Joan Blades emailed me a few days ago with a link to a new website we weren’t sure made us want to laugh or to cry – www.politicalscreamingmatch.com. I’ve been working with Joan lately (and Amanda Roman, Mary Jacksteit, and Barbara Simonetti) to explore how we might promote and support the launch of Living Room Conversations within the dialogue and deliberation community.
Living Room Conversations are intimate dialogues among friends, neighbors, and friends-of-friends from both sides of the political divide. They’re designed to revitalize the art of conversation among people with diverse views and remind our fellow Americans of the power and beauty of civil discourse. I also think they could be a great way to introduce many more people to the power and potential of dialogue.
Joan emailed our group with the link, simply asking “our antithesis?” I checked out the site, and have to admit I was floored!
“Grab your phone and get your debate on!”, the site exclaims.
Have an animated political discussion with a perfect stranger right now!
All conversations are anonymous and the other party will *not* receive your phone number (unless you give it to them over the phone).
All calls are recorded, the best ones will be posted to the Political Screaming Match blog periodically. You must keep your browser open to receive a call.
It’s ok to be animated, but please – no threats or inappropriate name-calling (appropriate name calling is fine).
The site has virtually no “about” info, so I imagined the site must be created by some kid who likes the kind of quick-to-flame and openly hateful discussion you see on many popular YouTube videos. I got another email from John Stephens tonight sending me to an NPR article on the site that tells another tale…
By now, a couple of generations of moviegoers are familiar with the disembodied voice in a cornfield that leads Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) to risk all for a baseball diamond. Web developer Pascal Rettig is not in as precarious a position as that fictional farmer, yet he has challenged himself by constructing a social stadium of sorts.
Political Screaming Match is a digital seed sower’s attempt to answer his own question: “If I build it, will they scream?” The website asks visitors to input their phone number and select their position on “Obamacare.” They are then connected to an anonymous phone call with a user of the opposing view.
Rettig, the chief technology officer of Fundraise.com and a seasoned computer consultant, had long been observing the theatrics of heated television round tables with skepticism. “I have very strong opinions on all these things — but I don’t think I would ever get into a screaming match about it,” he says…
“I want to see if we create a platform that pushes it as far to the extreme as possible, how will people react to that … what [will] people do?” Rettig says. He hypothesizes that genuine screams would be few and far between.
“I don’t think that’s how normal people talk and discuss,” says Rettig.
So it appears that www.politicalscreamingmatch.com may be a big experiment in uncivil one-on-one discussion? Perhaps to show that people don’t truly want to have screaming debates with those they disagree with on contentious political issues?
I’m not sure I buy that at this point, but I’ll be interested to see what happens. What do you think? Read the full NPR article here, and share your thoughts below. One thing is clear to me… no matter what the site’s true intensions are, it WILL be a great example for us to use to show what our work in this field is NOT trying to do.
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