The man who arguably proved to be the most divisive president in U.S. history is now lecturing his successor on being divisive.
In an interview with Prince Harry, who was acting as a BBC Radio guest host, Barack Obama shared his thoughts about social media as a platform for change and, without mentioning President Trump by name, talked about using the internet for good and evil.
Photo by: KGC-22/STAR MAX/IPx 2017
“All of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the internet,” Obama said.
Not that Obama is one to talk about leadership. After being elected on the promise of uniting the country, his first three years in the White House “marked historic highs in political polarization,” according to the Obama-friendly Washington Post.
“One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities,” the former president said to Prince Harry. “They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.”
The interview was recorded in September in Toronto during the Invictus Games and Obama, who said he felt “serenity” the day Trump was inaugurated, talked about what seems to be a common goal for progressives, harnessing the internet in the name of finding common ground — this from a president who shoved government-run health care down America’s throat without a single Republican vote.
(MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
“The question is,” Obama said,” how do we harness this technology that allows a multiplicity of voices, a diversity of views but does not lead to a Balkanization of our society but, rather, continues to promote ways of finding common ground?”
Perhaps recalling the failure of “hashtag diplomacy” under his administration, Obama said people need to get off the computer and engage in their communities where “it’s harder to be as obnoxious and cruel.”
“The truth is that on the internet everything is simplified and when you meet people face to face it turns out they are complicated,” he said.
“One of things we want to do, I think, is as we’re working with young people to build up platforms for social change,” Obama continued. “Make sure that they don’t think that just sending out a hashtag in and of itself is bringing about change. It can be a powerful way to raise awareness but then you have to get on the ground and actually do something.”
In a BBC interview with Prince Harry, President Barack Obama urges people in leadership positions not to use social media in a way that fosters division. @POTUS44#PresidentObama#PrinceHarrypic.twitter.com/MrVo2bbT0G
— Matt Leeds (@Mleeds2048) December 27, 2017