Martin: It’s not the economy, stupid. It’s the media

Good column, if depressing:

A major change in the communications system, Canadian media guru Marshall McLuhan opined long ago, “is bound to cause a great readjustment of all the social patterns, the educational patterns, the sources and conditions of political power, [and] public opinion patterns.”

Given the vast changes that have marked the digital age, McLuhan can hardly be accused of overstatement. The online world is corrosively altering social and political “patterns,” to use the McLuhan term, and destabilizing democracies.

In using internet platforms, fringe groups and hate generators have multiplied exponentially and contributed to an erosion of trust in public institutions. They’ve prompted violent threats against public officials, driven the United States into two warring silos, and cast a pall of negativity over the public square seldom seen.

The contamination of the dialogue is such that even agreement on what constitutes basic truths has come to be tenuous. Talk of a post-truth America is no joke. Canada isn’t there yet, but give the disinformation amplifiers more scope and we soon might be.

Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist, James Carville, may have had it right back in the 1990s when he famously declared why voters had soured on then-president George H.W. Bush: “It’s the economy, stupid.” But not today. Now it’s the media, stupid. It’s the upheaval in the communications system. A media landscape gone rogue.

Economic woes get regulated. Not so the convulsions in our information ecosphere. We have no idea how to harness the hailstorm. Few efforts are being made. Calls for regulation are greeted by a great hue and cry over potential freedom-of-speech transgressions.

So broadly has media influence and power expanded that a cable network has become the avatar of the Republican Party. Donald Trump has maintained support from the GOP because he has what Richard Nixon didn’t. A kowtowing TV network and a Twitter following, until he was blocked, of 90 million users.

Social media platforms, like an upstart rival sports league, have served to delegitimize, if not disenfranchise, traditional media, magnifying public distrust. There is still a lot of high-quality journalism around, including at this awards-dominating newspaper. But traditional media no longer set the tenor of the national discussion and help shape a national consensus as in times past. Enfeeble a society’s credible news and information anchors, replace them with flotsam and you get, as per the United States, a country increasingly adrift.

The trajectory of media decline is worth recalling. From having just two or three television networks in Canada and the U.S. that aired news only for an hour or so a day, we have expanded to around-the-clock cable networks. News couldn’t fill that much airtime so opinion did – heaps of it. Hours of tirades filled the airwaves from reactionaries like Rush Limbaugh. Then the internet took hold, along with the invasion of unfiltered social media, awash in vitriol.

And so the chaff now overwhelms the wheat.

Mainstream media got in on the act, lowering their standards, contributing to the debasement of the dialogue by running ad hominem insults on comment boards from readers who hide behind pseudonyms. As I’ve noted before, that’s not freedom of speech. That’s fraud speech.

The crisis in our information complex is glaring, but it isn’t being addressed. Mainstream media, while demanding transparency everywhere else, rarely applies this standard to itself. Despite its exponential growth in importance, the media industry gets only a small fraction of the scrutiny that other powerful institutions do.

Big issues go largely unexamined in Canadian media. We rarely take a critical look at the unfettered rise of advocacy journalism, the impact of the disappearance of local newspapers or media ownership monopolies. There are precious few media columnists in this country. There is no overarching media institute to address the problems.

Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre’s big idea is to deprive us of one of our longest-standing national institutions. He would gut the CBC, defund it practically out of existence. At his rallies, he’s cheered on lustily for the promise, an indication of the low regard held by many in the population toward the mainstream media.

Any kind of media-reform drive always runs up against the freedom of speech barrier. The Trudeau government has passed Bill C-10, but it was diluted and will have little regulatory impact. A Commission on Democratic Expression, whose membership included former Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin, has recommended regulatory reforms to curb social media’s impact. But it didn’t receive anywhere near the attention it deserved.

There’s a vacuum. Ways to regulate the destabilizing forces in the new communications paradigm must be found; ways that leave no possibility of control by political partisans. Such ways are possible and, given the ravages of the new media age, imperative.

Source: It’s not the economy, stupid. It’s the media

Brownstein: No, Ann Coulter, I Am Not Responsible for the ‘Great Replacement’ Theory

Good response and political assessment on the need for shared narratives for whites and visible minorities:

Ann Coulter, in so many words, thinks that I am responsible for the mass shooting in Buffalo in mid-May.

