Political polarization has become an unfortunate fact of life.
This has been accelerated by social media selectively banning certain voices while allowing others to continue unfettered.
The result has been that all forms of two-way conversation are almost completely non-existent online. The current trend of hyper-polarization is clearly unsustainable, but nobody seems to know how to get from where we are now to a more civil future.
Doug & Bill have a recommendation that is surprisingly simple.
Welcome to the terminal value Podcast where each episode provides in depth insight about the long term value of companies and ideas in our current world. Your host for this podcast is Doug Utberg, the founder and principal consultant for Business of Life, LLC.
Doug: Welcome to the terminal value podcast. I have Representative Bill Post with me today and so Bill is actually the representative in the Oregon Legislature who represents the town where I live in Newburgh. What I feel is a very topical conversation is you know, as we're recording this. Recently there have been decisions by either Facebook or YouTube or twitter or a number of social media sites to either you basically to either de-list a number of people or to you know not to cancel accounts. And some people are concerned that this is a huge. This is some sort of huge imposition of free speech. So Bill has a very unique perspective because he spent four decades in radio and so he his perspective is actually pretty similar to mine in that people are really overestimating the broad importance of social media and that real interaction still has to happen between people and so because just an excellent conversation we had right before we started recording was about how you know the the people who are dominating the radio. As far as talk radio like actually listening to it on the airwaves are still Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and they learned how to hone their craft in the 70s and 80s when there were a lot of the pieces of the art that were taught that are really are lost now and that really just fascinated me. And Bill I'd love to love to hear your thoughts or get your input.
Rep Bill: Sure, yeah I mean I started my first radio job in 1978. My first and I was still in high school. My first full-time real gig was 81 and it was in top 40 radio and you got to remember we were still using real real tape. We were using obviously 33 and 45 rpm records and we used what were called carts which if you've never seen one most people haven't they look like if you can remember eight tracks. They look like an eight-track but they were they actually were two-track. Start and stop, that's the tracks and they were 30 seconds 60 seconds or whatever time you had on the tape. And those so there were there was a skill that you had to learn in that. If those things didn't work what did you do? It was live radio; you didn't have a computer to back that thing up or a satellite to pull in another signal or anything like that. So, so those of us who grew up in that era of radio. We were taught how to think very quick on our feet because I'll give you a really amazing example. We used to get our news at the top of the hour there's people asking me, Why is news always at the top of the hour on radio stations? and that's because for years and years and years CBS mutual mutual broadcasting which doesn't exist anymore. CBS mutual and I forget the third one I think it was ABC used to send their news down the phone line okay so imagine this you're sitting in your little dj booth and there's a phone line outside on the telephone pole and it came down the phone line and if you didn't hit this button on the board at exactly what is it eleven o'clock right now at exactly eleven o'clock the news went right on by. And it didn't come down to your station and all of a sudden you had five minutes of dead air and you better darn well think of something to say for five minutes and the owner of the station's probably on his way in. So, that's those those are intangible things that I can't really describe but their skills that I was taught and and people like what you mentioned Russ and Glenn especially we learned those skills and and it's not taught anymore because now you you can rewind you can there's all kinds of things you can do.
Doug: Well and I think that that's just it is that you know if you're in a live broadcast environment you have to be so good. That I mean, you just have to be practiced and practice and practice. You know of course where we're at this is a podcast so, if I mess something up I can just, you know go back edit it out and try to you know make myself sound at least somewhat intelligent. You don't have that option on when you're life. You have to get it right. You have one shot. I think that's a, that's a very very prescient insight.
Rep Bill: And I did you know the last 10 years of my radio career before I got elected I was in radio my whole life.
Doug: By the way congratulations on being reelected.
Rep Bill: Thank you. I'm not sure that, that's good thing but I spent 10 years as a, as a talk show host. So can you imagine three hours a day. Every day, Monday through Friday three hours a day you've got to come up with content and the content changes right in the middle of the show sometimes. And the best laid plans you have bullet points for what you think you want to accomplish that day and maybe a phone call or your guest or something happens and off it goes. Better be prepared. So three hour talking every day so somebody called me the other day and said we really enjoyed your speech on the house floor the other day. How do you do that? I don't know. I've done it my whole life, I don't know what else to do.
