An eerily similar argument plays in the background of both right and left-leaning news sources. They claim the same thing about their counterparts: corruption, propaganda lies. Is this polarization of the media more of a cause or effect of a divided society?
A Pew Research study shows that the median Democrat and Republican has moved significantly further apart on the left and right scale over the past 20 years. Similarly, the tone of the media has changed, openingly portraying a political bias in the way they present their information. CNN’s biggest headline on Oct. 29th, 2020 at 1:30 p.m. was ‘They call themselves: Wives of the Deplorables.’ This is an article about women married to Trump supporters. At the same time, FOX News’ biggest headline was ‘Trump touts record GDP growth as ‘absolute validation’ of policies, Biden downplays recovery.’ At the same time, MSNBC’s biggest headline was ‘Trump’s bonkers rally playlist is a perfect metaphor for his campaign.’ One can deduce how these sites generally feel about Trump. The wording of headlines and articles is specific and strategic, pushing readers to conclusions. It seems many journalists distrust Americans’ ability to make up their own mind.
One poll found that four in five Americans believe that news organizations push their own viewpoints rather than deliver unbiased facts. Also, according to one study conducted in 2013, 7.1 percent of journalists said they were Republican, 28 percent said they were Democrat and the rest did not identify with a party. While reading news, it is important to remember that people naturally want to promote their own “superior” opinion and that biased news sells better.
This creates a cycle that hurts our democracy, infecting everyone’s lives. People can easily choose a news source that only ever reinstills their own opinions. Having to critically think through multiple sides of a story is uncomfortable. Readers begin to believe the rhetoric of their news source: dismiss opinions that go against your beliefs as lies and only trust who we tell you to trust. They either hate those with different beliefs or think they are brainwashed.
More than this, the bias creates an oversimplified narrative of good vs. evil that primarily appeals to the emotions of fear and anger. People seem to like this view that deduces all stories and people down to good and bad. This ignores the complicated nature of life. Policies that sound good sometimes have detrimental results. Assuming motives to be unarguably good or bad is dangerous. Life is messy. No one political party will ever be the flawless savior we desire. The extreme simplification has furthered the mob mentality of cancel culture, legitimized a false definition of justice, and advanced political party worship.
Americans have given the media the power over what we will be angry about today. Viewers become oblivious to the problems, corruption or positive achievements on either side that the media ignores. Citizens have to make sure they are consuming news from a variety of sources and actually hearing as many sides as possible of the debate. People should have opinions and know what they believe, but it is also invaluable to understand other perspectives. Americans need to be careful not to let our society tell us that diversity of opinion is wrong.