In recent years, as the Internet has dominated discourse, divisions in the United States – even within families – have deepened along ideological lines that often preclude any kind of critical thinking or dialogue. This damaged not only our personal lives, but the very fabric of democracy. This is the argument in a new seminal book, Let’s Agree to Disagree: A Critical Thinking Guide to Communication, Conflict Management, and Critical Media Literacy. The authors, Nolan Higdon, lecturer in the Merrill College and Education Management at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Mickey Huff, Director of Project Censored and President of the nonprofit Media Freedom Foundation, join host Robert Scheer on this week’s “Scheer Intelligence” to discuss their new book.
While much of the hysteria around “fake news” has peaked in recent years, before social media and the ubiquitous and sophisticated technology, Huff asserts, was “old journalism.” [that] He played a really big role in making the approval about imperialist foreign policy, about neoliberal economic policies that hurt the majority of the population. It’s really important for people to believe they are doing the right things even if they are going in the wrong direction.”
Scheer argues, “Fake news” is “as American as apple pie,” citing government-sponsored misinformation about the United States. The invasion of Iraq is an example. Now, he says, Democrats often lead accusations toward Internet censorship, but as the three thinkers concluded, in corporate-controlled America it is often unnecessary for political leaders to step in; Companies like Google (which owns YouTube), Twitter, and others act on their own to protect their business interests. So how can Americans re-establish the ability to listen to each other, even when they differ? Higdon and Huff provide the example of strong conservative William J. Buckley who publicly debated the famous left-wing thinker Noam Chomsky as the kind of dialogue we need to protect if our democracy is to survive.
“What we are defending in the text is that conflict needs to be constructive, not destructive,” Higdon says. For the authors, Let’s Agree to Disagree is a Routledge textbook, intended to teach American youth and anyone interested in promoting critical thinking the best practices needed to keep dialogue and debate alive.
Higdon adds, “When you look around the United States, it’s very easy to see how devastating the level of conflict we’re currently facing is. We are the richest society on Earth and in history, and we can’t really do basic things anymore because we’re fighting over trivial things. These In truth it is a sign of a society in a state of intellectual decay.”
Hear the full conversation between Scheer, Higdon and Huff as they deconstruct notions of “fake news” and offer concrete solutions to a current moment of devastating rhetoric and polarization.