9Adar is February 18 – 24, 2018

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Time to #BreaktheEchoChamber: Read Contradictory News!

Author: Rabbi Dr. Daniel Roth

Organization: Pardes Center for Judaism and Conflict Resolution

You’ve heard about “fake news” and “real news”, but what about “contradictory news”?

Contradictory news is when the same news event is reported in radically different ways via competing ideological news outlets, allowing its readers and viewers to stay safe and feel empowered within their own echo chambers. When people primarily read, watch and trust the news that supports their ideological biases, the conflicting groups will see their realities in very different ways, leading to a deepening and broadening of ideological divides and identity conflicts.

This would be the equivalent of only studying one commentary on the Bible or Talmud and trying to engage in a constructive conversation with a study partner who only read a very different commentary – without either side actually reading the primary Biblical or Rabbinic texts. The conversation about the story or topic will be almost impossible and doubtlessly frustrating.  The only way out is for both sides to read the original text for themselves, study both contradictory commentaries and then discuss in a constructive manner.

Take the #BreakTheEchoChamber Challenge!

  • Find a news event (like a speech, or tweet) in the news.
  • Identify two contradictory news reports on this same event. To see some examples on Facebook, check out “Blue Feed, Red Feed“, a Wall Street Journal site which compares liberal and conservative Facebook feeds on specific topics.
  • Analyze what are the shared “facts” that both reports agree upon and what are at least two essential differences between them. What information was added or omitted? How was the same information understood differently? What other context is introduced to interpret the event?
  • Post your example using #BreakTheEchoChamber and @The9AdarProject: Jewish Week of Constructive Conflict.
  • Go deeper by applying the 5 steps of #MyFeetYourShoes: (a.) Be aware of your bias, (b.) Have humility that you may not know the full story; (c.) Have respect for possible other interpretations; (d) Listen/read other interpretations with deep curiosity; (e.) engage in constructive conversations with those that you are in disagreement with.

If we want to strengthen our culture of constructive conflict we need to start reading contradictory news.

Sample Challenge #1: Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes Speech

The other night I watched Stephen Colbert talk about Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes, then I proceeded in watching Tomi Lahren discuss the same event. They each “summed” up the highlights and attacked the “other side” (Colbert – Trump; Lahren – Streep). The millions of people watching only Colbert or only Lahren will undoubtedly walk away being entertained and further convinced of the righteousness of their understanding of reality. While both agreed that Meryl Streep spoke about Trump at the Golden Globes, Colbert focused on Trump’s mocking of the disabled reporter and Trump’s subsequent tweet while Lahren focused on Streep’s words about Trump’s immigration policies which she felt were taken way out of context.

The Actual Event

Commentary #1

Commentary #2

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