It is no secret that the media, being made up of biased humans, are biased.
It is also no secret that I am both a social liberal and a social media junkie.
Therefore, it shouldn’t sound surprising that I usually get my news from places like The New York Times, The Guardian, CNN, and even BuzzFeed News (whose journalism is actually getting really good), the BBC and the Washington Post. Additionally, I like the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal, outlets generally considered more conservative. I also like the publications of the Rand Corporation think tank.
But lately I’ve been trying extra to vary my media consumption, to compare and contrast what different outlets publish.
We don’t usually enjoy this. It goes against our nature. The uses and gratifications theory explains this in detail, but basically: we want our media to satisfy our needs. And often those needs are closer to “comfort” than “challenge.”
But it is too dangerous not to. I know how isolated and insular I can be if I don’t actively fight it. As the president of Rand recently said, “When everyone has their own facts, then nobody really has any facts at all.”
I agree with a lot of people in thinking that social media in particular is actually incredibly detrimental in the siloing of American politics. Here are two really interesting sources on that:
I’ve been paying particular attention to Fox News and the Heritage Foundation. I frankly dislike giving the former the traffic, but I think it’s important to try to understand exactly how far apart “realities” are right now – to understand what people are seeing and thinking. It is both enlightening and upsetting.
On the one hand, I’ve enjoyed getting a different viewpoint, in some ways. The headline is a bit linkbaity, but the Heritage Foundation ran an interesting article by Katrina Trinko, who’s doing the same thing I am. She said:
“I hope you’ll do what I’ve done… Try to listen to what Americans at a different spot on the political spectrum are saying. Think about what they’re feeling. Try to understand, no matter how morally heinous you think a particular policy is, why someone, even if you think misguidedly, believes otherwise. Yes, sometimes you’ll get angry. Sometimes you’ll be sad. Sometimes you’ll be truly baffled as to how someone can be both kind and compassionate and hold a certain position. As I said: It’s not easy. But it’s worth doing.”
I appreciate that fully. (And for similarly reassuringly thoughtful points of view from the other side, I liked Wait But Why’s “It’s Going to Be Okay – Follow-Up“.)
However. I have to confess to the aforementioned anger and bafflement. Sometimes withholding judgment feels wildly illogical. For instance. Since the election, a variety of sources have reported hundreds of occasions of harassments and hate crimes, and have accompanied that reporting with photos, videos and official statements from the schools and churches affected (sources: New York, Time). Try to find any of this on Fox News, though. In that reality, it doesn’t exist. None of it has happened.
We can’t do this. We can’t pretend things that we don’t like aren’t there. Not on either side. We are not in a good place now, but it won’t get any better unless we look at how bad it is.