There is much necessary and urgent concern about the state of our public discourse and with it, our ability to talk across political divides. It’s easy to see why: if you’ve spent any amount of time on social media, you’ll have witnessed, participated in, or been on the receiving end of other people’s vitriolic diatribes.

Fed only what the algorithms want us to see, we engage in a zero-sum game in which only our tribe can win. As mainstream media turns to social networks to gauge what people think about the subjects of the day, it presents these archetypal arguments which only amplify and intensify our sense of political polarisation.  

But as "Between the outspoken critics and the Twitter warriors is a vast group of people who make up what is perhaps the largest and least vocal ‘bubble’: those who share a critical, yet moderate view of the world.”

This idea that despite the many important differences between us there is an underlying – and actually growing – consensus that is underreported has also been the subject of Zaid Jilani’s journalism for The Correspondent. Reiterating Rob’s analysis, that the ideological differences between partisan voters in the US are actually smaller than presented, and that in the face of crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic, politicians were willing to work together – even, albeit briefly,

Yet the story of our enmity persists – and So how do we improve political discourse across ideological, identity, culture and partisan lines – and with it, the perception of the quality of our public conversations?

On , I’ll be hosting a live panel discussion, where our speakers will attempt to answer the above question. They will draw on their work redefining the duties and privileges of citizenship, examining the relationship between technology and democracy, calling out and countering the myths or frames that have shifted from the fringes into the mainstream, or attempting to reimagine political literacy and democracy.

Rob will open the discussion by sharing some thoughts specifically on  

Sign up below to attend the event. As it is only an hour long, members of The Correspondent are invited to post their questions in the contribution section here below, during or after the discussion. Our panelists will return here to reply to them.

Our speakers

Baratunde Thurston

Baratunde Thurston is an Emmy-nominated host who has worked for The Onion, produced for The Daily Show, advised the Obama White House, and wrote The New York Times bestseller How To Be Black. He’s the executive producer and host of two podcasts: How To Citizen with Baratunde and We’re Having a Moment, which CNET called “the most important podcast of 2020”.

Listen: Democracy means people power, literally Baratunde is joined on the How To Citizen podcast by Eric Liu, founder of Citizen University. They discuss power, how this power needs to be coupled with civic character to prevent us from becoming finely skilled sociopaths. Listen to the podcast here

Nesrine Malik

was born in Sudan and raised in the Middle East and North Africa. She is the author of We Need New Stories: Challenging the Toxic Myths Behind Our Age of Discontent (2019), and was long-listed for the Orwell Prize. 

Whatever you say online, someone will attack you for it ‘It’s hard to be in the business of journalism and navigate differences of opinion after Black Lives Matter has cracked some of us open.’ Read Nesrine’s newsletter here

Renata Avila

Renata Avila is a Guatemalan lawyer, author and advocate. She is also a co-founder of the <A+> Alliance for Inclusive Algorithms. As an expert in digital rights, she studies the politics of data, the evolution of transparency, and their implications on trade, democracy and society. Renata also advocates for the right to publish and defends whistleblowers and journalists speaking truth to power.

Digital citizenship in the 21st century ‘The citizenry must demand its popular sovereignty back, burying the “corporate sovereignty” of today. For that, it is imperative to shake off the xenophobic and nationalistic distractions in order to focus on the real problem: how elites evade responsibility and scrutiny.’ Read Renata’s OpenDemocracy interview here

Patrick Chalmers

Patrick Chalmers, who is a journalist and filmmaker focused on making political structures truly democratic. He directed All Hands On, a short-documentary series on ordinary people doing radical democracy.

Illustration of a smiling man with short hair and glasses - on a grey and yellow background My name is Patrick and I’m politically illiterate. You are too ‘Talking politics often feels like a personal health hazard. Unless we can learn to understand our own roles in a dysfunctional system, there’s no chance of fixing it.’ Read Patrick’s introduction to his series here

Join us for the panel

Register here Join Baratunde Thurston, Renata Avila, Patrick Chalmers & Nesrine Malik for ‘How do we talk politics without beating each other up?’ Register for the panel