"The ability to have an honest conversation is a tremendous national and public resource, but what Rosell sees happening now is a deliberate attempt to fracture society. We've all been exposed to this during election campaigns, when we hear outlandish attacks, out-of-control PR and distorted information, but Rosell said this conduct has a cost when it enters everyday life. 'You keep doing that, and doing that, and you basically pollute the commons.'

"Protecting the public square and the public good is an objective worthy of support, he said, and by working to create a climate of trust, a community of discourse, we built up capital that we can use to deal with tricky issues in the future. On the other hand, when public conversations are corrupted, when we can't think things through because of a tangle of polarization, attack rhetoric and failure of experts to communicate, it is difficult if not impossible for people to move from raw to considered opinion. It is hard enough to go through these stages when we are exposed to clear arguments and healthy discourse, he said, and added that people can surprise themselves when they find common ground and manage to talk and disagree in a different way."