Why Cable News is Still Destroying This Country
August 1, 2013 2 Comments
A while back I wrote an article about how I feel cable news is destroying this country. That article can be found here and in it criticized all of the popular media outlets for polarizing this country so far to the left and right that there is no such thing as middle ground anymore.
Since this country was formed there have been differences in opinion about how this country should be governed. There have been arguments, disputes, and even wars to convince people what is best for them and the future this country. Today however no one knows what is best for this country. Not so long ago actions and real policy is what made people believe that something was either good or bad. Today opinion and political ideology is what dictates policy, there are too many opinions with very little action. A war is being waged on the airwaves for the opinions of the American people and no one is winning except for the owners of the news outlets.
Stephen Hawking once said that “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” and this “illusion of knowledge” is what is killing our country today. Too many if not all broadcasters have an unjustifiable sense that they have a responsibility to explain to the viewer why their opinion is the best opinion. Don’t get me wrong media bias and reporters having political opinions is not a new thing. However in the past when a newscaster had an opinion it was a big deal.
When Edward R. Murrow spoke out against McCarthyism at the risk of being black listed, McCarthy’s reign ended shortly after. When Walter Cronkite spoke out against the Vietnam war he changed the opinions of millions of Americans. In age the of the twenty-four hour news cycle political opinions and bias’ are emboldened and information released for the world to see the second it happens often leads to misinformation. That combined with reporters who are unabashedly open about their opinions, you now have a country that has no idea what is right or wrong.
What I am trying to say is that for too long now I have seen countless news stories broadcasted for the world to see via television, the internet, twitter, and news alerts sent directly to phones only for them to be wrong, not true, exaggerated, or flat-out lies. The worst part is that if there is a retraction at all it is too late, because so many people have heard the wrong information it all of a sudden becomes the truth. So the people who suffer are the viewers and the people who consume the news. People now perpetuate false truths and inaccuracies and base their opinions on information that are sometimes just plain wrong.
I don’t blame just the cable news networks they are not the only ones to blame. I blame the internet. I blame a world where everyone has an opinion and thinks its important for everyone to hear. People can make their opinion fact by citing ten other people who have wrong information. We live in a world where anything can be proven by the internet with a little research and manipulation of the facts. So for the people who don’t know what to believe and the people who don’t know how to find out whats right or wrong they flock to where they feel comfortable, and that’s the talking head on television that says what you want to hear.
As a society we should be demanding the truth. We should be demanding sources of unadulterated news where common sense, logic, and the facts win arguments. Not gut opinions, political theory, personal or ideological doctrine. I am not saying that the news can’t be entertaining and I am not saying that the news can’t have an opinion. Debate is the foundation on which this country is built, but opinions should be heard from the people who know what they are talking about and not the loudest person in the room and certainly not the person who just looks good in a suit or dress. Cable news should be about presenting both sides of the issue and letting the people decide which one is the best. It shouldn’t be about emboldening the misinformed or allowing the uninformed, that develop their opinions based on experience and ideology to think that their opinions are just as good as everyone else’s.
The polarization of this country forces people to think that there is a liberal opinion and a conservative opinion. If you have an opinion about something contrary to the Republican party it’s considered a liberal opinion and vice versa. Furthermore if you don’t follow the party line to the letter you are considered a moderate. There is no such thing as right or wrong in politics anymore, its “are you on my side or not?”, regardless of what the truth is and regardless of if it’s in the best interest of the people. To be blunt we shouldn’t be perpetuating stupid because it makes people feel smart or informed. The news should be about hearing what is happening around the world and in our country and if an issue arrises it should be discussed by a panel of people who know what they are talking about. A collection of minds from both sides of the isle who can intellectually represent the ideologies of their party.
I know I am living in a dream world. I have a romanticized idea about what the media should be like. Is it so hard to ask for informed opinions? Is it so hard to ask for the news instead when the Royal Baby is going to be born? Is it so hard to ask for more than a one-sided debate that features people of equivalent credentials and standing? It really isn’t hard to get the media to change, we just need to demand a higher standard of reporting. If we could find some middle ground. If could get reporters with the gravitas of Murrow and Cronkite. If we demanded that we heard opinions from intellectuals and people with actual experience and knowledge, not failed vice presidential candidates, reverends, and morons, we might just be able to get this country back on track. Because one of the most important parts of a democracy is not just fair and free elections, but a properly informed electorate.