This week’s election results shocked America because most of us didn’t see it coming. One Facebook friend said she was “surprised Hilary lost, but even more surprised by how completely out of touch with my country I am.” She and her friends kept saying, “We live in a bubble.” While her statement is one of such profundity, we need to be asking, how did this happen? Where did this bubble come from? One of the most glaring root causes is a biased media.
The American mainstream media has lied to us, thereby creating a wall between friends and family and a space where Donald Trump is now our President-Elect.
It’s no wonder American voters feel blindsided and angry. The media turned a blind eye to most of Hilary’s alleged pay-to-play bribery scandals; her unprotected Secretary of State email server in her home bathroom to cover it up; after receiving a subpoena, destroying multiple mobile devices with a hammer and BleachBit software and then lying to the FBI about all of it. With Trump, the media replayed each of his cringe-worthy antics and statements against segments of the population until our eyes glazed over, and many of us couldn’t imagine him as our leader. We need to ask ourselves if the election results would have been any different if we, the American people, had received the same news the rest of the world received on a daily basis? At least we would have based our votes on the same information.
In my college journalism classes, we studied the giants of journalism like Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, who reported only the facts. When did our press veer off course and begin to shape the news to their liking? I believe it started with Watergate, an event that forever changed the five tenants of journalism: Who, what, when, why and where.
Before Watergate, the personal viewpoints of newspaper, television and radio station owners were limited to the Editorial page or a 60 second on-air spot once a month. In 1972, two 20-something Washington Post reporters—Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein—uncovered a secret fund that paid to gather information on “the other political party” which ultimately unraveled Richard Nixon’s Presidency. From that moment on, journalists were seduced by a power they didn’t know they had.
Power is heady stuff, and when the media discovered the authority they had over the voting public, there was no putting the genie back in the bottle. Lines that distinguished facts from editorial beliefs fell like toy building blocks. The press went from being people we trusted to bring us the facts, to being power mongers infatuated by the influence of their own words.
At the same time, the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll culture of the 60’s and 70’s found a stronger foothold on both coasts, while the rest of the country remained more conservative. Old school ideologies changed while a previously unbiased news media became celebs and personalities who wrote about their newfound reality. What’s more, the press was seduced by the politicians. They were a power couple made in Helvetica heaven. At that point unbiased journalism died, replaced by a select version of the truth… what the media and a segment of the populace “wanted their country to be.” The fundamental issue isn’t that liberals and conservatives are at war with one another. It’s that we’re not receiving the same news, much less the truth about one another.
In the film, Something’s Gotta Give, Jack Nicholson’s character said, “I’ve always told you some version of the truth.” America needs to borrow Diane Keaton’s comeback line: “The truth doesn’t have versions, okay?”
A friend recoiled when I told her I listen to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity in the car. You would have thought I’d admitted to poisoning puppies. I also watch ABC News with David Muir and CNN. My point with my friend was if we can agree the media is biased, then how can we make an educated decision if we don’t listen to “both sides?” Staying cloistered in either mainstream media—or FOX News—isn’t the answer. That’s how we windup living in a bubble. We’re listening only to ideologies we agree with that may be versions of the truth, or in many instances, the truth has been ignored altogether.
Take a breath, people. Become an informed electorate. Pay attention to history, not just American history, but world history. Italian philosopher, George Santayana (1863-1952) wrote, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Let’s not give way to anarchy and another Civil War because we’re too gullible and lazy to do the homework needed to make educated decisions.