Not me alone. After the shooting, Coulter wrote a column dismissing the idea that Republican politicians and commentators had popularized the “Great Replacement” theory, a conspiracy theory that the young, white Buffalo shooter cited as a motivation before killing 10 people at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Instead, Coulter argued that the theory had been popularized by political analysts and Democratic operatives who have predicted that the nation’s changing demographics will benefit Democrats over time.

In particular, Coulter, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and others on the right have cited the work of journalists like me, the Brookings Institution demographer William Frey, and the electoral analysts John Judis and Ruy Teixeira, authors of The Emerging Democratic Majority, claiming that, by writing about demographic change and its electoral impact, we are responsible for seeding the idea that white Americans are being displaced. “If you don’t want people to be paranoid and angry, maybe you don’t write pieces like that and rub it right in their face,” Carlson, who has relentlessly touted replacement theory on his show, declared in a recent monologue.

It might go without saying that documenting demographic change is not the same as using it to incite and politically mobilize those who are fearful of it. It’s something like the difference between reporting a fire and setting one. But given how many right-wing racial provocateurs are trying to disavow the consequences of their “replacement” rhetoric, it apparently bears explaining how their incendiary language differs from the arguments of mainstream demographic and electoral analysts.

Let’s start with defining replacement theory. It’s a racist formulation that has migrated from France to far-right American circles to some officials and candidates in the GOP mainstream. In its purest version, the theory maintains that shadowy, left-wing elites—often identified as Jews—are deliberately working to undermine the political influence of native-born white citizens by promoting immigration and other policies that increase racial diversity. This conspiracy theory was the inspiration, if that’s the right word, for the neo-Nazis who chanted during their 2017 march in Charlottesville, Virginia, that “Jews will not replace us.”

Stripped of the overt anti-Semitism, replacement theory has become a constant talking point for Carlson. A growing number of Republican politicians, such as House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and the Ohio Senate candidate J. D. Vance, have incorporated versions of it into their rhetoric. It’s the most virulent iteration of the core message former President Donald Trump has imprinted onto his party: Republicans are your last line of defense against diverse, urban, secular, LGBTQ-friendly, “woke” Democrats, who are trying to uproot the nation from its traditions and transform it into something unrecognizable.

Undoubtedly, some Democrats over the years have argued that the party would benefit from higher levels of immigration. But this is the first point of difference between mainstream demographic analysis and replacement theory: No serious student of history or politics believes that a Democratic plot to import “more obedient voters from the Third World,” as Carlson puts it, has been the driving force behind U.S. immigration policy. Until the 1990s, most of the key decisions in modern immigration policy were bipartisan—from the passage of the landmark 1965 immigration-reform act to the amnesty for undocumented immigrants signed into law by President Ronald Reagan to the Republican-controlled Senate’s passage of comprehensive immigration reform in 2006, with unwavering support from President George W. Bush. A Democratic-led conspiracy that ensnared Reagan and Bush would be pretty impressive—if it weren’t so implausible.

Second, replacement theory pinpoints immigration policy, particularly the potential legalization of undocumented immigrants, as the key reason that white Americans are being “displaced.” But Frey, the Brookings demographer, has repeatedly documented that immigration is no longer the principal driver of the nation’s growing diversity. As he wrote in a 2020 paper, census “projections show that the U.S. will continue to become more racially diverse” no matter what level of future legal immigration the U.S. government authorizes. Diversity will grow somewhat faster under scenarios of high rather than low immigration, but diversity will increase regardless, Frey notes, because it is propelled mostly by another factor. Among those already living in the United States, people of color have higher birth rates than white people, who are much older on average. Even eliminating all immigration for the next four decades would not prevent the white share of the U.S. population from declining further, Frey’s analysis of the census data found.

A third big difference between replacement theory and analyses of demographic change revolves around the role that race plays in the changing balance of political power in America. Many on the right see racial change as the key threat to the Republican Party’s electoral prospects. But demographic analysts have never seen racial change as sufficient to tilt the electoral competition between the parties. White Americans still cast somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of all votes (depending on the data source). That number has been steadily declining, at a rate of about two to three percentage points every four years. Even at that pace, it would be another seven or eight presidential elections—roughly until 2050—before minorities cast a majority of the vote.

