How did we get so divisive?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by vrDrew, Aug 27, 2016.

  1. vrDrew macrumors 65816

    Jan 31, 2010
    Midlife, Midwest
    I'm old enough to remember the 1970s. A time when Japanese cars were still seen as cheap and tinny; and the very idea of importing Chinese goods was absurd. When middle-class American moms bought their kids clothes at Sears. I didn't have a lot of first-hand experience of racism - but I was aware that it was a big deal when my dad's company first hired a black man as a senior executive.

    And when I page through my family snapshots; and look back at the TV shows and movies; the newspapers and mailorder catalogs from those days, I'm struck by one inescapable thought:

    Things really weren't better back then.

    Our cars were crappier. Very few houses and automobiles had airconditioning. Houses were smaller; even middle-class kids shared bedrooms. We wore clothes made out of itchy polyester. There were four or five TV channels to choose from, and they stopped broadcasting around mindnight. Nobody ever dreamed of taking a telephone on a camping trip or a theme park. If you wanted to find out some obscure fact, you looked in an encyclopedia. A diagnosis or cancer, or a heart attack, were almost certain death sentences.

    For pretty much every demographic, every race, things are almost immeasurably better today than they were forty years ago.

    So why then, are the politics we ascribe to so terribly divisive? Why is so much political dialog not just disagreements over policy - but instead the characterization of the other sides as evil incarnate? Why are people so terribly unhappy? And so anxious to return to a past that was, viewed objectively, really not that good at all.
  2. thermodynamic Suspended


    May 3, 2009
    But peoples' LaSalles ran great... :D

    People must have dreamed for those phones since someone else designed and built them while others marketed them and telling us how we needed them. Or if people didn't dream them then definitely marketers did the manipulation necessary...

    Don't worry, with the continuing soap opera behind "cell phone towers use microwaves that cause cancer, kill bees, and make mice have sex with cats", there will always be ups and downs to each generation.
  3. APlotdevice macrumors 68040


    Sep 3, 2011
    I think the rise of 24-hour news has been a major contributing factor. Fear keeps people glued to their televisions better than anything else.
  4. WarHeadz macrumors 6502a


    Aug 30, 2015
    Long Beach, California
    I think some of it has to do with people feeling a more direct connection to the actions of our government now than in the past. When people feel like something can have a direct impact on their every day lives, they get more opinionated and polarized. Back then, not that I was alive to witness it, but I think people felt more stability in the country (and the world) really didn't feel like a new President taking over the White House would have much of an effect on them.

    Much of this can be attributed to 24/7 cable news.
  5. samiwas macrumors 68000

    Aug 26, 2006
    Atlanta, GA
    It's group of people doesn't want "those people" to have anything nice and they get really angry any time they see progress helping "those people". Then "those people" try to fight back a little, and the group gets even angrier and tries harder to make it worse.
  6. Rhonindk macrumors 68040


    Now is the time of "immediate gratification". Add to this the fact "news" is no longer news as we used to know it - it's all "advertising" these days. You end up with the majority of "public" information swimming in the shallow end being watched over by impulse driven lifeguards (government).
    Is it any wonder? The published view is skewed and not realistic.
  7. Zombie Acorn macrumors 65816

    Zombie Acorn

    Feb 2, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario
    Things are better because technology improved, and the government hauled in trillions of debt to duct tape the economy together.
  8. Herdfan macrumors 6502

    Apr 11, 2011
    I think a lot of it stems from the the most liberal and conservative lawmakers taking over each of the major parties. When you have a Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell controlling what the members do or what legislation is brought to the floor there is little room for compromise. So each side digs in and rallies their supporters to their view and as a result nothing gets done and it keeps the people divided.

    Which is exactly what they want because if the middle 50-60% of the country ever got its act together ............
  9. zioxide macrumors 603


    Dec 11, 2006
    The internet gave stupid people voices and made them feel as though what they "believed" is more important than demonstrable fact.
  10. Herdfan macrumors 6502

    Apr 11, 2011
    Also people have a hard time separating what is news and what is opinion. While you may not like one or the other, the hard news divisions of CNN and Fox do a decent job of giving the facts. The problem is people watch O'Reilly or Anderson Cooper and don't realize these are opinion & analysis shows, so they get mad that this news channel is skewing the news.
  11. ibookg409 Suspended


    Apr 20, 2016
    Portsmouth, NH
    I think there has been a sharp increase in selfishness as of late. There is less sense of community and nationalism. The naricisim machine called social media has trained everyone to believe that every thought they have is pure gold.

