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‘Social Media Doesn’t Reward That’: Why Can’t Conservatives, Liberals Listen to Each Other?

How do we heal division in our country when we can’t even have conversations?

“I really feel one of the biggest problems is nobody’s listening at all,” Glenn said on today’s show while sitting down with Eric Liu. “Nobody feels heard right now.”

Liu, founder and CEO of Citizen University, leans liberal in his political views but has the same passion for bringing people together. He pointed out that we’ll have to be better than our political leaders if we want to reach across the aisle. We’re learning terrible habits from our political leaders and the way social media encourages extreme views.

“That’s a set of habits that nobody’s modeling for us in national politics,” Liu said. “Nothing in our daily lives rewards that. Social media doesn’t reward that.”

Listen to their full conversation on today’s show here:

This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.

GLENN: So much to the, I think, chagrin of my friends and chagrin of his friends, we are friends, Eric Liu. He is the founder and CEO Of Citizen University. Also, the executive director of the Aspen Institute. Citizenship and American Identity Program.

He's -- he's from Seattle. I don't think I need to say anything else. He's from Seattle.

(laughter)

GLENN: So we don't necessarily agree on everything. But we have become friends because we both are trying to find sane ways to have conversations with each other and other people. Or we're doomed. We're doomed.

Welcome. How are you?

ERIC: Glenn, it's great to be back. It's great to see you.

GLENN: How is Seattle?

ERIC: It's beautiful. It's thriving. It's booming. You know, you grew up in the area.

GLENN: I know. I love it. I love it. I love it.

I don't think I would be welcomed there anymore. I don't think I was welcomed there ten years ago, let alone today.

ERIC: Well, we'll follow-up and bring you back together, and we'll do something in Seattle.

GLENN: Yeah, good. I would love to.

So would you agree with me that both sides, to one degree or another, have become unhinged on the extreme edges?

ERIC: Yeah. I think our politics today, and especially if you spend more than ten minutes on social media, it is about voices on the unhinged extremes.

GLENN: Yeah.

ERIC: And it's about this pattern that plays out over and over, where each extreme has to gin it up in order to feed the rage and the anger about the other side's extreme.

GLENN: Yeah.

ERIC: You know, that is our politics as it's mediated, you know, especially through social media. But I think -- you were talking about this before we went on-air. There is a broad swath of, you know, sane people. You know, interested bystanders. People who aren't super active in politics, super active in commenting on politics, who just want to understand each other, and who just want to fix stuff.

GLENN: Yeah.

ERIC: And some of them are as progressive as I am. And some of them are as Libertarian as you are. And many of them are all points in between. But they're not interested in the game-playing and the posturing that so much of national politics is about today.

GLENN: Yeah. I mean, I -- we're making everything about politics now. Absolutely everything is about politics.

And we're not going to survive. That's nuts.

The story today came out on sports -- sports illustrated. They just did a swimsuit issue, that doesn't have any swimsuits. All of the women are completely naked. And they're beautiful women. One is lying down naked, face up with the word "truth" painted on her rib cage. Another one is naked with "feminist" emblazoned on her arm. The other is the daughter of Christie Brinkley that is staring at the camera, laying on her side with the word "progress" written across her back. And they've put this -- this is -- I don't understand this. This is Sports Illustrated, a magazine for men, trying to say, see, we shouldn't objectify women. I don't understand that.

ERIC: Yeah. There's a lot that is great fundamentally about the Me Too movement and the fact that our society is waking up to shifting norms on what's okay when it comes to actually treating women with respect.

GLENN: I agree. I agree. I agree. Yes.

ERIC: But I do not look to Sports Illustrated as my moral guide on the objectification of women. Okay?

GLENN: How do we find a way -- and tell me what your feelings are on the people that, you know, on the -- on the dangers -- even Margaret at wood brought this up, the dangers of just these kangaroo courts, who are not even a kangaroo court. Just, you're guilty, and you're done if anybody accuses you.

ERIC: The danger is there. But I think actually as a society, we're navigate it right now. I mean, this is somewhat uncharted. Right? It's not like the society has tried before to have deep equity between men and women, on what -- who gets to harass whom. We've never done that before. We're having a society-wide reckoning.

Are there going to be cases where people abuse that -- the power that comes with that?

Sure. But are our institutions and are the leaders in our institutions fundamentally trying to reckon with that in good-faith? I actually think we are.

And even this kind of absurd Sports Illustrated cover is a sign that -- you know, one thing you can say about Sports Illustrated is they're trying to tune into the zeitgeist. They are aware of the market place, right? And they know the zeitgeist is, you got to be on the right side of the speech. Right?

GLENN: Yeah. Right. Right.

But if I did photos of naked women and put #metoo, I don't think I would get the pass that --

ERIC: Well, exactly.

GLENN: -- from either side, in my case. From either side.

STU: Yeah.

