Deepen the Divide… or Bridge the Gap?

A friend posted a comment about the strange nature of politics lately. Things do seem to be stranger than fiction these days, and I see it getting more, not less, bizarre, at least in the short term. Thing is, this situation has been building for decades, and it’s directly tied to a voting public that is choosing to be more divided (and divisive).

 

Take a look at 60 years of Congressional bills, via Business Insider:

Notice that the real shift corresponds with the birth of the partisan news movement in broadcast media (TV and radio). Beginning in the the late 90s, after watching upstart TV and radio networks rake in the cash by being nakedly partisan, the traditional news networks reached a decision point: either hold the line and, potentially, lose the ratings game, or shift and adapt. They went after the money. Over the next two decades, national broadcast newsrooms shifted from traditional news gathering and reporting to resembling marketing agencies in their intent and practice. The public, trained to think like consumers over five decades, chose accordingly.

These days, TV and radio news are almost entirely market-based. National print media is shifting more to the left as right-leaning print newspapers are going out of business. Compounding this, is the growing media bubble. When a system is disconnected from the people it serves, it’s easier to see them as means to an end. In other words, if you don’t have to sit in the same diner as the guy you just wrote an editorial about, it’s easier to ignore them or “take them to task.”

I see 3 ways this could go (I hope there are more):

1 — People will decide they have enough personal worth to self-correct by only getting news from sources that are not institutionally biased

2 — People will stop consuming news altogether

3 — People will dig in, entrenched in their side, seeing the “other side” as the enemy

According to people smarter than me, 2 of the 3 possibilities lead to the eventual downfall of the republic. The solution, I think, is for people who have enough self-respect not to support those who would placate patronize us. Choose media that doesn’t pander. Starve the propagandists, and they will shift back to reporting reality rather than trying to create it.

In addition, support local media, and the advertisers that keep them in business. These people live in the communities in which they work. They do business with each other, and their kids go to the same schools and join the same ball teams or scout troops. Their staffs rub shoulders with interview subjects and advertisers at local events. They share their successes and their worries at the local coffee shop or bar, and, even when they don’t see eye to eye on certain issues, there’s still a strong sense of “we’re in this together.”

When so many of the “big guys” hope you are okay with being a product rather than a person, it’s nice to know there’s an alternative.

 

*Video and image credit Business Insider

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