It's 2017 and Americans are more divided than ever. Actually, Americans have been more divided than ever. And The Undivided has a lofty aim to do something about that. Namely by making you sign a pledge for Constitution Day to have civil discourse and focus on things that we "all agree on."
As a social ad, it tells me nothing about who they are or why I should care. So I don't care. At all. But for the sake of journalism, I'll do the research anyway.
What is The Undivided? According to their website, it is a project to share the common ground that unites us all, and give America the tools to inspire more productive conversations that can move the country forward together. It's a very nicely designed website. It's also deeply flawed for multiple reasons.
Let's start with the pledge: Asking me to connect my Facebook to pledge to be nice isn't going to happen. Most people are tired of Facebook and understand that by signing in that way, it allows groups to keep track of you, most notably Facebook. And of course Facebook has a vested interest in this sign in process because they are part of the Creative Alliance which is the 501C behind The Undivided. So exactly how objective can someone like Facebook actually be in this context? Seems like a conflict of interest to me. But even disregarding that, Facebook has been accused of political bias when it comes to conservatives. And even if you discount that, how much do I personally value their efforts when they've been enabling advertising to Anti-Semitic groups? That's not to say nothing of advertising agencies and tech companies in general, which are not open to hearing different viewpoints with any degree of civility. Nor is the Guardian for that matter. Inclusive as it sounds, The Creative Alliance members don't appear to include a wide political spectrum of thinkers. And at a time when people with opposing views feel like they have to remain silent or fear backlash against others, the aims of this campaign won't do much to mend the divide.
Nor will polls.
Political thoughts aside, using polling data to try and "prove," a cause is also deeply flawed. Are we more divided than ever? That's what we said last year before the election results. But it's also what people have been saying for thirty years. The Pew Research Center found the gap started to widen and continued from 1987 all the way to 2012 when they published their report.
There's even a poll out that suggests most Americans don't trust public opinion polls, so pointing to a poll that interviewed a thousand people in a country of 330 million as proof of consensus is naive at best and calculating at worst.
There's no rational American who isn't all for civil discourse. The problem is, those who are pepper spraying people whose opinion they don't like, or throwing bricks in bank windows are the ones who need to be taught how to agree to disagree. And not only will they not sign a pledge but this website gives them no clear reason to do so. It's as useless as a parent coming in to break up a fight between siblings. Unless the parent tells us why it's wrong to fight, we'll just point out how hypocritical they are as well and then continue once they leave the room.
Co-Founders: Gareth Kay and Neil Robinson
Strategy: Michael Whitten
Design: Jeff Limon
Writing: Greg Halbreich, Jacob Baas
Illustration: Jing Wei, Alex Citrin, Rinee Shah, Ryan Peltier
Animation: Salih Abdul-Karim, Image Factory DC
Music: Future Perfect
Site development: ModOp
Co-CEOs: Miles Dinsmoor
Project Manager: Jordan Leano
Lead Developer: Alden Brown
Developer: Zachary Richards
Quality Assurance: Claudia Gonzalez
CTO: Roy Martin