Doug: That's well and I think because there was a point you made in our pre our kind of pre-recording conversation that kind of stuck with me which is that you know right now you know pretty much just about anybody can pick up a microphone, pick up a you know, plug it into a computer and they think they're a broadcaster. Many would argue, that's what I'm doing right now. But there's really an art to it like for example if you have a commercial break like you said you have to tease a question before the break to get people to continue listening to the commercials because, because of course if you're doing terrestrial broadcasting selling that advertising is how you fund your show. What are your thoughts on how you know just the proliferation of low-cost technology is you know do you feel like it's really degrading the quality of broadcasting as you know the majority of broadcasters are always going to be terrible. But do you think that the the best of the best do you think that there's just not the environment needed for people who are as good as somebody like Limbaugh or Beck to to re-emerge. You know, is there, is there just not that not those trials that you need to go through of being on live radio where there is no room for error. What are your thoughts there?
Rep Bill: Well I think from us from an information standpoint. The proliferation for lack of better term of of podcasts is a good thing. I mean we're hearing more voices. There was a time not long ago, really not long ago at all I would say 10 years ago when pretty much you know the big four or five if you're talking conservative talk. Now at the time ten years ago there was air America so the progressive sort of talk show and and there were, there were stars of that particular genre as well. Talk radio itself ten years ago was was dominated by five or eight people and there certainly was no podcast and so you could say you could argue that the the quality may have been better but the amount of different opinions weren't there.
Rep Bill: It was dominated by five eight ten different people.
Doug: Yeah. That's, that's very very true well and what do you think as far as kind of where things are headed right? Generally speaking at least I think you and I are aligned that social media is just not worth the time to engage with it because just because there's so much noise out there. And generally speaking I'm really aligned with you that I think that having more voices out there even if a lot of them are speaking gibberish is a really good thing because it surfaces more thoughts, opinions etc. But of course then the danger is that you end up getting you know flash mobs and you know other things like that. What, what do you think as far as kind of where things are headed? And what, what people should be thinking about?
Rep Bill: You know we were talking before we started the recording that I've recently deactivated my Facebook account and I was very active on Facebook. In fact, the caucus that I'm in the house republican caucus. I spent the last six years beating them over the head with guys. You have this free tool that you can reach thousands and thousands of, thousands of people you're spending money through your consultant trying to reach you know potential voters when you can do it for free on this platform. And so I'm a big fan but, I found that it was starting to take away. It was sucking my life out of me. It was taking away precious time that I don't have and I just decided to kind of make a clean break from it. And also from my standpoint from where I am. I'm obviously on the probably the hard right as far as politics but my problem is I can post something as innocuous. I'll give you an example part of what had me shut down. Last Friday night, I went out and had dinner outside because that's all, that's allowed in Oregon obviously. I had dinner outside freezing cold 42 degrees. I'm huddled like this. I got hoods and jackets and sweaters on and I’m huddled cold trying to eat my prime rib Friday prime rib and my wife took a picture of it and we posted it. Here I am supporting local business eating outside, freezing eating my prime rib. I had people on the right just beating me to death with, why did you take your mask off? And why didn't you let them you know demand that they open their inside dining? and blah blah and then I had people on the left saying why aren't you wearing your mask when you're eating? and why don't you do it? It's like everybody's nuts. Everybody's freaking nuts on both the right and the left and somebody like me who's considered a hard right conservative is now a moderate. How far right and left have we gone in this country. We've gone berserk. And so back to social media. I'm tired of it. I'm tired of my own neighbor. Recently said that I was a coward because I wasn't willing to take my mask off and I mean like what I don't, I don't wear a mask everywhere I go. I wear it when I go into a store because I want to protect that store from getting sued and levied in fines. But I just we've gone mad.
