On November 28th, 2023 Settlement Project president, Frank Kaufmann spoke at an online seminar taking up the topic “Toxic Polarization in America: What’s to be done?
Thanks to the organizers, fellow speakers and panelists, and participants.
I have been asked to speak for 10 – 12 minutes on the topic “Toxic Polarization – What’s to be Done?” This dystopia is meant to refer to the mortal plague infecting America presently.
This particular gathering focuses on media, perhaps as in part responsible for our current shameful ugliness, as well as on ways media might contribute toward needed healing. My first premise is that our world is full of noble, courageous, journalists ready to give their lives to honor truth-telling for the sake of a better world. Although I admire honorable journalists and am grateful for the indispensable service they offer, I myself try to avoid them and have as little to do with them as possible.
My second premise is that what is called legacy media is close to perfectly bereft of honor having flushed decades even over a century to of hard-earned honor and reputation to wallow in an orgy of blind bias for the last six years.
I personally feel that honorable journalists almost have to position themselves in alternative media, as unfortunate as that is. While alternative Media is some balm from the blanket indoctrination that flows from establishment media, its problem is that it has arisen in an atmosphere of political tension, so it tends to be one-sided politically. It is superior in its commitment to God-given freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, but it functions in an embattled environment, and so is in itself balanced (even though it provides balance).
My view of a healthy America is what I call a “Dialogical America.” I believe that America improves on the rails of full-throated dialogue among liberal and conservative citizens. All institutions including the Media have the responsibility to create environments in which these vigorous debates can take place. This trust in Dialogue has been supplanted by pernicious and dishonest enforcers of Censorship Culture. If this is not exposed and reversed it will destroy America and other free societies.
We are here to discuss “Toxic Polarization” the extent of the Media’s culpability in pouring gas on that fire, as well as possible ways the Media may contribute to bringing back to our citizens the freedom to express a point of view without getting lynched or imprisoned.
Where Does Media Fit In With All This?
It is my view that the Media is downstream from two institutions, and cannot have any hope to improve as a positive contributor to American culture without reform and recovery in these anterior pillars of national culture.
The first is education, especially higher education, and the second is religion and religious institutions.
In our modern world, media has become a powerful force that influences the way we think, perceive, and behave. It has the ability to shape public opinion, dictate trends, and create narratives. However, Media is downstream from education. It is a reflection of the values and principles instilled in us during our formative years. And unfortunately, the decline in the quality of education has had a direct impact on the media landscape.
Colleges and universities, once revered as institutions of higher learning and intellectual growth, have become hotbeds of ideological bias and political correctness. Instead of encouraging critical thinking and open dialogue, they have become echo chambers, stifling diverse perspectives and free thought. As a result, the media, which often draws its talent from these institutions, has lost its objectivity and fairness.
The decline of truth-seeking, the comfort with aggressive regimes of censoring dissenting opinions, begins in the colleges, universities and journalism schools that indoctrinate rather than educate. Whatever is called “the media” is made up of what universities produce for the industry.
CHURCHES AND RELIGION
But the responsibility does not solely lie with the education system. The second area I regard as more central than the media in forming culture are the churches and religions in America, which have historically played a vital role in shaping the moral fabric of our society. It is my view that religions have the mission to stand courageously and protect the front lines of character development, moral clarity, and civic-mindedness. These are values that once served as the foundation of our nation, values that allowed America to grow and improve for centuries. These are the values once held passionately by both liberals and conservatives and the values that allowed us to engage one another intensely yet respectfully. These have been neglected.
I believe that these values, character development, moral clarity, and civic-mindedness are given in the family, the core unit of society. It is my view that the church and all religions in America have the sole purpose of making the difficult work of creating good families possible, and I believe this work has been abandoned. Churches and religions should be at the forefront of defending and nurturing the family. Everything needed to become decent and respectful is provided in the family. Respect for difference. Respect for tradition. Courage to champion change, and to voice dissent, are all in the natural fabric of family life.
Once the Church and religions cowered from the moral stance needed to protect families the State stepped in and is now looked to as the arbiter of virtue. This is absolutely the path to fascism.
Establishment media longs to be characterized as enlightened and virtuous, and so becomes a mouthpiece for a state determined to govern speech and even thought. The wedding between government and media as the self-appointed arbiters of virtue leads to censorship, which leads to toxic polarization.
Finally, and once again, I do not put this at the feet of the Media. I seek the rising of religious and spiritual forces in America that can recover the noble task of defending the importance of family. People from good families will not expect their colleagues to tell them who to love and who to hate. They will expect their colleges to teach them the wonders of learning, inquiry, debate and discovery.
I have very much more to say about the impact and future of media and am especially invested in this area through much of my work.
Major frontiers for Media reform will have to take very great consideration of social media, and the emergent technologies of AI and AGI.
Thank you very much for listening