Politics, aggression, and listening
23 July, 2015
Politics, aggression, and listening
A record number of people in Georgia dislike all political forces. The strange thing is that if you look at Georgia’s media, that is not at all the picture you will see. Georgia’s media portrays two groups; those who affiliate with this ruling team and those who affiliate with the previous ruling team. The broadcast waves are dominated by those who are fairly easy to portray as one or the other and everybody else is considered somewhere in the middle, a “shuashist” (shua - middle in Georgian).

Somebody who doesn’t like one part of what is happening is labeled a dissident by the government and everything they say is seen as simply unthinking loyalty to the opposition. Meanwhile, those broadly sympathetic to the opposition refuse to recognize any shortcomings in their team, their team’s past record or any positive steps the current government has taken.

Why? The world is complex, and no sub-world is more complex than Georgian politics. When faced with complexity, some people have a tendency to break things down into two sides. We are used to having two sides. So many games have two sides that oppose each other. If there are two groups and they are different, there are always some members of each that will begin to try to move the team to be in opposition to the other side. This push to opposition is connected to control. Control of the ball, or territory, of wealth or power. The more one side pushes against the other the more the other side seems to respond.
That was the case in the Soviet period. There was one party and one state and anybody who didn’t like it was a dissident and the system didn’t allow for that. Most post-Soviet states that have tried to become democracies have had difficulty handling a diversity of opinion. Somebody who doesn’t like one part of what is happening is labeled a dissident by the government and everything they say is seen as simply unthinking loyalty to the opposition. Meanwhile, those broadly sympathetic to the opposition refuse to recognize any shortcomings in their team, their team’s past record or any positive steps the current government has taken. This, of course, confirms the ruling team’s preconceptions.
And if one team or another has difficulty portraying a vision that people understand, difficulty finding solutions to problems or explaining them, if they are simply confused, feel weak and
under threat, they have a natural tendency to simply blame. It’s an escape, it is easy and there will always be others who support this blame. But as it turns out, these “others” will simply walk away. When a group of people is pointing the finger at each other and the cameras point at them, those not pointing fingers, tend to move to the outside or just leave. Soon the loudest blamers and most aggressive pointers seem to take up all the space, leaving less room for those who speak more quietly, who don’t blame, who propose solutions, or who are simply more practical in what they say.
It is the nature of TV and radio. The cheapest TV show to produce has a host and two or three people who hate each other yelling at each other. It has many benefits for the producer. 1) It is incredibly cheap to produce since, it costs almost nothing; 2) it gives the appearance of democracy because “both views” are shown. Never mind that there are always more than two views and usually the better and more informed views are not the ones that diametrically oppose each other; 3) it requires no research. When addressing some particular political dispute of the day, if there are government and opposition involved representatives, they will yell at each other, but they don’t necessarily know much about the bigger context of the issue; 4) it keeps the same old people on TV, and they enjoy being on TV, and nobody has to research new people with new ideas.
In a different environment, journalists would concentrate on issues and try to understand several different ways of looking at the issue at hand, what different possible solutions are and what their consequences would be. But that would take work, often a great deal of work, and perhaps more education than some journalists or producers have.
So what can be done about this? The first thing would be for journalists to find more unaffiliated experts. All these experts on TV tend to be the same people who have been on TV for years, most are politically affiliated and many don’t have very many new ideas. Often journalists simply have a few they know and regardless of the topic, will call down the list the one they know who seems closest to the sector. Don’t do this. And the same goes for citizens. For people who are interested in a particular topic, find people who know about it and ask them for new people to talk to, and focus on those who aren’t so partisan.
Do research on topics. If you have time, look around at what is written about it, and what is done in other countries. Who are the professors who know about it? Focus on solutions rather than problems. That doesn’t mean the problems don’t need to be understood, but look at problems with an eye towards solving them rather than figuring out whose fault they are. Listen to the polite people and the ones for whom it is not clear how they will vote.
Generally you can learn more from reading than listening and more from listening than watching. Focus on local problems, things that affect you directly rather than big abstract things. Those are the things that matter.

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