Fundamental Trust Needed
Since 2016, the term “Fake news” gained prominence in the United States. A big part of Donald Trump’s strategy for his campaign was trying to pull followers from people who felt disenfranchized from the last administration. Maybe the largest message of his was that the media was lying to these people and trying to silence them. This has been proven false, but the argument was so compelling that it gained a ton of traction, and slowly but surely gaine Trump enough supporters (in key areas, as he lost the popular vote) to win the election and become the 45th President. For the next four years, he continued to drive his narrative of fake news. He used Twitter so he could reach the public directly, and not have his messages skewed through a giant news network. This strategy cause a larger divide down the political aisle than we have seen in decades.
The left and right have never been farther apart, and a large part of it is how the sides consume their news and media. In an age of social media ruling the world, less of the younger generations are sitting down and watching news networks, which older generations still tend to do. The problem is, people on both sides only consume the media they want to hear, or that which fits their narrative. The left largely following sources such as CNN and MSNBC, and the right going with Fox News and for the past four years, reading Trump’s twitter feed. Because too many people are seeing only seeing biased media, they are not getting a real picture of what is really happening. This divide in our country happened in large part due to the fact that a lot of citizens feel that they can’t trust the media as a whole. In the long run, a huge step (not they only step) towards healing this political divide is to regain public trust in the media.
Although this has been amplified in the past four to five years, the problem has been their for a long time. In 2000, Daniel Sutter wrote a piece on media bias, and he cited that, “The documentation of media bias has become something of a cottage industry since Edith Efron’s (1971) pioneering study.” He also wrote about how the myth that all media is liberally biased is pretty much false. His claim is that while there really is not a way to specifically see is the media leans one way or another, you can see where these news networks come from, and base claims from there. This is a good point because when you look at the most popular news giants, they come from even larger coroporations. CNN is owned by the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) and Fox News comes from the Fox Corporation. In all likelyhood, these corporations are telling these news networks what to put on air and on social media, because they know if they pander to one side or the other, then they will make more money off of all of the views they are getting.
At the start of the decade, we had a Democratic president in Barack Obama. A lot of people say that Obama helped the Trump campaign in the long run because he did not do enough for people in rural little populated areas. While those areas are not populated a ton on their own, all together they form a mass. With most of these areas and states being right leaning, it is interesting to see how they percieve the media. Of course contrasting them against people in maybe a more urban, left leaning population. In 2017, a study was done in Wisconsin, where adults came forward with different “politically devisive” events that they had seen since 2011. In that time, Obama being the president for the majority of it. There were apparently “self- reported patterns of selective exposure to partisan media while accounting for the role of local communication ecology in encouraging or discouraging partisan media selectivity,” according to Mathew Barnidge. This goes to show at least on one side, people are choosing to only listen to one outlet, and that they are encouraged to do so by others around them. One might even go as far as to say that they might be proud of this fact, since this all came self reported.
Media bias is not just a topic local to the United States. The Comparative National Election Project did a survey of 17 different countries. They found that “results (showed) evidence of overall positive relationship between percieved media bias and political action, and they also show evidence that this relationship varies in strength between countries,” according to Mathew Barnidge. It is evident that media bias occurs elswhere, but it does not seem to beek taken as harshly as it is here in the United States. This might also be backed by legitamet freedom of press in those countries. In the United States free speech is of course a right that we Americans hold dear. But this goes back to a previous point of larger companies controlling the media, which just profit off of the people looking for information. This point can then be used as an example in the much larger topic of how much corporations and the one percent control the rest of the American citizens. All in all, media bias in other countries is not as relavent as it is here in the United States because people are not “gas lighting” the situation like they are here.
Media bias cannot be solved in an instant, it cannnot even be solved relatively soon. but it is one of the nation’s biggest problems because it is a doorway to a whole other world of issues. People only consuming one side of things have grown from angry to livid at the other side, which would then lead to electing politicians looking to profit for their own gain off of the anger of people they claim to represent. They will only push the divide even further once they are elected, and only worsen the issue. If Americans learned to trust the media as a whole again, and not just their preference, than we would be much more united than we have been for the past four or five years, and are now.
Matthew Barnidge, A. C. (2017, June 14). Politically Motivated Selective Exposure and Perceived Media Bias – Matthew Barnidge, Albert C. Gunther, Jinha Kim, Yangsun Hong, Mallory Perryman, Swee Kiat Tay, Sandra Knisely, 2020. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0093650217713066#articleCitationDownloadContainer
Barnidge, M., Rojas, H., Beck, P. A., & Schmitt-Beck, R. (2019, November 11). Comparative Corrective Action: Perceived Media Bias and Political Action in 17 Countries. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ijpor/article/32/4/732/5620395?login=true