending Muslim migrants. The story has since been debunked.

Before spreading or saying anything about sensational social media posts, there are a few signs to watch out for. These include click-bait headlines, grammatical and spelling errors, uncredited content, inaccurate publication date, lack of sources, and questionable quotes and images. Visiting other media outlets online can verify whether a circulating article is being reported elsewhere. Reverse image search tools also help check the legitimacy of shocking viral photos.

What matters here is for people to stay calm and do their research before jumping to conclusions. They can then report or block fake news and inform fellow social media users about deceptive posts to mitigate the spread of misinformation.

Diplomatic Wisdom

Ultimately, a nonpartisan mindset serves the common good by concentrating on a given problem rather than fixating on hierarchies or affiliations. The process may first come off as rude to people with political sensitivities or positions of power. But through proper diplomacy, such as by speaking sincerely and informatively without sounding condescending, proponents can bring in opposing parties into the conversation so they can become part of the solution.

The wisdom of unbiased politics is best embodied by the protagonist of American political drama Madam Secretary.

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During the pilot episode, newly appointed Secretary of State Elizabeth “Bess” Adams McCord (Téa Leoni) decides to pursue unsanctioned methods to save two teenagers accused of being spies in Syria. Despite her course of action being unorthodox, she still comes clean to US President Conrad Dalton (Keith Carradine), convincing him to let her think out of the box so she can save both the kids and his reputation.

Likewise, she broaches a sensitive topic with the King of Swaziland during a state dinner by discussing the rising AIDS epidemic in his country. To win his cooperation in the matter, she demonstrates her familiarity with the names of his ten wives much to the monarch’s surprise and admiration.

In both situations, Elizabeth not only embraces her lack of partisan bias but also practices good diplomacy so all parties can benefit.

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The show also leaves us with a hint of conspiracy. Will Elizabeth be able to keep her apolitical principles intact as tension unfolds in the White House? Madam Secretarypremieres on Friday, February 9 at 9:00PM exclusive on Blue Ant Entertainment.

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