This is a serious issue, and it gets – surprise – almost no attention from the media. America is dangerously polarized, largely because we consume only media that feed our existing prejudices.
When you watch multiple news channels, it seems they are covering two different planets. Within each sphere, the outlets compete to be the most strident. This leads to what is known as an “echo chamber,” in which the participants develop ever stronger and more extreme views.
The right believes that President Obama is a crypto-Muslim sleeper agent, for instance, while the left believes that Governor Romney has no economic plan beyond skinning the poor and wheeling Grandma over the fiscal cliff.
This is a serious issue because, from our observation, the red and blue partisans have dangerously little tolerance for each other. Jeremiah has seem them come to blows in the parking lot. It is tragic that the glowing rectangle has so thoroughly brainwashed and divided the American people.
Media bias is not new. What is new is mindless credulity and a paucity of engagement with outside opinions. In Jeremiah’s day, we had the network news on VHF, and then we had the BBC World Service – not to mention Radio Moscow – on the short wave. Informed opinion was gleaned through triangulation.
Watching the evening news is not a time to be in your “comfort zone.” This is bad for your brain, and bad for America. The news should provide new information and new opinions. That’s why it’s called “news.” If you are not challenged by the news, then you and Wolf are both getting lazy.
Start today! It is imperative that you hear what the other side has to say. If you are a Democrat, you will not enjoy Fox News (start with Bret Baier – he’s the most moderate). If you are a Republican, CNN will make your blood boil (stay away from MSNBC). “Seek first to understand,” as Saint Francis said. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Use multiple news sources, as above.
- Use foreign news sources, like The Economist, FT, and the China Daily.
- Look for both sides to a story, and learn to spot bias.
When the newspaper writes that the latest zoning change is a good idea, Jeremiah was taught to count the number of arguments given for and against. It’s fine if the paper only gives one side of the story, but now you have to go and find the missing arguments.
When watching TV news, note whether the anchor says “critics say,” or if she gives this opinion as her own. Listen for expressions like, “in fairness, our guy did the same thing.” We, as consumers and citizens, must change the channel on media bias, and tune to objectivity instead.
See also: Fact-checking the fact checkers