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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Contention and Deliberation

In our chapters on campaigns and elections, Congress, and the mass media, we discuss some of the preconditions for deliberative debate. Columbia professor Mark Lilla has some highly relevant reflections:
But what is contention for? First and foremost, for deliberation: when different ideas and proposals are promoted by different factions, those in government and the public at large are invited to compare them and check their papers, which then gives an incentive to the factions to get their papers straight. These ideas compete – so to speak. (Those who talk about a “war of ideas” have never held one in their heads). Real deliberation requires respect and civility, of course, but more importantly it requires attentiveness. That’s really what we lack today: there can be no deliberation in an endless ping-pong of radio broadcasts, blog posts, and tweets, only je m’en foutisme and demagoguery.