Annafi Wahed, CFA. First generation Bangladeshi-American. Former Hillary campaign staffer. Corporate vagabond. Founder of The Flip Side, your daily digest of the best op-eds and analyses from liberal and conservative media. Burst your media bubble one 5-min read at a time: http://theflipside.io
1. Please tell us why you decided to start The Flip Side.
In July 2016, I left my corporate job in NYC to campaign for Democratic party candidates in New Hampshire. Walking door to door, I saw firsthand how even next-door neighbors could be completely isolated from one another by the news they consume.
In my time working for the New Hampshire Democratic Campaign, I realized 3 things:
- Media bubbles are real and a real threat to democracy
- I was a poor ambassador for the Democratic Party. We were told to “meet people where they are,” but how could I do that when, not only did I have few life experiences in common with the average NH voter, but we were also consuming completely different media?
- The average person has neither the time nor the desire to read 20 op-eds a day – which seemed the only way to glean nuanced perspectives from both sides
In the months following the election, as talk of “fake news” and media bias became commonplace, I set out to burst my own media bubble and the bubbles of those around me. The first edition of The Flip Side went out to 16 people, who sent it to their friends, who sent it to their friends, and on and on it went.
In today’s partisan world, talking to your neighbor in the morning, your coworker at lunch, or your uncle at family dinner can feel like a Herculean task. There are times when the gap between “us” and “them” seems too large to overcome. In those moments, the team and I remember the words of Margaret Mead, and press on: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
2. You’re a former Hillary Clinton campaign staffer. You recently wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about your attendance at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Why did you decide to attend the event? What did you learn?
I went to CPAC to put The Flip Side’s mission of bursting bubbles into action. I wanted to surround myself with people who think differently than me—get to know them, learn from them, and engage in meaningful dialogue.
Liberals often talk about the importance of tolerance and diversity; I would say that tolerance and diversity needs to include people with thoughts, ideas and political views that are different from our own. That’s always been my mindset, and that’s the mindset I found at CPAC. I was genuinely blown away by how friendly and welcoming everyone was, and how willing they were to listen to my viewpoints. Here I was, in a sea of some of the most fervent conservatives in the country, and they were genuinely interested in what I, a former Hillary staffer, thought about this panel or that speech. There were many disagreements, but common ground as well. Mostly importantly though, we were all listening to each other with mutual respect.
3. You’ve written about the importance of increasing engagement with people of different political persuasions. What’s the value of increased engagement? And how do we facilitate engagement in a world filled with increasingly isolated echo chambers?
According to the Pew Research Center, over 40 percent of both Democrats and Republicans think the other party is a threat to the nation’s well being. A functioning democracy requires that opposing parties work together and compromise—a Herculean task indeed if one believes everything Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity say.
Since founding The Flip Side a year ago, the way I think about politics and political issues has shifted significantly. Not only am I able to see both sides of an issue much more clearly, I have also begun to question some long-held beliefs. Consuming news from “the flip side” and working alongside my conservative teammates every day has been a transformative experience.
In a world of a billion news feeds, it’s up to us to seek out opposing viewpoints – both online and offline. Beyond expanding our minds, it is an imperative for us as citizens to be fully informed before walking into the voting booth. Let’s make America sane again.