Talk about being tone deaf. The Morning Joe crew on Wednesday lamented how Americans can slip into political echo chambers. Listen First Project Founder and CEO Pearce Godwin was on the MSNBC show along with the co-authors of the book I Think You're Wrong (But, I'm Listening) Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers to lament political discourse where people don't really talk to each other.
Liberal commentator Mike Barnicle asked Godwin about the impact of modern technology such as smart phones and texting, which Godwin said was a problem. Co-host Mika Brzezinski then took the conversation in a different direction, "Where I'm stuck is when facts are removed from the conversation. How can you have a conversation over something that's not true." Continuing with Morning Joe's bizarre tendency to act as if President Trump is a unique kind of liar, Brzezinski added, "I'm worried that the President of the United States lies to the American people and then you have someone who says, 'He doesn't lie, he says what he thinks.' Where does that go and how can that not become a tough conversation about respecting facts?"
After Holland and Silvers gave some practical advice that was better than Morning Joe's typical "He's a lying liar who lies all the time and anyone who disagrees with us has sold their soul" routine, Godwin touched on the media. "You're absolutely right, the balkanization of our media, the fact that I'm hearing exactly what I want to hear from somebody just like me, does create an impasse in so many conversations. So, we have to break out of those silos, those echo chambers," he declared. "Yeah, the impasse," Brzezinski interjected.
Morning Joe is not exactly in the best of positions to be criticizing echo chambers. It is not uncommon for the show to have an eight person panel in which all eight people sound like the PR arm of the DNC. This week alone the ratio of Democratic members of Congress to Republican members is undefined: five to zero. This does not include all the former Obama staffers, "conservatives" or former Republican officials who do nothing, but repeat liberal talking points, liberal historians, journalists, analysts, commentators, and non-profit heads that dramatically outnumber conservatives. Morning Joe says Trump is a liar, but will not accept those who fact check them.
Perhaps Morning Joe would respond by saying they try to diversify their show, but conservatives or Republicans don't want to come on the show. If you are a liberal show on a liberal network seeking to do your part to help improve the state of political discourse in America, you could start by not having your "conservative" co-host interrupt your rare conservative guest seven times in 40 seconds, even when she largely agrees with you or if that same co-host thinks David Brooks is too pro-Trump, to have the intellectual honesty to stop calling yourself a conservative.
Here is a transcript for the April 10 show:
8:43 AM ET
MIKE BARNICLE: Hey Pearce, I think we're all
with you on this. I think we need more conversations between people, but we seem to be ignoring thus far in this conversation about one big element, and I don't really have an answer as to how you cope with it. And it is this. The phone. I mean basically, we text one another more than we talk to each other now, okay?
PEARCE GODWIN: Yes
BARNICLE: And as a result of these instruments, the one that I just held up in my hand and others, we are also living in what I call “a no eye contact nation.”
People don't look at one another the way we used to look at one another. And in order to look at one another, that's the start of a conversation. What's in your eyes?
BARNICLE: Hey, Talk to me about what's going on in your life. How do we cope with this stuff?
GODWIN: You're exactly right, and that's the irony, right, is where, on the one hand, we're more connected than we've ever been before, but as we’re talking about here also so deeply disconnected. I think honestly it starts with that practical step, with putting that phone down. We have the top ten tips for listening first conversations and so many great tips in Beth and Sarah’s book, but listenfirstproject.org/tips. One of those that you'll see is be present, free of distraction. Put the phone down and actually look in someone's eyes, exactly as you've said, because again we've seen this in our own lives. As hard as it may be, as personal as it may be right now within our families, in our lives, in our workplaces, businesses are stepping forward as sustaining members of National Conversation Project. They see it, too, in the workplace, but we've got to come together as human beings, to look each other in the eye, to realize you're not your position, you're worth understanding and we can do more together than apart. This is certainly a grave threat to our democracy but again also so deeply personal. So we have to do better. I'm not a Chicken Little “sky is falling” kind of guy by nature, but this is serious. This is an urgent crisis. 75% of Americans agree that it is that crisis, but another 75% are willing to have conversations that bridge divides.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Willie, where I'm stuck is when facts are removed from the conversation. How can you have a conversation over something that's not true?
WILLIE GEIST: Right.
BRZEZINSKI: I mean, the basic conversation here would be, I'm worried that the President of the United States lies to the American people. And then you have someone who says, “He doesn't lie, he says what he thinks.” Where does that go and how can that not become a tough conversation about respecting about respecting facts.
SARAH STEWART HOLLAND: Beth has a good phrase for she says, “I'm sorry, I don't see the truth in that. I’m sorry I don’t see the truth in that.”
BRZEZINSKI: Then where does it go from there? Where’s the conversation?
BARNICLE: It Goes to Twitter
BRZEZINSKI: It ends
HOLLAND: No please, don’t let it go there
BETH SILVERS: I would say, “Okay, what would make you believe he has lied? What sources do you find credible? What would it take at the border for you to believe the president is wrong? What would come out in the Mueller investigation that would make you care about it?” I just like to go into interview mode with people and understand what is their reality, what’s shaping it, what’s behind their feeling about him.
GODWIN: But, Mika, you're absolutely right, the balkanization of our media, the fact that I’m hearing exactly what I want to hear from somebody just like me, does create an impasse in so many conversations. So, we have to break out of those silos, those echo chambers
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, the impasse
GODWIN: and ultimately I think through conversation we can find that common understanding of facts to then proceed toward a solution.
BRZEZINSKI: It's a challenge.