No matter what side of the road you’re on, whose car you’re in, or which stop you get off at, politics are everywhere. As the prominence of social media grows, housing big opinions behind the safety of the computer screen, falsified facts can spread like wildfire, where one misconstrued statement — whether purposefully false or not — can be seen and shared by hundreds in a matter of minutes. Curating your feed on social media is easy to do these days, making it easy to block out opinions that don’t align with your own. But how does that affect people’s political decision-making in the long run? If you’re only seeing one side, are you getting the full, accurate story? And what do some of these acronyms even mean?
Cue, A Starting Point. A website created by actor Chris Evans and his team — which includes his Puncture co-star Mark Kassen — it strives to give everyone a quick glance at the things they’d like to know directly from the politicians themselves. Take out the middle man, take out the biases of some news outlets or your friends, take out social media altogether (that’s a benefit, trust me), and get the cold hard facts from the source. It’s information at your fingertips, all compiled in one place for easy access and searching. Plus, the responses are limited to about two minutes, which means you can get a quick, concise stance in a fraction of the time you’d spend muddling through news articles with out of context quotes potentially set up with opinions and agendas.
So, why Chris Evans? Yes, he’s Captain America, but that’s not why he’s doing this. Evans went into detail about his goals and the origination of A Starting Point in an interview with Wired magazine back in January, stating, “I just wanted a basic understanding, a basic history, and a basic grasp on what the two parties think.” There’s merit in the idea, a lot of it. There’s a slew of other things someone with a name like Evans’ could be doing with his fame — good and bad — but he’s chosen to educate. And that’s admirable. He’s got a name that a lot of people will recognize — that he’s placing on the line — which will hopefully, in turn, get folks involved. Entering into the arena of politics can be daunting, there’s a lot to catch up on, but he’s created a place to get the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) on what’s been going on and what’s currently happening. It’s not a cheap use of that fame he so carefully wields much like a vibranium shield. An entire new generation of voters has the potential to be born.
They’ve hired fact-checkers, but allowed the politicians to speak their views without any interruptions, prompting, or post-editing. It’s a raw, true statement. But before the site’s launch, backlash was already rolling in. Accused of “giving a platform” to some politicians, and for not being enough, the goals of the site are missed by some. The site is completely bipartisan, not leaning to the side of either political party, a task that required great care in cultivating.
Evans himself has made his political affiliations very clear. He’s denounced the president Donald Trump aplenty throughout the past three years, but he still managed to convince many of the Republican politicians on Capitol Hill to participate in the project. Word of the site and its goals got out, along with the team’s professionalism and mission, inviting even those that Evans doesn’t agree with into contributing — which is what started the doubts and resistance to the site to begin. Images of Evans with Republican senators filled Twitter, inciting some strong feelings in people who may not have been keeping up with the project in the early stages. The contributions from those that don’t agree with Evans’ personal takes on politics should really only be considered a major win for the mission and the site as a whole, while also defining its purpose. It’s meant to invite civil discourse while helping everyone to understand the views of each of these elected public servants, and Evans has led by example.
The site features three different areas collected from senators and House representatives to governors and mayors: Starting Points, Daily Points, and Counterpoints.
Starting Points are just that, the politician’s stance on the topic you choose. The elected officials were given a list of broad questions on the topic and these are the answers to the ones they chose. They’ve also included links for more reading chosen by the contributor. More topics and questions will be added as time goes on.
Daily Points are a bit different than the Starting Points. This is an open forum for contributors and answers must be kept to under 60 seconds. The keywords used at the top of the video are provided by the contributor.
Counterpoints is probably the most intriguing section. It features two officials, one from each party, who have paired up (the pairs are chosen by the contributors) to essentially debate on the topic of their choice. It’s a deeper exploration of these topics without the distractions of other voices chiming in. It’s a small exchange, ready and waiting for you to listen and make informed decisions with the information given.
In addition to all of this info, you can also find your own elected officials and register to vote if you haven’t already.
True to its original mission, ASP is easy, user-friendly, and informative. It truly does give a little unbiased insight into these elected officials and what they stand for, without needing to veer off to decode what something might mean. And that’s just what we need right now. Will this solve the sometimes venomous nature of America’s current political climate? Probably not. Will it help citizens young and old make informed decisions based on fact, while giving them an easy resource to learn? Absolutely. It’s a first step, a beginning — a starting point.