“I believe that linguistic differences and negative stereotypes are dangerous. I believe that each of us can reason more constructively if we recognize that we tend to be overly responsive to our preferred language. I believe that we can reduce our level of political anger by better understanding the other languages. You can still carry the belief that you are right, and you do not need to split differences or compromise. However, you should be less inclined to demonize people who speak different political languages.”
So, Kling’s suggested way forward is to learn to speak other political languages so that you can “look at [a] political debate from a point of view that is detached from your preferred [language].” Sounds interesting, right? That detachment, according to Kling, can
- help you understand those who use different languages,
- help you employ your reasoning in a more constructive less motivated manner
- help you see the merit in others’ point of view and avoid taking our own views to erroneous extremes
- lead you to take a charitable view of others’s disagreement, rather than retreating into demonizing those with opposing views.
This last point is of critical importance, because of what has happened in the political media in the past 25 years (both left and right–I’m not sure there is a neutral center anymore!). According to Kling,
“Taking a charitable view of those with whom we disagree is rare in the political media. Many of the most popular newspaper columnists, radio talk show hosts, bloggers, and pundits using cable TV or social media do exactly the opposite. They take the most uncharitable view possible of those with whom they disagree, and they encourage their followers to do likewise. They achieve high ratings, but they lower the quality of political discussion. If you have a dominant political language, then chances are that both your favorite public intellectuals and your most hated demagogues are guilty of doing this. The strategy of being uncharitable focuses on finding the weakest arguments of opponents and denouncing those arguments. Often, it involves finding opponents’ statements that can be interpreted as justifying a view that the opponent is on the opposite end of one’s preferred axis.”
“Learning the other political languages might help us to have conversations instead of shouting matches.”
The source of this material is: “The Three Languages of Politics” by Arnold Kling. If you are serious about learning, the book provides many examples to help you get accustomed to the other political languages (other than your own).
Or, you can listen to a video presentation by Arnold Kling on the Three Languages of Politics here.