No party can write off America’s white majority for that long. Instead, I and other analysts have long argued that Democrats have the opportunity to build a multiracial coalition composed of both the increasing minority population and groups within the white population that are most comfortable with a diversifying America: namely those who are college-educated, secular, urban, and younger, especially women in all of those cohorts. The combination of these white groups (many of which are growing) and the expanding minority population is what I have called the Democrats’ “coalition of transformation.”

Even Democratic organizations that are focused on maximizing political participation among nonwhite voters recognize the centrality of building a multiracial coalition, on electoral as well as moral grounds. “First and foremost, multiracial democracy is inherently inclusive of white people,” says Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, the vice president and chief strategist for Way to Win, which helps fund organizations and campaigns focusing on voters of color. “I don’t imagine an America in which a winning coalition across the nation and in the key states we’re going to need to be winning … [is] without white people as part of the coalition.”

This leads to perhaps the most important divergence between replacement theory and theories of demographic change. Those on the right who push replacement theory tell their mostly white supporters that they are locked in a zero-sum competition with minorities and immigrants who are stealing what rightfully belongs to them: electoral power, economic opportunity, the cultural definition of what it means to be a legitimate American. “There’s always this underlying theft—they are taking these things by dishonest means; they are taking what is yours,” explains Mike Madrid, a longtime Republican strategist who has become a leading critic of the party’s direction under Trump.

By contrast, I and other analysts have emphasized the interdependence of the white and nonwhite populations. Building on work from Frey, I’ve repeatedly written that America is being reshaped by two concurrent demographic revolutions: a youth population that is rapidly growing more racially diverse, and a senior population that is increasing in size as Baby Boomers retire but that will remain preponderantly white for decades. (The Baby Boom was about 80 percent white.) Although these shifts raise the prospect of increased political and social tension between what I called “the brown and the gray,” the two groups are bound together more than our politics often allows. A core reality of 21st-century America is that this senior population will depend on a largely nonwhite workforce to pay the taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare, not to mention to provide the medical care those seniors need.

While the likes of Carlson and Coulter tell white Americans to fear that immigrants or people of color are replacing them politically, financial security for the “gray” is impossible without economic opportunity for the “brown.”

This isn’t to say that there is no political competition between older white Americans, who make up the core of the Republican coalition, and younger nonwhite Americans, who are more and more central to the Democratic coalition. In fact, a mistake that I and many other demographic and electoral analysts made over the past decade was to underestimate how big a coalition a candidate like Trump could mobilize in the name of protecting culturally conservative, white, Christian America.

For many years, I have argued that the diversification of the Democratic coalition wouldn’t always work to the party’s electoral advantage. As the party’s most culturally conservative components sheared off, I believed, Democrats would need to take more consistently liberal positions on social issues, which in turn would alienate more centrist voters from the party. That ideological re-sorting, I wrote in National Journal in 2013, would both “increase the pressure” on the Democratic Party “to maintain lopsided margins and high turnout among minorities and young people” and “make it tougher for [Democrats] to control Congress, at least until demographic change ripples through more states and House districts.” That prediction has held up.

At the same time, I stressed—and quoted experts from both parties who shared the view—that Republicans would face a growing long-term challenge in winning the White House if they could not improve their performance among minorities, young people, and college-educated and secular white voters. (The famous Republican National Committee “autopsy” of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential loss largely reached the same conclusion.) In one sense, that prediction held up too: Democrats won the popular vote in 2016 and 2020.

But, to a greater extent than I and others had forecast, Trump’s ability to win an Electoral College majority in 2016, and the fact that he came so close again in 2020, made clear that Republicans could seriously compete for the White House with what I have called their “coalition of restoration,” centered on the nonurban, non-college-educated, and Christian white voters who are most alienated by the changes remaking 21st-century America. The difficulty for the Democrats in holding the House, and especially the Senate, which favors smaller states that tend to elect Republicans, was even greater than I and others had expected.

Trump’s success among blue-collar white voters in key Rust Belt states was at least somewhat foreseeable. But his unique persona and message—a more open appeal to white racial resentments than any national figure since George Wallace, a bruising economic nationalism, and a sweeping condemnation of “elites”—generated even greater margins and larger turnout among his core supporters than I thought possible. And although some center-right suburban voters abandoned the GOP in the Trump era, many demographic analysts like me—along with the Never Trump movement—underestimated the number of Republican voters who would still vote for Trump or Trumpist GOP candidates as a way to block Democrats and advance other priorities, including tax cuts and conservative judicial appointments.

