Book Group: Ezra Klein's Why We're Polarized

We’re kicking off Townsy Book Groups with an important new book, Ezra Klein’s “Why We’re Polarized.” Reply on this thread if you’re interested. The “Why We’re Polarized” book group will meet once a week on Sunday afternoon via Zoom. During the week, you can add comments on this thread that come to you as you’re reading. We’ll start on Sunday, Feb. 27, so that everyone who is interested will have time to get and read the book.

You can choose your level of involvement – some might just want to read the book and contribute comments on this board and some will want to do the Zoom meeting on Sunday, Feb. 27, as well. All are welcome. We don’t envision these as ongoing book groups – just book by book. @maureen

Hi Laura, I’d like to sign up. Sunday afternoons work for me. Looking forward to meeting you on Zoom! Maureen

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I’m interested, too! What time in the afternoon are you thinking? I’m in Joyful Noise choir from 4-5 (sometimes 5-6), but otherwise open.

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I’m in, too! Just started it via Audible.

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I love Audible (and I’m actually listening to the book this way so I can listen in car) but in this case I’m also getting the print book because it’s kind of dense and I want to be able to mark it up. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the book!

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Audible is a monthly subscription. It is an Amazon company, which is kind of a drag. Just google audible and look at their pricing plans.

Wow, I am loving this book. I found the first chapter “Liberals and Conservatives,” which pondered Donald Trump’s 2016 victory a bit dry and hard-going, but it quickly picked up. The next chapter, “The Dixiecrat Dilemma” was more interesting, but Chapter 3, “Your Brain on Groups” is wildly fascinating.

The point in Chapter 3 (and in the whole book is my guess) is the centrality of group identity in politics. The Tajfel section (p. 49-55) is particularly mind-blowing. In the 1970s Tajfel did a series of experiments to see what it would take to make a group of humans (in this case, a group of boys) divide into separate camps and start discriminating against one another. His chilling discovery: flimsiest (and actually made-up) differences were enough to kick off the discriminatory impulse.

Trying to establish a base level at which groups would not discriminate against one another, he tried dividing the boys into two groups based on the flimsiest of categories-- whether they had over-estimated and under-estimated the number of marbles in a jar. (In actuality, he assigned the boys randomly). Then they gave the boys some money and asked them to divide it up, and immediately, the boys began rewarding those in their own category and under-paying those in the other category.

Thinking that maybe the boys were assigning some moral weight to the question of being “under-estimators” versus “over-estimators,” he tried dividing the boys on something even crazier – whether they liked one piece of art (Klee) versus another (Kandinsky). (Again, in reality, he assigned them randomy to two groups, but told them it was based on their choice of artwork.) Same effect.

Klein said these experiments have been repeated over and over again by others who came to the same depressing conclusion: getting people to sort themselves into warring groups is insanely easy.

@maureen @Barry @krysinge @Quercus

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@maureen @Barry @krysinge @Quercus OK,LOL, are we doing this thing - the Ezra Klein book. It suddenly struck me that I forgot to finalize a time and date. I was thinking this afternoon, but that snuck up on me and now seems unlikely, though I’m game if anyone else is. Otherwise, shall we shoot for next Sunday at 2 pm? I’m still working on the book. Lemme know!

I wasn’t sure when we were starting. I haven’t had a chance to get the book yet.

I’ll get the book this week. Next Sunday at 2 pm works for me. Maureen

Great. I’ll post that. Last time I looked, Copperfield’s had one copy left. If you like Audible, I recommend that instead or in addition. It’s read by Ezra Klein and he’s so personable in his nerdy way.

@maureen @Barry @krysinge @Quercus and anyone else who’d like to join in. We’ll be meeting on Sunday, March 7, at 2 pm to discuss Ezra Klein’s ‘Why We’re Polarized.’ You don’t need to have finished the whole book to join in the discussion.

Thanks Laura. Looking forward to meeting you and others who join in. Maureen

JUST A REMINDER: @maureen @Barry @krysinge @Quercus and anyone else who’d like to join in. We’ll be meeting TOMORROW, Sunday, March 7, at 2 pm to discuss Ezra Klein’s ‘Why We’re Polarized.’ You don’t need to have finished the whole book to join in the discussion.

Thanks for the reminder! I probably can’t make it tomorrow, but I’ll follow posts on townsy. Anybody up for posting a recap? I’m up to chapter 5 so far, but going for a walk and will listen more. So far interesting and concerning…

What’s your plan for meeting? Zoom? On Townsy?

Looking forward to it.

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Will post the zoom link just before two. I’m driving home now.

Hi Laura, Did I miss getting an email with the Zoom link?

Maureen