"Shut up, he explained"
A line that sums up how we respond to people we disagree with.
Maybe you’ve noticed — just about everybody you talk to about politics already has his mind made up. Nothing you say is likely to make a dent in the other guy’s thinking. No matter how smart your argument is, you won’t convince the other guy that you have a point worth considering.
The whole idea of a discussion — of a dialogue — is that when we hear from another side, some version of the truth will emerge.
But it just doesn’t happen.
I thought about this after reading an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Joseph Epstein, a wise and thoughtful writer. In his piece he wrote:
“The ideal of dialogue, or perhaps of false dialogue, is carried on today on the various panels assembled by cable-news channels. On any three- or four-person Fox News panel, at least one panelist is likely to be a self-acknowledged Democrat, liberal or progressive; on any CNN or MSNBC panel one participant is likely to be a Republican or conservative. Fox has what one might call its house liberals; CNN and MSNBC its house conservatives. This is meant to give the impression of fairness, of every side getting its say. But, again, it’s less than certain that this really works.
“As most people watch either Fox or CNN and MSNBC exclusively, viewers aren’t likely to attend carefully to these channels’ house dissidents. They are, after all, tuned in chiefly to find confirmation of political opinions formed long ago, not to hear an opposing view.
“These days most people have their political opinions locked in, with no wish to change their views.”
Too bad he’s right.
It’s no secret that we’ve become a deeply divided country. It’s not only that we disagree with the other side, we don’t think the other side is worth listening to. If the other side made any sense, we figure, they’d be on our side, right?
I have some first-hand experience with this. At a recent get-together, a Trump loyalist said something that offended a liberal who had been listening to the conversation. Once she realized she was in the presence of a MAGA Republican, she got up and walked away without saying a word to the Trump fan. When she left he asked me, “Is she a liberal?” I said, “Yes,” which prompted him to say something I can’t repeat here.
This called to mind that great line from the early 20th century writer Ring Lardner: “Shut up, he explained.” Everybody these days wants everybody else to shut up — unless, of course, they agree with you.
Here’s an idea that Joseph Epstein came up with: Let’s have a dialogue on how we can end the divisions in our country. Let’s have serious people talking to other serious people making serious points.
Good idea but would anybody actually listen to what the other side is saying about anything in the realm of politics? Maybe, but not if the discussion were held on cable TV. Nobody really listens to the other side on cable TV.