A new development in 2020 further solidified Trumpism’s hold on the GOP:Trump’s improved performance among Latino voters. That has convinced many Republicans that they can energize racially resentful white voters using nativist and racially coded messages, while still gaining ground among Latinos who are drawn mostly to the Republican economic agenda, as well as conservative views on some social issues such as abortion. This trend has proved an uncomfortable complication for the purveyors of replacement theory, who often portray Latinos as the invidious replacers. In a recent monologue, Carlson tried to square the circle by insisting that Democrats are still trying to displace white voters, but that they have miscalculated about the loyalties of Latino voters.

Due in part to the provocations of Carlson and others, the United States appears trapped in a cycle of increasing racial, generational, and partisan conflict that is escalating fears about the country’s fundamental cohesion. But imagine, Frey suggested to me, if instead of trying to convince older white Americans that younger nonwhite Americans are displacing them, political leaders from both parties emphasized the growing interdependence between these two groups. Ancona, of Way to Win, offers one version of what that message could sound like: “If we start telling a story that America is the richest country in the world, that there is enough pie for everyone, there is no need for ‘replacement.’ The whole construct is wrong. There should be enough for all of us to be free and to be healthy and to be living the life we want to live. There is a beauty in that story we could tell people, but it’s just not being told in a way that it needs to be.”

The refusal of many GOP leaders to condemn replacement theory even after the Buffalo shooting, and their determination to block greater law-enforcement scrutiny of violent white supremacists, underscores how far we are from that world. To me, the safest forecast about the years ahead is that the Republican Party and its allies in the media will only escalate their efforts to squeeze more votes from white Americans by heightening those voters’ fears of a changing country. I’d like to be wrong about that prediction, too, but I’m not optimistic that I will be.

Source: No, Ann Coulter, I Am Not Responsible for the ‘Great Replacement’ Theory

America’s states are drifting apart over illegal immigration

As in so many areas:

Congressional dysfunction can cause chaos in America. Look at illegal immigration, where the law strands 10.5m unauthorised migrants in limbo, with little chance of deportation or the legal status that confers the right to work. In the absence of legislation, presidents oscillate wildly. Barack Obama sought to declare almost half of the unauthorised population exempt from deportation and eligible to work. Donald Trump turned the screws the other way, and tried deterring migrants by heartlessly separating parents from children. President Joe Biden is facing dissent from Democrats fearful of Republican attacks if, as planned, he ends a pandemic-response measure called Title 42 on May 23rd. This lets American border police expel asylum-seekers and other migrants on public-health grounds.

America’s federalist system wisely leaves much room to the states to act as laboratories. But state experimentation on immigration has gravitated to the extremes. In some Republican states the aim seems to be cruelty for its own sake. Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, has suggested that the Supreme Court should reverse precedent and remove the obligation to educate illegal children, as if that would do anybody any good.

Democratic states, by contrast, have opted to spend money. They are expanding welfare benefits for their illicit residents. New York, which in 2019 began issuing driving licences to residents in the state illegally, set up a $2.1bn fund to provide unemployment benefits and pandemic relief. Three years ago California expanded Medicaid, the government health-insurance programme for the poor, to include young irregular residents. Its governor, Gavin Newsom, wishes to offer the programme to all, regardless of immigration status.

America is an outlier. In Europe and elsewhere access to benefits is limited to citizens or legal immigrants—who often have to wait for several years to be eligible. You would not expect Bavaria to sponsor Syrian migrants that the German interior ministry had turned away, or councils in London to offer housing benefits to adults who are in Britain illegally. It is Congress’s lack of will to deal with illegal immigration in America that explains the urge in California and New York to do something about their permanent shadow-class. Despite vigorous efforts, one-tenth of California’s non-elderly population lacks health insurance. Of that group, the illegal immigrants account for 40%.

Alas, these efforts are likely to be yet another stop-start measure. Because most federal laws ban spending on illegal residents, states must fund the expanded services without federal subsidies. At present, their budgets are swollen by a strong recovery and overgenerous federal funding during the pandemic. In a recession, when budgets are squeezed, such spending is likely to come under political attack. Democrats have long maintained, correctly, that unlawful immigrants by and large work hard and pay taxes, but receive few benefits. That line will be harder to sustain as these programmes grow—to the relish of the nativist right, who will deem their warnings vindicated.

