On the Other Hand: Designing Your Political BS Filter

Each week in On the Other Hand, Ben Bartlett defies the common wisdom and identifies the other side of the story of cultural hot-topic issues.

The world is full of BS.  You know this, I know this, everyone knows this.  And we all know politics in general and political races in particular are great examples of meaningless talk and unimportant sparring.

Further, if you are anything like 84% of your friends and family, you are none too happy with your lawmakers at this point in time.  A time in which, unfortunately, they are going to start ramping up the BS.  The prospects for your renewed faith and optimism in the American political process are dim to say the least.

So I propose that you and I spend time thinking strategically about how to filter out the BS while not removing ourselves completely from our (oft-ignored) civic duty to participate in the machinations of the City of Man.  Here are a few ideas I like to use to stay sane while interacting with political campaigns.

1. Find a couple of trustworthy columnists and stick with them.  These people take their jobs seriously, communicate clearly and simply, and do a good job of themselves not becoming overexcited by the latest trend. They defy the logic of the, “political ticker,” and introduce reflection and wisdom (hopefully) into the discussion.  My personal favorites include David Brooks, John Dickerson, and several Politico writers.  I do not recommend the Ann Coulters and Maureen Dowds of the world.

2. Practice dismissing silly statements.  For instance, when a politician says, “I’m for families!”, take a moment to purposefully ignore him.  After all, who is against families?  Of course he’s trying to cozy up to a particular interest group without really saying anything meaningful.  But that’s just cynical thinking on my part and it is discouraging.  So instead I ignore politicians until they are forced to start taking a side in arguments that actually have two viable positions.

3. Say, “That’s a good point,” and, “yeah, I wish my guy was better at…” when you talk with your friends.  Hurting friendships over politics is stupid.  The more you practice humility and a listening spirit when talking about politics, the more your friends will too.  This helps keep you from participating in BS smackdowns.

4. Read some history of political campaigns.  You’ll be shocked to discover that today’s BS bears remarkable similarity to the BS of yesterday and of the day before.  It’s calming, trust me.

5. Play with your kids.  They’re more fun, they’re more honest, and they’re a heck of a lot cuter than the guys on TV.

6. When you write political arguments in blogs or comments or e-mails, include some of the negatives and drawbacks of your own position.  This helps you realize that in politics, there are positives AND negatives to almost every single argument under the sun.  Admitting both about your own position and your opponent’s position will calm your spirit and make you more at peace with the world.

Those are my ideas for setting up my political BS filter.  What are yours?

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  • http://www.FillingMyPatchOfSky.com Erin

    I appreciate this, Ben. Polarization would ease considerably if we all approached our political views with humility and the willingness to admit that there are pros and cons to each platform/candidate/party. I much prefer to discuss ideas than to have a particular side exalted by demonizing the other. That simply Wears. Me. Out.

  • Ben

    Thanks Erin! I agree with you 100%. Unfortunately, the simple fact is that it’s easier to oversimplify and then to follow that up by vilifying all enemies. It’s a great opportunity for Christians to demonstrate love and patience and peace in a polarized world, but of course instead we tend to just participate like everyone else. I wish more people would realize the solution to the political polarization problem starts with individuals practicing humility in their relationships and communication.