Doug: Well and I actually you know I think that's probably as succinct an explanation. As I've ever heard because, because at least yeah the way that I think about it is that so I'll just be honest I think that the mask everywhere thing is an overreaction. I don't want to argue with anybody about it so if you want to send me hate mail go ahead. I'm not going to answer it but with that said if I know that there are a lot of people where that means a lot to them. And so you like for example one of the old things that was taught in the art of conversation is you make the other person feel comfortable. You know and so a part of what you do as you know just being a member of a civil society is if there's a small concession you can make that will make someone else comfortable just do it. Stop whining about it. You know, okay I'll wear a mask when I go in the store. Do I think that I'm saving people's lives? Not really but, I'm willing to wear a mask it's no real sacrifice on my part at all and if it makes people comfortable then I don't know why that's such a big deal.
Rep Bill: You know what I both and again that's why I say both the right and the left have gone bananas. The people on the right are talking about it as if it's some kind of liberty and tyranny thing that I have to wear a mask at Costco. Really let's talk about liberty and tyranny. Let's talk about the Jews being hauled off to the gas chambers.
Dough: Right, exactly.
Rep Bill: Really I mean come on and and and you know I was accused by some of the right you probably wouldn't have been in the Boston harbor throwing tea into the harbor because it was violent. This isn't 1773 okay. It's 2021 as far as I can tell.
Doug: As I could tell yes.
Rep Bill: And then but then the people on the left who are just neurotic about the mask. Like if we don't wear them. So I don't there's got to be a middle ground somewhere.
Doug: I know yeah it's and I think that's, that's what that's the thing that I keep thinking about is it's like okay. Is moderation going to return at some point? You know with the right going further right the left going further left and there's really the middle's kind of been vacated and I don't know just because at least my observation is that for the longest time the general American electorate was center right you know. Every time republicans win they thought everybody moved right, they didn't. They're pretty much in the center or they're generally center left socially and center right fiscally and every time the democrats won they thought the electorate moved left. It didn't the electorate's in the center but it's just so weird that it's like I don't know it's like the center doesn't exist anymore and I'm sure that's an inaccurate perception but it's like you said everybody's just gone bananas.
Rep Bill: I don't know I. It scares me again. There is if you want to just go on voting record alone okay just just voting record. I get a 98 to 100 percent voting record from the conservative cp. It's the people that put on cpac every year. EU I think it is conservative person's union whatever. It's a big organization. They always rate me at 98 to 100. My lowest I ever received was a 98. It's always between 98 and 100. If you go on my voting record there is nobody in the Oregon legislature more conservative than I am and as a former conservative talk radio show host there's nobody when I turn right my face hits the wall. But, but I'm now a moderate to those people on the right who think I'm a rhino. For those who are listening and have no idea what I'm talking about republican in name only there's no h in it. That's an armored animal that lives in Africa but a rhino is a republican in name only or a dino a democrat in name only means you're just not pure enough you're not doing the real thing. And you know I'd like to know who's the guy that lives on the mountain somewhere that makes up all the jokes in the world. He's the same guy that makes up who's a rhino who's not a rhino.
Doug: Right, exactly. Oh goodness, goodness. I mean yeah it's just, it's just craziness. I mean and if you don't have an answer to this it's perfectly fine but do you have any thoughts as far as how we like the collective we could get back to a more civil place? Because I don't know. I would love to see it happen but I cannot figure it out.
Rep Bill: I'll give you a great example. In the Oregon Legislature so you know we're here in Oregon. In the Oregon legislature, there are some middle ground people in both the republican caucuses and in the democrat caucuses. The problem is the far left dominated by Portland area legislators have an iron fist especially in the house democrat caucus not as much in the senate republic democrat caucus but in the house democrat caucus. it is an iron fisted rule by speaker Kotec and by those who toe the line for her. There's a group we call the mod squad because they're moderate and they're you know so anyway there's just not enough of them. They're frustrated too you could see it in some votes that were made last week on our swearing in day. On the house rules there were a couple of votes and by the democrats they just they're not free to break away from the collective hive.
