Journal of Practical Ethics | VOL. 10
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Can We Talk?: Communicating Moral Concern in an Era of Polarized Politics

Publication Date Sep 30, 2022

Abstract

Democracy is endangered by toxic political discourse, including disinformation, harassment, and mass shaming.  These forms of discourse activate and express esteem competition among rival identity groups, as well as ethnocentric fear and resentment.  Such competition and antagonistic feelings derail democratic practices, including fact-based discussion of problems and policies to address them. When people interpret every concern raised by a different group as an attack on their own group’s standing, they resist consideration of the facts to avoid exposure to shame and blame. Yet, when the point of raising facts is to orient others to moral concerns, how can we communicate these concerns without blaming and shaming those who resist?  Without denying that these practices are sometimes justified, I suggest alternative ways to communicate moral concerns so that those who resist shame and blame, and who fear those who raise concerns, can come to share them.  These alternatives are part of an ethos of democratic communication, which ordinary citizens should practice to enable democracy to succeed.

Concepts

Moral Concerns Ordinary Citizens Discussion Of Policies Rival Identity Antagonistic Feelings Democratic Communication Democratic Practices Political Discourse Identity Groups

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