Erik Larson

Mar 23, 2010

Those Polarizing Bloggers

Law professor Cass R. Sunstein argues in Infotopia that blogs tend to create group polarization, where political views become more radical (so, if you’re conservative and read conservative blogs, you become more so, and so too with liberal views and liberal blogs). Of course everyone wants to pretend that their view is just “the reasonable one”, but the truth is that having a point of view will tend to put you somewhere on the political spectrum. Case in point: if you believe abortion should be legal—if you support the Roe ruling, for instance—you’re almost ipso facto socially liberal, as few if any social conservatives are pro choice. On the other hand, what makes people so interesting is that many of us have strange amalgums of liberal and conservative views. One might, for instance, be pro choice and “pro military”, in the sense that one doesn’t support spending reductions in the military, supports the war in Afghanistan (I guess the war in Iraq was “won”, by the standard that the media doesn’t talk about it anymore, leaving it to historians), tough foreign policy on Iran, and so on.

Anyway, following Sunstein, we would do well to read a range of blogs to avoid polarization (which he argues is bad, as one might have guessed, since it tends to reduce the amount of available information in groups, which means there’s less chance of making an informed decision).