    Children aren't corrected anymore. If I misbehaved at a friends house my friends mother would spank me and then my parents would spank me when I got home.

    I don't know. There are a lot of things different these days.
  12. IronWaffle, Aug 27, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2016

    IronWaffle macrumors 6502


    To my mind, this is part of it: "Good fences make good neighbors."

    The Internet pokes holes in our personal fences. Heightens an understandably natural feeling of being misunderstood; neglected; talked down to. Especially when focused on things like this election or the issues that it sadly reduces to talking points or "messaging" that desperately, disingenuously, and unconvincingly plays down obvious fallacies and self-delusional defenses. On both sides. And it self-perpetuates, giving people justification to adopt the same strategies.

    Boards like this, reddit, Facebook, etc. bring people together. Into each other's homes. Reading a dissenting point-of-view, absent of the writer's spoken voice -- especially if you only really know each other from the Internet --, amplifies a view. Now someone I disagree with me may be yelling at me in my own home; or maybe I'm yelling in theirs. Who knows. Imply vs. infer.

    Attempts at wit can come off more angrily than is meant. A clever turn of phrase may get out of hand. An inarticulate passage can convey the wrong message. Quick banter can feel like a pile-on. Our innate vulnerabilities can accidentally be laid bare.

    There's an art to rhetoric that takes a little time, a little thought, consideration, self-awareness, and a little revision. "Ain't nobody got time for that." We live in the world we make and we make of the world what we will.

    "Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offense.
    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That wants it down." - Robert Frost, "Mending Wall"

    (the wall image is purely a coincidence)
  13. frankgrimes macrumors 6502a


    Jun 13, 2016
    I think most of it has been answered already but the most important stuff is the rise of a heavy influenced media, they either ultra liberals (ESPN) or more conservative (Fox), there just doesn't seem to be a middle ground which should be there because the point of journalism is neutral reporting without! taking sides.

    For me the problem is simple: I don't care about the programs of parties or stuff like that but I do care about stuff that will affect directly. For example Austria joining the EU has affected me directly so if it comes down to it I will always vote for the party which is trying to correct things. Sadly, it doesn't really matter which one is winning because they all go into silence mode once the election is over and nothing gets done, because both sides are too focused on arguing about semantics nobody cares about.

    I'm too young for the good old 70s, 80s but I think people appreciate and love the sense of stability, something I currently do not feel in Austria and this worries me a lot. I want my borders back, I want Austria to be a save country again, I don't want Brussel deciding whats best for Austria and I don't like to see our farmers getting the wrong end of the cake.

    Also the job of the goverment is to act in the best interest of the country, more and more often they fail to do so of course the media is trying to cover up for that as much as possible but in this day and age it's impossible so more people are getting divisive about all that stuff.
  14. Eraserhead macrumors G4


    Nov 3, 2005
    Neither Harry Reid or Mitch Mcconnell is that extreme.

    ESPN is a sport channel.
  15. smallcoffee macrumors 65816

    Oct 15, 2014
    North America
    It's easy, the 24 hour news cycle, suburbia, and social media.
  16. LizKat macrumors 601


    Aug 5, 2004
    Catskill Mountains
    This. My two old cats are convinced it's going to happen. I don't have the heart to tell them we live in a dead zone. But at least they think it could happen so they've become good mousers again while waiting.

    But back to the thread topic:

    Wider audience to bicker with.

    Confusion of knowledge with easy access to information.

    Which leads to... binary thinking. Life is a spectrum but we argue in black and white. One can be right, or wrong. Since I am right, you must be wrong, and a loser.

    Living in a marketing environment from birth. The pitch is that we are one card short of a full deck, around the clock. Set apart by being inferior. All we need is to become members of a more desirable group by buying this thing or getting this free thing or understanding the one simple idea. No one likes to feel “less than” so we become predisposed to feel combative. I catch up for a nanosecond but then I got someone telling my nailpolish is so last season. There is no room in this savage environment for enjoyment or acceptance. Then I log in here and some innocent person having a nice day is stupid enough to post something good about some politician.