Only Congress can sort out the confusion of half-built border walls, seesawing presidential decrees and contradictory state regimes. Immigration reform, with an orderly path to legal residency for those who pay taxes and do not commit crimes, was once a bipartisan pursuit. It has been forgotten amid the Trumpian takeover of the Republican Party. Some Democratic senators, like Bob Menendez and Catherine Cortez Masto, remain committed to the idea of trading a route to citizenship for stronger border security and faster immigration courts, which today are overwhelmed. The party’s left has turned instead to daydreaming about abolishing America’s immigration authority. The pity is that a labour shortage makes this an especially propitious time for mending the system.

Source: America’s states are drifting apart over illegal immigration

Milloy: In this increasingly polarized society, how can we learn to trust each other again?

No easy answers in terms of how we address weakening trust:

How should we react to calls for both sides of the COVID-19 debate to try to find common ground? Many federal Conservatives as well as a collection of commentators are urging dialogue on vaccine mandates and public health restrictions. The new Conservative leader, Candice Bergen, has talked of the need to extend “an olive branch.”

Their arguments are simple. Although there may be racists and extremists involved in the anti-vaxx movement, most of those protesting current COVID-19 rules are ordinary Canadians who deserve to be heard. The trucker’s protest in Ottawa, which has now spread to other communities, is symptomatic of a divided nation that needs to be healed.

Communication is generally a good thing, and both the “pro” and “anti” vaccine sides could certainly benefit from a dose of humility. But beyond gaining a deeper appreciation of each other’s basic humanity (never a bad thing), here is a question to ponder: if they ever did meet what would the two sides talk about?

Those who oppose COVID vaccines and restrictions have made it clear that they don’t trust our political leaders. They mistrust scientists, public health officials, doctors and much of the mainstream media.

And on the other side, proponents for vaccine mandates and restrictions don’t trust the protesters. They don’t trust their claims about science or public health. They don’t trust their opinions on politics or governing and would be quick to point to their bizarre calls for the Governor General and the Senate to somehow force the federal government and provinces to end COVID-19 restrictions. Most of all, they don’t trust their motives and see them as a bunch of yahoos looking simply to cause trouble.

We have a problem in our country. The level of polarization seems to be growing exponentially. Extreme views are becoming more commonplace, but perhaps more concerning is the fact that even middle of the road people are increasingly admitting that they have no time for anyone who doesn’t share their opinion. A recent Angus Reid poll found that close to 40 per cent of Canadians believe that “there is no room for political compromise in Canada today.

This isn’t about the need to “hash things out.” This is about trust. We don’t trust each other. We don’t trust our governments, our political leaders, experts, media, multinationals, or our churches.

As a society we have developed ways of dealing with issues and challenges. We have institutions and systems that are supposed to analyze problems and drawing upon the best evidence, find the needed solutions.

Source: In this increasingly polarized society, how can we learn to trust each other again?

Swedish tweets about immigration reveal new insights into polarization dynamics

Would love to see some comparative analysis with Canada, USA and other countries:

A computational analysis of more than 1 million Tweets from Swedish speakers has found little evidence for significant polarization within this network on the topic of immigration—even after Sweden’s 2015 refugee crisis. Elizaveta Kopacheva and Victoria Yantseva of Linnaeus University, Sweden, present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on February 9, 2022.

Social media platforms can enable grassroots activism and expose people to new ideas, but they can also create echo chambers and cause group . However, most research into polarization caused by social media has focused on political party support or membership, while neglecting a wider selection of social issues, such as immigration.

To broaden understanding, Kopacheva and Yantseva studied a network of Swedish speakers who discussed immigration on Twitter from 2012 to 2019. The research team applied analytical tools known as and natural-language processing to almost 1,200,000 tweets in order to explore the dynamics of interactions between active users in the network, and to quantify polarization in their sentiments regarding immigration.

This analysis revealed the development of different discussion communities within the network over time. However, despite immigration being thought of as a controversial topic, the researchers did not find significant evidence for polarization between users in the network and communities.

Moreover, polarization dynamics did not change significantly in the wake of the 2015 refugee crises, when an unprecedented number of asylum seekers came to Sweden, and the government struggled to adequately accommodate them. However, the researchers did note a shift in sentiment after the 2015 crisis, with users’ tweets becoming more negative in tone and a declining proportion of tweets having a neutral tone.

