It’s taking us back down the evolutionary ladder.
President Obama asked about toxic polarized politics said,
“It’ll continue as long as readers demand stories confirming their extremely divergent positions.”
Back in the days of William Randolph Hearst’s “Yellow Journalism,” the media mogul instructed his writers to:
“Visualize a sleepy commuter on his morning drive. When he stops at a light at 6:00 a.m., looks down at the paper’s headlines on the passenger seat. What has the paper given him? You must shock and rivet that sleepy reader. More than that, you must stupefy him!”
Shock and stupefy are so “Yesterday. “Today, popular media no longer confronts or demands thinking. It seeks to reassure and comfort. Modern journalism aims to align and reiterate what the reader already believes. Should the readers have insecurities about their identity politics, the media is there to reassure them they have been right along. Nobody wants a messy, confusing debate or inconvenient facts requiring mental effort.
Today a journalist would be crazy to write “All the News That’s Fit to Print” or broadcast “Fair and Balanced” TV. Readers don’t want riveting, comprehensive, or fair news. They want stories that are supporting their tribal biases, reports that conclude you were right all along.
Political paralysis is not in the nation’s best interest. But the media is not paralyzing us.
The media only dramatizes and polarized views. But as Obama said, only in response to our demand. We don’t want Olympian truth. Instead, we are looking for confirmation and quick headlines.
As for comprehensive, what are you talking about? Hours of C-Span or plowing through the Congressional records? Are you kidding? Next, you’ll ask us to memorize the minutes of the Council of Economic Advisors! We could be dead by the time we finish.
Google News gives us the story in one sentence, but that too requires too much time and effort. Cable news already knows your political bias. Better yet, they understand why you’ve been right all along and why your enemy/next-door-neighbor is out of his batty mind.
Media isn’t there to stupefy you; it’s there to give you what you want before you want it: Uncontested thought-free reassurance.
Cable TV offers us what we demand: A thought-free approach to existence. That’s what we increasingly require. We seem to abandon cerebral thinking as we climb back down the evolutionary ladder away from intelligent life. It is reverse Darwinism. Next stop, we could return to lower-level primates and then on to jellyfish and amoeba.
That’s even worse than toxic politics.