ERIC: The question is one of -- you know, in the law, they talk about standing. Do you have standing to make a case? Right?

During the Super Bowl, we all watched the ads and stuff. I didn't think Dodge Ram trucks had the moral standing to use an MLK speech about the dangers of commercialism to sell trucks. To me, that was -- and to lots of Americans, that was, you know what, message and messenger not aligned here.

GLENN: You mean the MLK message?

ERIC: Yeah. Yeah.

GLENN: So the MLK message -- may I present an opposite point of view. That's a sermon that most Americans have not heard, was really good. I agree with you that the images of the truck coming in, halfway in. You're like, okay. That's really -- you don't need that.

Just a simple Dodge at the end would have been perfect.

ERIC: Yeah. Yes. Would have been great.

GLENN: However, I have had more email on a monologue that I did on forgiveness, and I used that sermon the very next day. I've had more email on that from people who woke up. So, I mean, you can't necessarily reject it as universally bad that they did it. Because it did affect people.

ERIC: Well, look, I mean, Sports Illustrated was trying to do something like the right thing. But the equivalent would have been, had they had a cover -- if they said, this year's swimsuit issue, here's what it looks like. And it was a black cover that just said, we're taking some responsibility for feeding this culture in which women are treated like objects and which men feel they have permission to treat women like objects. We own a piece of that.

GLENN: And it would be the lowest selling Sports Illustrated.

STU: But that would be a powerful statement. Writing it on naked women's bodies doesn't seem quite as --

ERIC: It would be low-selling as a swimsuit issue. But the whole country would be talking about it. Would be talking about Sports Illustrated.

GLENN: Yeah, that's true. That's true.

So who have you found, Eric, I have been looking for a while, people like you, that we don't necessarily agree, but we can have really good conversations. And we can move things forward together.

ERIC: Uh-huh.

GLENN: Who have you found on the -- on the left or in the media that is really willing to do that?

ERIC: Hmm. You know, and I'm not sure if she's been a guest on your show, but my friend Neera Tanden --

GLENN: Nope.

ERIC: -- who runs the Center for American Progress.

Big, big progressive think tank, that I know you cross swords with. Right? But Neera is both able and willing to have conversations with anybody. And to have them in ways that aren't just the made for TV food fight, that are really trying to say, what's your deal? Right.

What are you getting at here?

GLENN: I really feel one of the biggest problems is nobody is listening at all.

ERIC: Yeah.

GLENN: Nobody feels heard right now.

Somehow or another, the left still controls most of the media. Doesn't feel heard. And the right now that they control the House and the Senate, they don't feel heard. And it's because nobody is -- nobody is actually -- I guess emoting what the average person is feeling right now. You know, we're all scared. It's amazing. I saw a YouTube video of a liberal talking about how afraid she was that Donald Trump was going to build concentration camps. And it was in a room -- probably had 1,000 people in it. And they were all like, yeah, yeah. And I remember, I debunked the lie about Obama making concentration camps. Because that was a big deal.

STU: A big conspiracy theory at the time.

GLENN: Big conspiracy. I was called a conspiracy theorist for debunking that conspiracy theory. And now the other side is feeling the same kind of fear that so many Americans did when they didn't trust the president. And I think this is a moment where we can wake up and say, see, this is why the president should never have this much power. The president should not be able to affect our lives, to the point to where we're afraid of him.

STU: Yeah.

ERIC: I actually agree with that. I think there's one lesson that people on the left are learning today, and that is the dangers of this imperial presidency. Right?

Which is not a Trump phenomenon or even an Obama phenomenon. It's been going back half a century at least, right?

GLENN: Been going for a long time, yeah, yeah.

ERIC: At least since World War II. Right? Concentration, power in the executive, right?

GLENN: Yeah.

ERIC: But I think you're -- I want to go back to something you were saying about listening and being heard, right?

We live in this time right now where there is -- and we've talked about this. There's so much pain. There's so much pain.

The segment you were doing right before the break, in which you were just speaking to a human, an individual about the pain they were feeling in their journey. And you were tying it to the pain that you have felt at various points in your journey, right?

That kind of conversation which is both about listening -- but it's about, I'm not just listening to the words you're saying and the points you're making. I'm trying to listen underneath, to the emotional currents there. That's a set of habits that nobody is modeling for us in national politics. And that we as citizens, frankly, it's gotten easier for us to shed those habits. Because nothing in our daily lives rewards that, right? Social media doesn't reward that.

GLENN: The media doesn't reward --

ERIC: The media doesn't reward that.

So we've actually got to build experiences where we see each other face-to-face again. You know, if we were having this conversation by phone, this would be different. But I'm looking you in the eye right now, Glenn. And I'm looking at you as you've spoken about these questions. And there's a human connection here. That I can't now just call you a nutjob and call you a this and call you a that. Like, we've connected on some level, right? It doesn't mean we're going to agree on the issues.

