|Zanny Minton Beddoes|
Though when we spoke, I put a different spin on it.
”A day of speeches in a train station...” I ventured. “That sounds very 19th century in this social media age. What do you hope to accomplish?”
”I hope it’s 19th century married to 21st century,” she replied, noting that the event will be Livestreamed and posted to YouTube. “We were founded in 1843 and started the first Open Futures Festival marking our 175th anniversary. We wanted to have a chance to re-make the case for open society and open markets. We want to do it by engaging in a global conversation with both supporters of our world view and our critics.”
Speakers range from Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to Ryan Fournier, co-founder of Students for Trump. From Bhaskar Sunkara, author of The Socialist Manifesto, to Gabby Giffords, the former congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt in 2011 and is now a gun control advocate.
”It’s important to get different people of different ages in a room together to discuss the future of technology, capitalism, free speech and identity politics,” Minton Beddoes said. “We want to engender the discussion.”
What discussion? It seems discussion is the one thing that isn’t happening in society today. Everyone alternates between digging their own ideological trench a little deeper and lobbing shells at anyone who isn't exactly like their own precious selves.
"I think there are some people who are looking for new solutions, who are debating," Minton Beddoes said. "There is an awful lot of polarization, a lot of people in their own echo chambers shouting at the opposition. That's really who we are trying to address."
She tries to hear all sides.
"Whenever I come to this country, I force myself to watching MSNBC for 15 minutes, and Fox for 15 minutes. It's not very fun."
I almost interrupted her with, "I couldn't do that if you put a gun to my head," but kept quiet.
"It gives me a window into the polarized nature of this country. It's very striking," she said. "I left in 2014, and it's much more polarized. Two different sets of people having two different conversations with very little willingness to reach across and have an intellectual debate."
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