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VOX 5: Five Ways Jubilee Can Actually Find a ‘Middle Ground’

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Jubilee, a highly influential YouTube Channel as it pertains to media discourse, has grown increasingly in popularity since the release of its Middle Ground series six years ago. With over 8 million subscribers and 1,000 videos, Jubilee continues to spread awareness on political topics and spark discussions cross-culturally.

So, for its Middle Ground series specifically, Jubilee’s self-described goal is to explore “whether two different groups of people, opposed in their beliefs, can come together empathetically and find middle ground.” At first, the channel responsibly did so with their earlier episodes like “Atheists and Christians Debate Truth And Belief,” “Can Scientists and Religious Leaders See Eye to Eye,” “Can Feminists and Non-Feminists Agree on Gender Equality,” “Pro-Choice And Pro-Life Supporters Search For Common Ground,” etc. Initially, they received media favor being deemed the “blueprint for contentious discussions,” and celebrated for “breaking the boundaries on political and divisive conversations.

However, within recent years, they’ve taken a turn for the worse, and viewers have expressed their distaste via reaction videos, YouTube comments, and various sub-Reddits. Nowadays, with the heavily clickbait-y titles, such as “Do Good Muslim Women Wear Hijabs,” “Is Pride Still Necessary?” “Conservative vs Liberal Gays,” “Is It Time To Get Over Slavery?” “Black Liberals vs Black Conservatives,” etc., Jubilee must work toward maintaining the original goal in an empathetic yet thought-provoking way.

So, to guide them in the right direction, I’m offering five steps to truly finding a middle ground. 

Ensuring the safety and comfort of participants and viewers

Jubilee was more conscientious about participant and viewer safety by effectively mediating the debate to prevent escalation when tensions ran high. However, they are now lacking in that regard. For example, in a recent episode called “Is Pride Still Necessary? Conservative vs Liberal Gays,” one of the participants had helped to enact anti-gender-affirming care legislation in Nebraska. This resulted in participants being extremely troubled and thus combative as the enacter of said legislation spoke. This is not to say that he should’ve not been a part of the conversation, but rather that the participants should’ve been informed in advance, as this could’ve been deeply triggering for someone. Even in an unfiltered debate, that is simply irresponsible, especially with the ultimate goal in mind. In other words, Jubilee should work toward both giving early trigger warnings for viewers and giving fellow participants basic background information on the other participants. Further details about more controversial content should be placed in video descriptions or toward the end of videos. Allowing these moments to occur carelessly creates more animosity and conflicts with the whole premise of this series.

Mediating the session before it becomes a shouting match or one person speaking over the rest

The Jubilee mediator allows around one to three minutes of disorderly debate before intervening, as seen in videos such as “Black Conservatives vs White Liberals,” “Does Modeling Harm Young Women?” “Teen Girls vs Models,” “Do Good Muslim Women Wear Hijabs,” etc. What should be a civilized discussion in which participants are actively able to voice their opinions becomes an all-out shouting match or case of people cutting each other off and speaking over one another. Some have even vocalized that their experiences at Jubilee weren’t the best due to a lack of effective mediation. But if a middle ground is what’s sought, respect must be shown throughout the conversations, no matter how controversial the takes. And you may wonder, what if it’s an outrageous statement? Realistically, if someone disrupts the initial speaker before they’ve finished, they’ll likely reciprocate that energy onto the other speaker. Therefore, it is ultimately better for each cast member to hear out each opinion, unless it reaches a point where they feel unsafe and need to take a moment. Thus, mediation in these types of discourse is critical to fostering productive conversation. To do so, Jubilee needs to step in earlier when tensions rise, remind participants of debate etiquette throughout, and establish a space for cast members who need to take a moment before persisting with a conversation to prevent further escalation over specific topics.

Having well-informed and lesser-informed parties on both sides

Among an 8-15 participant cast, at least one party on both sides must be highly informed and involved concerning the issue they’re discussing. For example, Jubilee has had several videos on religion, yet, they rarely ever have any theological scholars present for these discussions. On another scale, they rarely, if ever, have medical professionals for topics like abortion. Such familiarized perspectives can only enrich the debates as they create avenues for intentional thought and consciousness toward the various belief systems. Such is not to say that lesser-informed parties aren’t necessary. Having them present is valuable, as they’re more representative of how the general population on either side probably thinks. Nonetheless, Jubilee must seek a breadth of perspectives for future debates if the goal remains for people to connect with and understand one another despite harboring opposing beliefs.

Fact Checks

Simple as it sounds, a fact check can go a long way. In the event of misinformation, clarification should be given. False, exaggerated, or not statistically supported content is sometimes used by participants to verify their opinions. Jubilee should share sources disproving such information when misinformation is unaddressed by other show participants. If not, they’re irresponsibly using their platform and further deviating participants and viewers to reaching a middle ground.

A Moment of Non-Hostile Reflection

All those previous steps naturally segue into this final step. The episodes can end awkwardly when Jubilee disregards one or more of the former steps amidst the video. Sometimes, people keep apologizing. Others brush off occurrences with disdain and record a video trashing their experience afterward. On rare occasions, some are hostile to the point where they don’t speak or walk off.

Of course, it’s not realistic to reach a middle ground in every debate, but the production team must take the necessary steps to see if that’s possible. So, they must create a well-moderated space at the end of their videos where all participants can discuss their final thoughts undisrupted. They should use those reflections as feedback when planning future videos. Thus, Jubilee must conscientiously foster a moment of non-hostile reflection and indeed determine if people with opposing beliefs can see eye to eye through conversation. 

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