Sunday, May 3, 2009

Media Fragmentation-Polarization at its Worst

I cut my previous post short because it is very general and I will need to go into depth on some of the central challenges of social fragmentation, social exclusion, and self-segregation. For the most serious problems of political polarization, I lay the blame squarely at the feet of the US media which IS biased toward the conservatives, liberals, populists, libertarians, atheists, christians, Palestinians, get the picture.

The manner in which we as a society hire commentators has, of late, come to interest me very much. We have moved from a society with a few major networks being responsible for delivering somewhat unbiased (or at least biased in favor of American opinions) news. We have moved because one characteristic of humans is that we like to have our views confirmed. Consequently, we demanded, and got, news sources that pander rather than inform. Let me lay it out in the most basic terms. Fox is unabashedly conservative, MSNBC unapologetically liberal, CNN absurdly populist, etc. On these programs we have hired people to analyze news and create viewpoints that fit with our prevailing attitudes. I say WE hired them because we basically demand something, the networks satisfy it. We have control.

Over time, the amount of work required to analyze news has increased leading us to demand news that is not only broken down into soundbytes, but is already provided in a neat package with plenty of analysis that fits our view of the world. This process worries me because it has polarized us to the point where it is difficult to get two people who listen to two different news sources to agree on what is TRUE in a story. This happens at a time when more places than ever are attempting to open wide all the dark places where truth has been hidden. When two people cannot agree on the FACTS of a case because they approach it having watched, let's say, Fox and CNN, they end up being unable to even discuss their differences of opinion. Polarization, lack of compromise, 1-party government or immobile government results.

The final question is this: does truth exist anymore? Have we truly degenerated into complete relativism? In future pieces, I hope to write about Twitter and other blogging sites and their role in spreading rumors (the radical views always seem to float to the top). What is imperative is that we can find a way to stop reading opinion and accepting it as our own. I am exhausted from talking with party-line Democrats and Republicans who believe what they do because some pamphlet or talking-head told them to rather than because analysis has shown them that the Democrats are clearly always right (joke). It is time for us to get the facts and recognize that Rush, O' Reilly, Olbermann, Hannity, Franken, and Dobbs are probably less reliable sources of opinion than Stephane Colbert.

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