But it means I'm not going to demonize. And I think the deepest ill in our politics is how we've forgotten how to rehumanize each other.

GLENN: That's -- I just wrote a member of the press morning, a private conversation, that dealt with that. I said, we are -- we are calling each other subhumans, exactly the way the early, you know, 1920s Nazis were starting to. Train people that you're subhuman. If you don't agree with me, you're subhuman. And we're training each other that way.

But it doesn't -- social media is not the only one that doesn't reward it. Media doesn't reward it either. I mean, if you're not going to call somebody a nutjob or a Nazi. You don't win. And they don't put you on. And you, Stu -- was it you yesterday that said that you had seen somebody say, no, well, on the surface, this means X and X. And the guy was like, no. But that's -- can you tell the story?

STU: Yeah. It was an interview about some controversial comment that had gone on media. And they had brought someone on to kind of answer for it. And the typical kind of cable news back and forth. And that's essentially, when the person was pushing back against it. To say, yeah, but you got to admit on the service, it's an insult.

It's like, well, isn't the point here as human beings, that we go beyond the surface, that we think a little deeper about these things?

Because we can all get frustrated at the surface of it. We can all find the worst possible intent of a comment and turn it into something that is going to enrage our side. But that shouldn't be our goal.

GLENN: So, Eric, how do we do that?

ERIC: Well, it starts with something I actually want to give you guys credit for, which is, you got to put something at risk. Right?

When you started a couple years ago saying, I own my piece of how our politics and our political culture have gotten toxic. And I've decided I want to be part of the solution. I want to start reaching out and having conversations across certain divides, right? You put a bunch of stuff at risk.

You feel it acutely, right? You feel it every day. You put -- I don't have to name it. Right? It's not just about the business side of things and the listeners and the sponsors or whatever. I'm talking about reputational power and so forth, right? You put stuff at risk.

And I often ask myself and I ask my friends who are left of center, what are we willing to put at risk in order to change this politics? In order to go a little deeper, beyond the surface and beyond just this throwing of flames at each other? Right.

So number one, it's being willing -- and I want to name the fact that you all have started something and set in motion a different cycle of responsibility, taking rather than responsibility shirking with, right?

GLENN: Thank you.

ERIC: There is only one way to break the cycle of dehumanization and responsibility shirking, and that is to break it.

GLENN: Yeah.

ERIC: That is to say, you know what, I didn't start it. I'm not the one to blame. But darn it, I'm actually just going to say, I'm stopping right now, and I'm trying to change direction here. Go a little deeper. And rehumanize. And, yeah, I may pay some price for that. But this is a question of purpose.

STU: One of -- a famous poet said, we didn't start the fire.

GLENN: It was Billy Joel. Stop it.

ERIC: A poet. Yes, indeed.

(laughter)

GLENN: So what do your friends say to you, when you say, what are we willing to lose? What chip are we willing to put up?

ERIC: Let me tell you about something we've been doing at Citizen University. For the last year plus now, a year and a quarter, we've been doing these regular gatherings that we call civic Saturday. And these are basically a civic analogue to church. It's not church. It's not synagogue or mosque. But it's about American civic religion. Right? The stuff that you and I, civic nerds, are steeped in. Right? Understanding the language and the texts and what you might think of as civic scripture, whether that's from the declaration of the preamble or King speeches or Susan B. Anthony or whatever it might be, and understanding that we have all inherited this body of values and text and idea. And we do these gatherings with the Ark of the Faith gathering.

We sing together. You turn to the stranger next to you. You talk about a common question. There are readings of these texts.

There's a sermon that I've been giving. And then afterwards, there's more song. And then there's an hour afterwards where people kind of form up in circles and talk about, what are we going to do together? Right?

And I go to length to tell you about this, because number one, it's been amazing how people have responded to this. There is this need, across the left and the right, whether you are traditionally religious or not, there is this need in our political life for a space where we can come together and rehumanize, right?

Number one. Number two, when in that space, I've said to folks in these sermons what I've said here, which is, we've got to be willing to take risks. We've got to be willing to ask ourselves, what are we willing to put on the line?

And people are -- people sit there for a minute because they haven't been asked/challenged to do that in a long time, right? All of our political leadership is about, let me indulge you. Let me indulge your worst instincts. Let me indulge you. Not what can you do? And maybe even give up a little bit, in order to start solving the problem, right? And that leads to different kinds of conversations.

And, frankly, not all of them are about Trump or national politics. A lot of these conversations then come to life in our city, which is changing dramatically right now.

GLENN: That's what it should come down to in the first place.

ERIC: Yeah.

GLENN: Eric, we're going to continue our conversation at 5 o'clock tonight on the Glenn Beck Program. He has written a book, You're More Powerful than You Think. His name is Eric Liu. And we'll have more tonight at 5 o'clock. Make sure you join us on TheBlaze.com/TV.

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