The authors discuss potential mechanisms that could underlie their findings and outline possible next steps. For instance, future research could incorporate more information on Twitter users’ behavior and consider less-active users, or it could examine the potential impact of Twitter’s 2017 expansion of the maximum-allowed length of each .

Overall, the researchers say, their findings could help clarify the potential role could play in reducing radicalization and right-wing populism.

The authors add: “We detected no permanent changes in the levels of polarization that could be directly attributed to the crisis, which applies both to the and community levels. Still, we saw a moderate but long-lasting shift towards a more negative tonality of users’ messages after the crisis and a declining share of neutral tweets.”

Source: Swedish tweets about immigration reveal new insights into polarization dynamics

Diversity and Division in Advanced Economies

Another informative survey by Pew. Canada tends to have lower perceptions of conflict than the median (as one would expect) except for urban/rural:

Wide majorities in most of the 17 advanced economies surveyed by Pew Research Center say having people of many different backgrounds improves their society. Outside of Japan and Greece, around six-in-ten or more hold this view, and in many places – including Singapore, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Taiwan – at least eight-in-ten describe where they live as benefiting from people of different ethnic groups, religions and races.

Chart showing increasing shares see diversity positively

Even in Japan and Greece, the share who think diversity makes their country better has increased by double digits since the question was last asked four years ago, and significant increases have also taken place in most other nations where trends are available.

Alongside this growing openness to diversity, however, is a recognition that societies may not be living up to these ideals: In fact, most people say racial or ethnic discrimination is a problem in their society. Half or more in almost every place surveyed describe discrimination as at least a somewhat serious problem – including around three-quarters or more who have this view in Italy, France, Sweden, the U.S. and Germany. And, in eight surveyed publics, at least half describe their society as one with conflicts between people of different racial or ethnic groups. The U.S. is the country with the largest share of the public saying there is racial or ethnic conflict.

Chart showing perceptions of conflict between groups much higher in South Korea and U.S., especially between those who support different political parties

Notably, however, in most societies racial and ethnic divisions are not seen as the most salient cleavage. Rather, in the majority of places surveyed, more people identify conflicts between people who support different political parties than conflicts between people with different ethnic or racial backgrounds. Political divisions are also seen as greater than the other two dimensions tested: between those with different religions and between urban and rural residents. (For more on the actual composition of each public surveyed on each of these dimensions, see Appendix A.)

In the U.S. and South Korea, 90% say there are at least strong conflicts between those who support different parties – including around half or more in each country who say these conflicts are very strong. In Taiwan, France and Italy, around two-thirds say the political conflicts in their society are strong. Still, in around half of the surveyed publics, fewer than 50% say the same.

Chart showing around half or more in several publics say people do not agree on basic facts

In some places, this acrimony has risen to the level that people think their fellow citizens no longer disagree simply over policies, but also over basic facts. In France, the U.S., Italy, Spain and Belgium, half or more think that most people in their country disagree on basic facts more than they agree. Across most societies surveyed, those who see conflict among partisans are more likely to say people disagree on the basic facts than those who do not see such conflicts.

Views on the topic are also closely related to views of the governing party or parties in nearly every society (for more on how governing party is defined, see Appendix B). In every place but the U.S. and Italy, those with unfavorable views of the governing coalition are more likely to say most people disagree on the basic facts than those with favorable views of the government.

Chart showing views of COVID-19’s effect on unity factor into views of political conflict

Although divisions between racial and ethnic groups as well as between partisans are palpable for many, other types of conflicts are less commonly perceived. For example, in no place surveyed does a majority think there are strong conflicts between people who live in cities and people who live in rural areas. Similarly, only a minority in most countries say there are divisions between people who practice different religions – though around half or more do sense such conflicts in South Korea, France and the U.S.

Beyond divisions between specific groups, there is also a widespread – and growing – sense that societies are more divided now than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. A median of 61% across the 17 advanced economies say they are now more divided than before the outbreak, and in all but one of the 13 countries also polled in summer 2020, the sense that societies are more divided than united has risen significantly since last year. Those who describe their society as more divided than before the global health emergency are also significantly more likely to see conflicts between different groups in society and to say their fellow citizens disagree over basic facts.

Source: Diversity and Division in Advanced Economies

Canada stays civil amidst the polarization of American media: John Ibbitson

Good piece by Ibbitson:

CNN has a new commercial that features a picture of an apple. “Some people might try to tell you it’s a banana,” says the narrator. They might even scream that it’s a banana. “They might put BANANA in all caps. … But it’s not. This is an apple.”

