18-15 Segment 1: The Rise of Confrontational Politics

 

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Controversial politicians are nothing new in American politics, but the recent election of Donald Trump proved just how influential high-conflict politicians can be on the public. However, many people wonder what makes these high-conflict individuals so appealing, and how they manage to argue their way into powerful positions. We talk to two experts about how high-conflict politicians become so successful.

Bill Eddy, president of the High Conflict Institute and author of Trump Bubbles: The Dramatic Rise and Fall of High-Conflict Politicians, explains that a high-conflict person (HCP) is an individual that exhibits a repetitive narrow pattern of behavior, an all-or-nothing attitude, and intense emotions that easily distract them from being focused on problem solving. Many of their patterns of behavior become predictable, but Eddy states high-conflict individuals must first do something damaging before people realize. Yet, these high-conflict people still tend to attract an audience. He explains that high-conflict people are appealing in times of turmoil because they are able to make situations look simple. Furthermore, Eddy explains two other influencing factors in their success: the system of communication between a high-conflict person and the public, and that individuals ability to manipulate this system. Through understanding these different factors, high-conflict people are capable of gaining a following that allows them to become successful.

Another way that high-conflict people are able to appeal to a large audience and increase their opportunity for success is through emotion. Lauren A. Wright, PhD, political scientist and author of On Behalf of the President: Presidential Spouses and White House Communications Strategy Today, explains that studies have shown that being able to observe a person’s facial expressions, rather than just hearing the person speak, can influence people to be more inclined toward that person. Because of this, television and other visual media play a very important role in the public’s perception of a person.

How does this provide an advantage to politicians? This unconscious absorption of expression allows high-conflict politicians to easily spread their anger to their followers, while also establishing a loving relationship with them even though they have never met. However, when handling situations with a high-conflict person, Eddy explains that it is important to use E.A.R. statements. These statements rely on empathy, attention, and respect which can calm someone with a high-conflict personality because it shows them that you are aware that they are working hard and that you appreciate the work that they have done.

Guests:

  • Bill Eddy, president of the High Conflict Institute and author of Trump Bubbles: The Dramatic Rise and Fall of High-Conflict Politicians
  • Laura A. Wright, PhD; political scientist and author of On Behalf of the President: Presidential Spouses and White House Communications Strategy Today

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18-15 Segment 2: The Overblown Importance of What College You Attend

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Today, more than ever, there is an immense amount of pressure put on high school students to attend either an Ivy League or another elite college. When students are not accepted to these kinds of colleges, it is devastating and they often feel that their success in life will be impacted tremendously.

Frank Bruni, columnist for The New York Times and author of Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, explains that this idea is just a myth that is perpetuated by the media. He states that if a politician or CEO attended an Ivy League or another elite college, the media will articulate this fact continuously throughout the profile. However, if they attended a smaller college or a state school, this detail is often excluded entirely. By only talking about a limited number of schools in the media, it reinforces the idea that only those who attend those schools will be successful in their future. Another idea that maintains the pretentious importance about the college that a student attends is the belief that people who have important jobs will only hire people who attended the same college as them. Bruni explains that this does happen, but that this should not deter a student from looking into other schools, as well.

However, Bruni does not think that students should completely avoid applying to Ivy League schools or elite schools. He explains that students should not solely rely on them, nor should they be upset if they do not get accepted because schools choose incoming freshman who meet their current needs, whether that is to fulfill a sports team, maintain alumni relations, or increase access to minorities. Furthermore, Joshua Steckel, a counselor at a New York high school and co-author of Hold Fast to Dreams, explains that there are even pitfalls to attending elite colleges if they are not a good fit for the student. These include day-to-day challenges, meeting financial obligations, and, for students of color or low-income students, being excluded by their peers. In order to ensure that a student attends a college that is suitable for their needs, it is important they learn about other options besides Ivy Leagues and elite colleges.

But, in order to encourage students to apply to smaller schools or schools that are not well-known, they need access to the resources to help them find these schools. Steckel explains that access to high school counselors is extremely limited–some schools have 1,000 students assigned to one counselor. Furthermore, he states that a lot of colleges have committed to accepting more low-income students and students of color, but these schools tend to not be well-known. So, many students would benefit from having a counselor to help guide them in finding these schools and through the college application process. But, Bruni explains that no matter what college a student attends, the results of their experience will be based on if they make the most of what the school has to offer. More privileged communities focus too much on getting students into top schools, rather than learning how to make the most of it. Students have the ability to thrive at any school and become successful after graduation, whether they attend an Ivy League or a state school, but what matters most is that they are taught how to.

Guests:

  • Frank Bruni, columnist for The New York Times and author of Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania
  • Joshua Steckel, counselor at a New York high school and co-author of Hold Fast to Dreams

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Culture Crash 18-15: Roger Ebert’s Legendary Criticism

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture.  What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

Roger Ebert died 5 years ago this month. Ebert was probably the most famous and influential movie critic of all time, thanks to his sharp wit, passionate perspective, and yeah, his TV show.

If Ebert loved a film or a filmmaker, he’d champion it for years. In 1994, Ebert watched a documentary called Hoop Dreams, which followed two youth basketball players in Chicago as they navigated turbulent home lives and violent neighborhoods while hoping to one day play in the NBA. The movie was the product of documentarian Steve James. Immediately, Ebert loved the film. His review of it begins, “A film like Hoop Dreams is what movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and makes us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself.” The final two words of that quote, “life itself,” later became the title of a memoir by Ebert…and then, fittingly, the name of the documentary about his life released after his death that was made by, who else? Steve James.

Famously, though, Ebert was prickly. And if he didn’t like your movie, he’d also let you know. He even wrote a book called I Hated Hated Hated This Movie and another called Your Movie Sucks. His 2005 review of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo cut to the chase right in the first paragraph, saying “Deuce Bigalow is aggressively bad, as if it wants to cause suffering to the audience. The best thing about it is that it runs for only 75 minutes.”

It was these passionate praises and brutally honest take-downs that endeared Ebert to the masses. He said what he believed, and he would fight for it for as long as you had the time to listen to him or read his work.

Our current age of criticism has been boiled down to numbers and percentages. We don’t relate so much to a single critic or a single perspective, but to the aggregate. We don’t really care what any one review has to say, but rather, what percentage of critics liked a movie on Rotten Tomatoes, or what the average rating is on MetaCritic.

Ebert, though, inspired a connection. People would read his reviews and consider his perspective. He reviews would shed light on the film, the filmmaker, and even the fim’s connection to Ebert’s own life. Readers trusted Roger, in some cases, they trusted him more than they cared about the general consensus.

Whenever I finish a movie made before his death in 2013, I like to find his review of it and see what he thought of it. I don’t always agree, but there’s always some merit to his words.

You can read Roger Ebert’s reviews on Roger Ebert dot com. Steve James’s documentary about Ebert, Life Itself and Ebert’s own memoir Life Itself are both available now.

I’m Evan Rook.