Can a friendly and diverse dialogue exist between liberals and conservatives on the internet?
Let’s learn from past mistakes and keep trying.
For the last 2+ years I’ve been researching and writing a book about productive disagreement (Why Are We Yelling? will be published in 2020). It’s based on work that has unfolded since I synthesized all 200+ cognitive biases into 4 universal conundrums that our brains are constantly trying to solve in the Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet, which has since been read more than a million times. This unfolding project has been the hardest and most rewarding work of my professional life so far.
It seems necessary to put these ideas into practice towards something meaningful. That is, addressing one space that is very negatively impacted by our struggles with communication: politics.
I’m in the early stages of forming what hopes to be a friendly and diverse community for political conversation online. You probably think I should have my head checked, right? I know many efforts are happening around this right now because the time is ripe for this to happen. I think we can do it!
It’s invite-only and will be moderated to encourage respectful, open dialogue from all sides. The only problem is that my own network is largely liberal-leaning. Like many these days, I live in a bubble.
I think the best way to make it all feel less like a trap to conservatives and more like an opportunity to relieve some of our collectively built up frustration is to find a founding member with strong ties in conservative communities. I’m extremely interested in any intros to people you think might be a good fit for this.
What is Fruitful?
It will be a Q&A site with representation from every political and policy perspective we can find. There will be areas to “Ask a liberal person with who is pro-immigration” and “Ask a person who didn’t vote in 2016” and “Ask a person who believes Trump is doing positive things for our country” etc. It will focus on people more than groups because part of the problem is that you can’t understand a group, or talk to it… you can only talk to and understand individuals. There will be a code of conduct for how to ask questions and how to answer them, geared towards open-ended questions and generous listening. Our first chat will be “Ask a liberal Episcopal pastor” and we’ll try to do one every week. Every member will have a chance to express their worldview and invite curious and friendly inquiry.
We aren’t trying to change anyone’s mind. We’re trying to expand our perspectives to include how other people see things.
Imagine if we had a respectful, quiet, and friendly place on the internet to ask honest questions of people we don’t normally relate to. Wouldn’t that alone make the next two years a bit more bearable?
It will also be free. This won’t be ad-supported or sponsored in any way, it’s all coming out of my pocket because I see this as an existential need for so many of us.
That’s the pitch, feel free to send it to people or modify it to fit your style.
This project will only work if we can show that quiet, respectful voices do have space and power to be vulnerable and to bring out the best in each other.
If you’ve lost all hope that we’ll ever resolve these problems, I beg you to give this a chance!
Who wants to help?
I’m open to all ideas that increase the possibility of this working.
Until we get the balance closer to even I’ve reduced invites to people who tend towards liberal politics, but that will change again once we’ve got more balanced representation. I want there to be enough people from different perspectives to cancel out any power imbalances in the community because that’s a prerequisite for the kind of trust and investment of time and energy that I hope everyone will put in together.
We’ll be inviting people in batches over the coming weeks.