The ad was, of course, immediately attacked by right-wing columnists. “Trump Derangement Syndrome has struck CNN and is taking a terrible toll,” wrote Thomas Lifson at American Thinker.

The American media have become so deeply polarized that each side has now lost any ability to listen to the other. Each accuses the other of committing fake news – stories based on false facts that are intended to deceive. But the deeper problem resides in columns and editorials and blogs and tweets that take implacable stands, distorting facts and belittling opponents, ignoring or disrespecting other points of view.

On Thursday, on the RealClearPolitics aggregator website, you could find headlines such as “The Bone Spur Bozo in the White House,” and “Does the Dems Dossier Trick Count as Treason?”

So why aren’t Canadians screaming at each other the way the Americans are?

One answer is that “we don’t have Donald Trump as prime minister,” observes Janni Aragon, who teaches political science at the University of Victoria. The President personifies the anger embedded within American discourse. But Prof. Aragon adds that the differences in media reflect differences in the political cultures of the two countries.

America, she says, is a land divided. In Canada, “divisiveness is not as strong.”

There isn’t a single political leader in Canada whose platform mirrors the nativist, anti-immigrant, authoritarian strains that we see in President Trump and his supporters. Nor, with a few minor, on-the-fringe exceptions (We’re talking about you, The Rebel), do Canadian media cater to racist phobias.

Why not? There could be several reasons.

Since the first Loyalist settlers arrived in the late 1700s, Canadian political culture has been tinged with what has been called a “tory touch,” an upper-class British tradition that stresses collective obligations over individual liberties. This sense of noblesse oblige underlies many of the value assumptions of the mainstream media.

Our small and scattered population also contributes, says Kirk Lapointe, who held a variety of positions in Canadian media (he was once my boss), and who teaches journalism at the University of British Columbia. There are so many Americans, he points out, that fringe publications can profitably publish, giving extremists a voice. But Canadian publications must cater to more moderate views in order to win a large enough audience to make a profit.

Mr. Lapointe hosts a Vancouver radio talk show. In his experience, extremists don’t attract listeners. “I see a fair amount of revulsion when someone like that tries to grab the microphone,” he said in an interview.

Canada’s large immigrant population is also a steadying influence. With four in 10 Canadians either an immigrant or the son or daughter of an immigrant, nativist voices have little hope of dominating the print, broadcast or digital conversation.

Pollster Michael Adams has published a book, Could It Happen Here? that compares Canadian and American political and social values in the age of Trudeau and Trump. To cite just one powerful statistic: According to one poll, 50 per cent of Americans believe that “the father of the family must be the master in his own house.” In Canada, the figure is 23 per cent.

To explain these differences, Mr. Adams refers to a chronic streak of paranoia that has long run through American politics, and Horatio Alger-like belief that anyone can make it to the top – so if you don’t, the system must be conspiring against you. He also cited the baleful influence of evangelical religion, gerrymandered Congressional districts and increasing income insecurity.

“In this paranoid atmosphere, people feel entitled not only to their own opinions but also to their own facts,” he believes. “And now, in the age of the internet, each is his own publisher and editor locked inside an ideological bubble with fellow travellers.”

This paranoid polarization infects the right more than the left in American politics. There is no progressive equivalent to Rush Limbaugh or Breitbart News. But the left is not immune to intolerance.

At the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) last week, a small group of protesters self-identifying as antifascists interrupted a forum on, of all things, how best to challenge hate speech. “No Trump, no KKK, no Fascist U.S.A.” they yelled, shutting down a question-and-answer session that resumed later in another room.

The discourse in Canadian politics and journalism is far from perfect. Indigenous Canadians, especially, do not see their values and priorities reflected in either Canada’s political culture or its media. Newsrooms are far less diverse than the communities they cover.

And Prof. Aragon warns of the tendency of American cultural influences to “trickle up” across the border. Polarized American media risk polarizing Canadian media through the sheer power of proximity.

Nonetheless, as President Trump sends out one angry tweet after another, Canadians retain deeper wells of moderation and goodwill than their American cousins.

In this country, just about everyone seems to agree that an apple is not a banana.

Source: Canada stays civil amidst the polarization of American media – The Globe and Mail