Rep Bill: And that's really sad and what we're getting is payback. So republicans were jerks back in the early 2000s when they were in the majority and they did some pretty nasty things to democrats tamping them down pretty hard and what's happening is we're getting payback. And for me it's all wrong. I'm the one in the republican caucus that stands up every day and says to them remember how you feel right now. If we ever get in charge again.
Rep Bill: We pull the same stuff again. I'll be the first to scream and yell. I don't think we're ever going to get in control again but okay.
Doug: Yeah. I was, I was going to say yeah because yeah I think the was it the when was VI Katia governor that was a long time ago.
Rep Bill: It was when he left office.
Doug: Yeah, I guess because yeah the governor's office hasn't had a you know had a GOP member in Oregon for decades. I think Dennis Richardson won secretary of state; that was the only GOP win for a long time. Yeah and so yeah, the bug Oregon it's very similar to California and Washington is ostensibly a one-party state which is largely based on demographics. But I think the problem is then you end up getting more polarization because then you know, you end up getting a very well you know. Since like in the Oregon legislature democrats win every year no matter what pretty much. And so then that means that whoever controls your biggest population block in the caucus they can basically ramrod whatever they want through. The only backstop we have in Oregon is that we have ballot measures. So if something too nutty gets through, then you can collect signatures to put a ballot measure out to hopefully knock it down. But yeah I'm just trying to think I don't know if there's a way back from that. You know I don't know if that's a bell you can un ring you know. Tell me if there's anything I really hope that I'm wrong. Tell me if there's any wisdom you have here as far as you know not necessarily to you know. How can republicans get control I think that's short-sighted it's just to say you know. How do you moderate the tone of what's going on so that if you know it it isn't dominated so much by people who are just nuts?
Rep Bill: I don't know. It's, it's going to be tough. The last time that we were close was in 2010 when it was 30 30 in the house or right around there 20 to 10 20 12 on there it was pretty close in the senate. I believe it was 16 14 and if you count senator Betsy Johnson it was a tie 15 15 because she's a very moderate democrat.
Rep Bill: That you know that was both the greatest session in Oregon's history and maybe one of the worst depending on who you're talking to. For me, it was one of the greatest. I covered it every day on my show. I thought it was the greatest because if you want to have some fun you go to Olis the Oregon legislative information system which where all the bills and committees and hearings and everything are. And you go back and you look at that 2011 session which was the 30 30 in the house and you'll see that rather than like what we had last week 3,000 bills introduced or about 800 bills introduced because what happened was you had a co-speaker from each party and they said we're not letting all the left wing junk in and we're not letting all the right wing junk in. And guess what it was all right here and that bill's down from three to four thousand down to 800. That's what good governments is all about.
Doug: Now that's, that's that's a lot to think about that's that's that there's some gems in there. I'm not sure that I'm not entirely sure that I know what they are but I'm gonna go back and re-listen to it because there's some gems in there. Well I think we're coming up on time. So give me a you know give everybody a couple of thoughts to finish off with.
Rep Bill: Yeah Oregon, Oregon needs balance that's why I use that 2011 30 30 in the house thing.
Doug: if I could interrupt you for a second. I would just say that the nation in general needs balance because like for example I you know I we live on the proverbial left coast right you know which is where pretty much anybody who is you know who's anywhere remotely close to the center is considered a right-wing extremist. You know but there's other places where it's completely the opposite. Where it's anybody who's you know or anybody who's even moderately left of conce you know is anybody who's in the center is considered a left-wing extremist. And I think just some moderation in general would be really helpful.
Rep Bill: Well as you can see behind me. That's opposite of your guys up there in the corner.
Rep Bill: 1988 and I bring that up for a reason. What we need is more baseball. What we need is a lot less politics.
