Citations Needed

Citations Needed is a podcast about the intersection of media, PR, and power, hosted by Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson.

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Episode 112: How "Polarization" Discourse Flattens Power Dynamics and Says Nothing


"Polarization Is Dividing American Society, Not Just Politics,” laments The New York Times. “The Constitution Is Threatened by Tribalism,” frets The Atlantic. “American politics has reached peak polarization,” declares Vox. After the past few election cycles, and as uprisings occur throughout the country, we’ve seen endless concern about our alleged zenith of “polarization” and “tribalism.”

The Right and the Left, we are told, have grown too radical and today lack the ability to “get things done” and “come together” with a “shared reality.” It’s a superficially appealing narrative — one nostalgic for a non-specified past time of ideal consensus building and Reasonable Centrism.

But it’s also a narrative driven by a fantasy that ignores material forces that have shifted the U.S. political establishment further to the right, as the ruling political and economic class has helped sow distrust and paranoia with decades of deadly wars, runaway and rampant inequality, lethal racism and the failed promises of endless economic growth.

On this episode, we explore the origins of “polarization” and “partisan tribalism” discourse, profile its biggest pushers, detail who it serves––and who it gets off the hook––and lay out why reductionist and vague “polarization” laments are so beloved by our media and political elite. 

Our guest is journalist and writer Osita Nwanevu.


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 2020-06-24  1h14m