Directly Addressing Division
Diversity Without Division
“Our favorite prejudices are invisible to us. We think they are the truth.”
This country is vast and our cultures and the people who live here vary greatly, but we're all on the same team. Diversity is the greatest strength of the United States; division is our greatest weakness. I believe we can preserve the former while working to eliminate the latter. Division is crippling our country and no one is addressing it. Until we do, there will be no progress. This is the hardest challenge we will face in this campaign, but I believe our fight will be a welcome one among the people.
While voting method reform is a core part of shifting our incentives from polarity to consensus, that change only addresses division indirectly. We don’t have time for that. I have two main approaches to this issue, one legislative and one outside of government, and I intend to pursue them both.
Our media, from Fox to Facebook, is not incentivized to spread information. They’re incentivized to make money. These media companies have found that the best way to make money is to spread misinformation and lies and propaganda to divide people into echo chambers by getting us angry at each other. This glues us to our screens to get more eyes on ads. We have a term for this: doom scrolling.
Here’s my legislative idea to address this issue: I want to cleanly define what counts as press.
Let’s briefly put this in the context of the First Amendment: I believe in freedom of speech for individuals and I believe in freedom of the press; however, when I think of freedom of the press, I think of freedom of information, not freedom of misinformation. Now, there is no algorithm for truth, but if we can separate off the interpretation and the political commentary into another category and apply Fairness Doctrine* to it, we can come back to the press side of the issue and work to decouple press from the profit motive. I have several ideas on how to work toward that goal, but my favorite is Journalism Vouchers.
Journalism Vouchers would essentially be $120 given to each American adult every year that they can only spend on subscription journalism. This would help fund local journalism as well as journalism that isn’t tainted by corporate sponsors. En masse, Americans don’t like the trend of current media, so I really do see the vast majority of this money going toward quality, independent sources.
Another way we could approach this is by providing low-conditionality funding for investigative, local, and independent journalism. As an example, independent journalists would have the option of applying for certification that they are in fact a journalist and that they are trained to detect and avoid bias in their practice. They would then receive a salary and a budget from the government to perform local or investigative journalism. The catch is that when these journalists publish their work, they would not be allowed to make any money from it so their work won't be tainted by corporate sponsors. This program would in no way affect independent journalists who are not receiving government funds. Further conversation about the nature of this program, including the certification process and accountability measures, require input from a diverse range of journalists. If you fall into that category, please contact me.
The federal government could also provide matching funds to municipalities that choose to invest in local journalism.
There would be many effects from these programs, but primarily they would lead to a decentralization of sources and narratives. Americans would have more ways to discover information about their communities without having to focus on centralized media narratives.
All of these categories would require full disclosure at the beginning of each article or show. A television channel could choose to run a political commentary show one hour and a news show the next, but which category each fits into must be clearly stated at the beginning and shown on screen throughout each program. Journalists with a government salary would be required to clearly disclose such payment at the top of each article.
I don’t see this as a full solution to the issue of division, but I do believe that empowering people to make more informed choices about the content they’re consuming can help to mitigate some of the problem of people internalizing commentary as truth.
Here’s my idea outside of government: throughout and beyond my campaign, I will host weekly livestreams where I bring on someone who disagrees with me. Then we’ll just talk. People are sick of the screaming matches on cable. They’re craving this because they want to remember what it’s like to have a conversation with someone they disagree with. No one likes losing friends and family over stupid identity politics and labels and terminology we don’t even agree on the definition of anymore. I’m fed up with people saying “we need to come together” while turning around and driving more division. I’m going to show how to actually do it. If I accomplish nothing else, I hope to start a snowball effect of relentless patience and kindness for our fellow Americans. We must
Make America Kind Always
*Fairness Doctrine is a set of rules requiring equal air time be given to opposing points of view on commentary shows. The US has historical and constitutional precedence for Fairness Doctrine. The primary reason we don’t have it today comes down to a tiny handful of powerful people from across the political spectrum who have kept it at bay over the decades. There are modern, viable efforts to bring Fairness Doctrine back and I will join that fight.
I will also add that we have historical precedence for the separation of news and opinion as well. Today, the two have completely merged and the consequences have been almost exclusively negative. As much as I love modern solutions to problems, there are some things we figured out a long time ago.