    Can’t shut off the noise. Oh we can get it down to dull roar, there are apps for that. But we have to jump through hoops to get there because the price of “free” is exasperation trying to dodge the ads. So we get used to the noise, visual or aural. Anyway we have been doing homework since first grade with the TV on while also listening to the radio or a music app on a mobile device. We know multitasking. We are hooked on it. Anyone who can’t multitask is a loser.

    Which leads to... fear of solitude. We call it boredom because “fear” is for losers.

    More leisure time. If you can’t make time for social media you must be a loser.

    I could go on but it’s clear I know what I’m talking about and you’re the loser.

    By the way the best time to be a New Yorker was in the 70s when crime rates were sky high. I didn't have a television set and was so out of the loop that I was actually having a great time even though I was broke.
  17. vrDrew thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jan 31, 2010
    Midlife, Midwest
    I think a lot of the responses touch on a factor I think a lot of people are coming to recognize:

    Technology is a double-edged sword.

    Mobile phones give us unprecedented means of staying in touch with our friends and family. They entertain us with amusing videos and addictive games. They let us snap pictures at a moments notice, and instantly view them and share them with friends anywhere in the world.

    But they also have a dark side. They let our boss call us when we are on vacation or out to dinner. They distract us from having real conversations with our loved ones at the dinner table. They enable bullying by people we've never met, who might live on the far side of the world.

    We cannot undo the past and we can't uninvent smartphones and cable television; the internet or social media.

    But we can periodically step back from the digital world. Already I'm seeing interesting phenomena: The affluent now spend less time online or in front of computers than the poor and middle class. Wealthier families now sign the children up for programs and day camps where phones and the internet are not allowed. We see it in things like "minimalism" and "decluttering" - where the idea of aesthetic beauty is a living room or bedroom studiously unadorned with the detritus of knicknacks and curios. Where the trademark wardrobe of a tech billionaire is a closet limited to a half-dozen identical turtlenecks.

    Technology can certainly enrich our lives. It can take us places, and see things, that would have been unimaginable just a couple of decades ago. But it also enables a deep sense of dissatisfaction.
  18. smallcoffee macrumors 65816

    Oct 15, 2014
    North America
    Honestly social media is the only real issue with technology I've seen. It's the only thing that has people just mindlessly scrolling and being bombarded by advertisements and the illusion of everybody being happy. Once you remove social media, you stop habitually checking your phone for "the latest update". I think it's really the only problem.

    In my personal experience, the boss calling when you're on vacation has largely become a non-issue. Frankly, they just don't call. But that's me.
  19. vrDrew thread starter macrumors 65816

    Jan 31, 2010
    Midlife, Midwest
    I think its bit more than that.

    Satellite and cable TV systems with a thousand different channels play a huge part. Not just the fact that it gives outlets to everything from C-SPAN and Fox News; but also al-Jazeira, Russia Today; and heaven knows what else. Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck couldn't have gotten on national TV in 1972. And if you wanted to expose yourself to Russian government propaganda, a scratchy UHF radio signal was your only real option.

    There was no MTV Cribs. There was no Real Housewives of New York. Yes: We knew that there were rich people in the world. But we weren't treated to high-definition tours of their bathrooms and kitchens on television around the clock. There weren't two dozens television channels dedicated to selling us geegaws 24/7. If we wanted to go to Palm Beach Concours d'Elegance, we had to fly out to California and stand in line to ogle the Packards and Mercedes Gullwings.

    It's led to a fair degree of sexual dissatisfaction also. When I first went to university, I'd never seen a pornographic film. How true is that of today's college freshmen? And I'll let you use your imagination to fill in the blanks about the rest of that topic. But the fact is: College kids and young adults are, statistically at least, having a lot less actual sex than they did in the 1980s. Tell me that's not a surefire recipe for unhappiness.
  20. smallcoffee macrumors 65816

    Oct 15, 2014
    North America
    I was just commenting on technology more on the smartphone side. I should have been more clear. But I think much of what you're pointing out, while definitely true, is also related to the 24/hour news cycle and what not. But I don't think of TV when I think technology. Not that you're incorrect, I just had something different in mind.
  21. ibookg409 Suspended


    Apr 20, 2016
    Portsmouth, NH
    I'm finishing up my vacation. I got three work calls in a week.
  22. Herdfan macrumors 6502

    Apr 11, 2011
    My daughter and her friends have a cool thing they do when they go out to eat as a group. They all stack their phones in the middle of the table and no one touches them while they eat.
  23. fischersd macrumors 601