Rep Bill: And a lot more baseball because baseball just brings everybody together. You can be black, you can be white, you can be brown, you can be green, you can be you can be straight, you can be gay, you can be Christian you can be non-Christian you can be whatever and you can still be a dodger fan or an Oakland ace fan. And that's you know what that sounds really simplistic but it is we just need something like that.
Rep Bill: To bring us back together.
Doug: Well and actually and I in fact. I think you're exactly right because a lot of people you know because you know some of my friends like Doug you know what why do you watch sports you know sports is just the opiate for the masses and I'm like I don't know. You're, you're really not getting it. What sports is it's an apolitical conversation topic where it really allows you to converse with pretty much anybody from any background. You know because like for example you know if I'm talking to someone my dad's age I can start any conversation well. Who do you think's better, Ted Williams or Joe DiMaggio. There's two hours of conversation right there. And the conversation will never be resolved but it's not supposed to be. If you know the idea it's meant to be a bridge so that people who might have differing political views can still have a civil conversation and I think that is an excellent key off point. So yes everybody listening out there it's time to get sports back and you know make a little time to go back to being a fan. Since you know as a Portland resident, I'm really always rooting for the blazers especially when they do good. But even when they do bad and yeah let's just really try to be a little nicer to each other out there.
Rep Bill: Yeah I well. Listen, I over there. You can't see but over there I have a scrapbook from the 1977 blazer championship. I every day would get up and I lived here in salem and I would cut out the article out of the statesman journal on whatever the blazer box score was for that day. I kept the entire season, all 82 games and every playoff game all the way through the championship. I have a scrap out of the newspaper of everything and then some of the tickets of the games I went to and I was at game six in 77.
Doug: That’s awesome.
Rep Bill: And so yeah and look. I remember when the blazers in in 1971 when my dad had tickets and we would sit in the coliseum and there were 1500 people there and you could yell across the call see him. Hey Bob! How are you doing over there? I'm fine, I'm fine. It was great you know. And they were losing they were terrible you could boo the players it was it was really those were that's how far back I go at the blazers like. But actually, other than Damian Lillard I can't tell you who plays for the players today. I haven't watched the game in 10 years.
Doug: But well and so but I think but that's actually kind of getting back to one of my other observations because I was explaining to my daughter a number of years ago about being a sports fan. And I said well the way it works as a sports fan is when you're a kid you choose a team that's ideally close to where you live and then you just start following them. Doesn't matter if they're good or bad and if you ever change your mind that means you're a bandwagon fan. And you know so like for example since I grew up in the Portland area you know it was either Seattle or one of the bay area teams. And I collected Jose Canseco baseball cards which incidentally are not out all now worthless completely worthless. Then I follow Billy Bean and Moneyball. My dad liked Joe Montana so I watched the 49ers with him. Now I follow the 49ers and of course I live in Portland so I'm a blazers fan. That's how it happened for me. That's my story but everybody has a story about how they ended up following who they followed.
Rep Bill: Yep. Well that's why tomorrow is a really exciting day for me because my AFL AFC but I grew up with the AFL American football league. My AFL team is the Buffalo Bills and my NFL team is the Los Angeles Rams. So my dream has always been since 1967. I don't know somewhere in there my dream has always been the Bills and the Rams in the Super Bowl because I would, I would wear two hats and I would wear two jerseys. I wouldn't know. But anyway, yeah tomorrow's gonna be a good day.
Doug: Excellent. Alright well, hey I appreciate your time Bill and hope you have a wonderful rest your today.
Rep Bill: Thank you.
Doug: Okay so following up on that conversation with Representative Post. The thing that really came stuck up to my mind is just how social media has really not helped people come together. It always really polarizes people and turns kind of everybody into extremists which I don't think is very constructive because of that I have long been contemplating deactivating my Facebook account and I think it may be time just because the discourse is not constructive. And I think that life is too short for everybody to spend so much time concerned about things that don't really help advance their you know that just don't really help advance their life you know help them have better relationships. So just I hope that everybody really kind of thinks about what they're doing and saying and seeing on social media and just value your time and don't let too much of it get sucked up by people's drama.
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