Best Of The Web
“Imagine a place on the internet where a post that begins with “I’m not a feminist” is met with comments quoting Virginia Woolf and asking serious, clarifying questions. A place where a conversation about gun-control legislation unfurls into a thread of analogies, statistics, and self-reflection; where a discussion on the benefits and drawbacks of immigration is carried out in a series of building logical arguments. A place where users with radically different political opinions interact productively and politely, where a willingness to participate thoughtfully is the rule rather than the exception, and where people readily admit when their views on a subject have been altered.
This vision seems like the stuff of technology fantasy; spend five minutes on the platforms that host most of the web’s political arguments, and you’re likely to find name-calling, bigotry, sarcasm, and stubborn assumption. It’s a rare thing to stumble on an online dispute about politics that hasn’t devolved into a furious and chaotic shouting match, where no one can make out what is being said for the noise.
But civil discourse does exist, at least in a small pocket of the internet. Reddit’s Change My View forum, founded in 2013 by Kal Turnbull, then a teenage musician in Scotland, is an online space that promotes respectful conversation between people who disagree with each other. Its mission statement says that the subreddit is “built around the idea that in order to resolve our differences, we must first understand them.” Turnbull says that he created Change My View because of what he saw as a lack of places to turn to if you wanted to discuss an issue with people who took the opposite perspective. There was social media, but the goal on those platforms was largely not to listen and engage in search of insight. He wanted the forum to be conversational—a way of learning about an issue that wasn’t limited to self-directed research. Because of the unique oasis that Change My View represents from the troll-stalked depths of the rest of the internet, a number of academic studies have used its data to analyze how persuasion and civility work online. It has also spawned a blog and a podcast.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"Not even what one might think of as the most basic tenet of any religion, a belief in the existence of God, is a prerequisite: Agnosticism is a key principle of at least one major school of Hindu philosophy."
"The presidency of any particular incumbent is relatively short... but the precedential consequences of impeaching a president without complying with the specific provisions of the Constitution “as it was written” are enduring."
"After news that a judge allegedly provided sexual favors to Bar Association president Efi Nave in exchange for her appointment, several politicians said in their responses that the Judicial Selection Committee needed to be the “Holy of Holies.”"
"Two new documentaries take on Billy McFarland and his disastrous music festival... the secret villain of this story all along: the subtle menace of social media marketing."
"Eating out, ordering in. Throw in a bagel here, a coffee there, and it all adds up. "It's definitely a challenge for people my age to save on food.""
"Popular music is shrinking. From 2013 to 2018, the average song on the Billboard Hot 100 fell from 3 minutes and 50 seconds to about 3 minutes and 30 seconds. "
"Here in the good old U.S. of A, the third annual Women's March planned for Jan. 19 is in serious trouble, thanks to irreconcilable political disagreements."
"Nature, however, with its endless cycles of death and rebirth, fascinated her. Walking in the woods, she developed a method that has become the hallmark of her poetry, taking notice simply of whatever happens to present itself."
"Modern parents haven’t stopped playing favorites; they’ve just stopped doing it openly. Though few parents today will admit they have a favorite child, studies indicate that about two-thirds of parents do."
"The first science-based diet that tackles both the poor food eaten by billions of people and averts global environmental catastrophe has been devised."
"Sphen and Magic looked like they would make great, diligent, careful egg-warming parents. They made the biggest nest, and they sat on it constantly."
"How YMHAs, followed by synagogue-centers, and finally JCCs have tried—in different ways—to balance Judaism and Jewishness, by bringing Jews together in intellectual, spiritual, and physical pursuits"