    Oct 23, 2014
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    My career's been in tech - including just over 8 at BlackBerry. We quickly learned that the "perk" of having a BB strapped to your hip wasn't a benefit but a curse. Anyone in leadership was expected to respond within minutes 7/24, regardless of time of day (many slept with their BB under their pillow on vibrate - or on their bedside table). You had to create vast, intricate mail filtering rules to shuffle off the massive distribution e-mails into appropriate folders...that you may or may not get to, yet get the notifications that you needed if one of the C-level decided to ask you for something at 3am when you were on vacation. (oh, and of course, everyone in leadership was expected to be in coverage when on vacation). That did eventually change (think it started around 2009) that people started pushing back to have a healthier work/life balance and actually leave out of office notifications that they would be out of coverage when on vacation! *gasp* :)

    I look at what tech has done to our children. So many live their lives in their dungeons (basements), glued to their console...their only friends a few from school, but a much larger contingent on X-Box Live (and you wonder how many are predators posing as kids). SO many AWFUL parents that let the TV and game console raise their kids and not spending any quality time with them...not really having a relationship with them.

    Social media has become nothing if not an evil swarm of opinion, just waiting to mame anyone foolish enough to offer an opinion...or, hell, innocently publish a pic of them having fun at a beach - only to be shamed for the pics.

    In so many ways, it's brought out the worst in us. True, our lives are more convenient and we're living longer, but the quality of life??? Sorry....I remember the 70's. We may not have had air conditioning, but you could go out after supper and be home for curfew and your parents didn't really have to worry about you. It almost seems like a dream much things have changed.

    The one bright spot is what the world being able to focus on things via the availability of information so very quickly. It's taken forever for racial equality to happen in many places (and still not there yet in most of the world). For many groups, prejudice is being torn down at a rate never seen in our history. This is certainly a good thing. Also, for things such as natural disasters. Now you have people on the ground tweeting as it's you may see Red Cross preparing shipments minutes after that tweet, getting volunteers ready and organizing flights. It's made our world smaller. Hopefully, in that, we'll eventually come to realize that we're all really the same...we've just had different histories.
  24. mactastic macrumors 68040


    Apr 24, 2003
    People live in political silos more and more these days. Gerrymandering has made most House seats safe for one party or another, so the real race becomes the primary race, and that forces candidates into ever-further separation between themselves and the "establishment" and producing fewer moderates willing to compromise to get things done.

    Lawmakers used to be able to develop friendships across the aisle. Today, photos of a "squish" having dinner with an opposing lawmaker is apt to wind up on the front page of Drudge, and in an opponent's ad as proof of said "squishiness". Lawmakers are too scared of their base to make such efforts. It's safer to stay amongst your own, lest you be called out as a "<X>INO"

    Vast amounts of $$ and effort have been spent to de-legitimize voices that used to be considered authorities. Scientists, government officials, journalists, teachers, pastors, all have been attacked and alternate structures built to provide the same data but from an "unbiased" perspective that just happens to always favor the side who invested in them.

    Most Americans get our news from partisan sources. Thus we are largely working off different sets of "facts". "Shape of the Earth: both sides differ" kind of stuff. Sure 95% of scientists say it's round, but in the interest of fairness, let's give equal time to both sides. Let's teach the controversy in schools.

    And that really just scratches the surface. Income inequality, racial injustice, gender discrimination, even genocide from our past has never really been addressed. Whites losing their majority status. Civil War butthurt, nursed for 150 years, still festering. The legacy of slavery.

    People could (and probably have) written books and theses on this matter. It's a rabbit hole you could spend a lifetime in.
  25. Robisan macrumors 6502

    Jan 19, 2014
    I'm probably about the same age as the OP. IMO the significant change occurred with the rise of Rush Limbaugh and the election of Bill Clinton. That confluence was the first time it became socially acceptable to delegitimatize the citizenship of the opposition. As much as some people disliked Reagan I don't recall even his biggest critics calling him an illegitimate president. That all changed with the election of draft dodging Bill Clinton, the rise of Limbaugh and metastasizing of all the 'little Limbaughs' of local talk radio. A certain, significant segment of the population never accepted Clinton as an eligible citizen to be president. Period. The Internet has added the ability for insular community and closed loop echo chamber reality. We've never escaped that descent into viewing those we disagree with as illegitimate citizens.

Share This Page