We at Areo are very excited to be trialing a partnership with the new conversation site Letter.
Areo prides itself on being a nonpartisan site. This doesn’t mean that our writers lack strong opinions or political positions. It means that they have a variety of them. Our editors endeavor not to take a side when deciding which pieces to publish but look for arguments that are well-written, well-evidenced, balanced, charitable and thoughtful. Consequently, we decline essays that push partisan speaking points or that attack individuals’ characters or those that argue from an ideology and can only be convincing to others who share them. We accept essays from people all over the political spectrum that make reasoned and evidenced arguments and are therefore accessible and addressable by all.
Because of this stance, we have published arguments both for and against socialism, for and against capitalism, for and against a second Brexit referendum, for and against identity politics and for and against postmodernism. We particularly like to feature thoughtful counterviews to pieces we have already published. Primarily, we want to get people with opposing viewpoints making their arguments for their own views and their criticisms of different ones in a reasoned, charitable and balanced way. This is where Letter comes in.
Letter is a new forum for conversation. It describes itself thus:
We believe that thoughtful, good faith conversation is how ideas develop, spread, and take effect in the world—our mission is to advance the quality and impact of conversation.
We ask that participants make a sincere effort to be fair, open, and honest. This means assuming good intentions of those you’re in dialogue with, rigorously seeking clarity before reaching conclusions about their positions, and being open to changing one’s mind in light of good evidence.
The aims of Letter clearly align with those of Areo. Letter too wants to get people with different views making their cases for them, but its format allows for a much more ‘real time’ exchange of views. As the name suggests, the site is set up for people to have a back and forth conversation in the form of letters. Conversations are public to read, follow, and share, and anyone can sign up and start a conversation. However, once a conversation has started it remains limited to the initial participants. In this way, discussants can have unhindered conversations with selected others which progress in a linear way. This can be hard to achieve on social media and other discussion forums. Because writers get to raise and answer each other’s points in succession, the whole conversation can be kept together and followed by people interested in it in a way that responses to essays cannot.
Areo is therefore interested in promoting Letter to writers or prospective writers or thoughtful people generally and publishing some of the most successful exchanges of differing viewpoints. These will be the ones in which people made good arguments for their own views while listening to and responding relevantly to those of someone with a different stance. They will be the conversations where people have assumed the good intentions of those with whom they disagree and conceded points where they find this warranted. Even if the discussion does not result in one person changing their mind, — and, realistically, most of them will not — the exchanges Areo wants to publish are the ones in which people had a productive disagreement or found unexpected common ground or room to compromise or simply came to a better understanding of viewpoints different than their own.
Areo and Letter believe that conversation moves us closer to truth not when we disagree less, but when we disagree better. If you do too, join Letter, start a conversation, have it well and Areo will republish those it finds to be most productive.
Hoping to hear from you,
Helen and Iona.