11.1.18

DON'T HECTOR ME AND CALL IT DIALOGUE.

It wastes your time, and annoys me.

Now comes David Blankenhorn, suggesting that the hectoring deplorable-shamers recognize what they're doing.
My job these days involves inviting red and blue Americans in our deeply polarized nation to talk with, rather than simply at or about, each other. I love the work, and believe with all my heart that it’s essential for the nation. But today the word most often publicly used by its advocates to describe it is “dialogue”—and for me that’s a problem, a hindrance that makes the work harder. The main reason this is so is not trivial.

The essence of the problem is that “dialogue” is an almost entirely “blue” linguistic marker and institution. That’s why it’s no accident that liberals are typically eager for “dialogue,” while many conservatives wince at the use of the term and are wary of the concept. The result, if I may be allowed a sports metaphor, is that an effort to bring together tennis players and weightlifters is being led by tennis coaches working on tennis courts.  Is it any wonder that the weightlifters are often less than receptive?
Let's leave aside the possibility that the tennis coach thinks of the weight-lifters as deficient in some way.  That will come up, but let's let Mr Blankenhorn develop his case.  It takes him a bit of work on the etymology of "dialogue" and "debate" before he gets to the heart of the matter.
[I]n a typical U.S. dialogue, who gets to frame the questions? Set the tone? Do the coaching on how to be sensitive to others? Determine what defines “expert facilitation” and what is politically charged facilitation presenting itself as expertise? In Orwell’s Animal Farm, we learn that, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” To extend this idea, conservatives considering whether to engage in liberal-sponsored dialogue might be displaying more than simply defensiveness or paranoia to suspect that, “All voices in a dialogue are equal, but some voices are more equal than others.”
Yes, particularly if the facilitator comes with the imprimatur of Student Affairs or the Diversity Office.  Not much by way of growth on the part of the facilitator there.

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