A few days ago I was listening to the radio and hearing some reports and interviews following the resignation of a candidate. He had been campaigning to become mayor in Paris. It had been a difficult campaign for him and on top of it, he felt being attacked on a personal level.
The more I was listening, the more ashamed I felt about the way politicians are being treated. But among the interviews I was listening to, there was also one from a competitor which made me wonder about the way they treat one another.
It is rare nowadays to listen to a debate which is based on hearing an argument, an idea and investigating the reasons leading to believe one or the other view. Such dialogues aim at a constructive exchange and are based on listening to what is being said.
For spectators, such dialogues are often boring, especially if they require expertise to be able to follow them.
Things are different when the spectators can see emotions coming up. These are situations in which debates lead to the impression that there might be a winner at the end. This happens when people share opinions and fight hard to make it clear that their opinion is the better one. These debates become more personal, things like the competence of the group and maybe even the individual as well as moral obligations come up and are used to put oneself on a pedestal or push others from it. The debate shifted from an exchange of arguments based on facts and experience to one which is about the person and his opinions and values. Winning the arguments has become emotional as the weapons used can endanger the person’s moral and professional status. Winning becomes essential for the participants. For the spectators, the situation is exciting as they might experience how one of the participants wins. For the candidates, there is much more at stake, either they’ll get the votes or they’ll leave the scene with some blows to their integrity.
That’s were political debate had arrived until now.
The level I was listening to on the radio felt worse. The attacks were entirely personal. Attacks put forward were about the person’s intelligence, his competence, and his personal integrity. The most astonishing thing in that interview was how the person interviewed wasn’t able to distinguish between personal attacks and discussing a subject. She had started to confuse the sources as the one doing things right or not. For her, only social media were putting invalid attacks forward, while people like her were allowed to judge others
We are experiencing gladiators fighting in an arena with us invited to be spectators showing the thumb up or down.
What’s challenging is, that the “gladiators” (or politicians) don’t make themselves aware of how they talk about others.
The most essential element of communication is how something is being shared.
What is being shared will be accepted depending on how it is shared.