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The Old Pirate

 

The Great Media Divide

Mark Jamison  • April 12, 2017, at 1:10 p.m. 

Examples of the political divide in the U.S. abound. The twists and turns of the Senate over the nomination and eventual confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court are the latest episode in the drama of the country's polarization. Seemingly everyone blames someone else for the division: Democrats and Republicans blame each other, as do the factions within each party. And at least some independents blame both parties. 

But how the media conducts its business in this country should also be partly blamed for the political rift. I don't mean that we should blame CNN or MSNBC for being too liberal, or blame FOX News for being too conservative. The problem isn't that journalists have opinions, but rather that the standard media business models – daily news for traditional media and talk radio like Rush Limbaugh's and Sean Hannity's programs – drive some media to the left and others to the right, leading large segments of their respective audiences to become caught in media bubbles. 

Again, my point isn't that journalists, commentators and media bosses choose to be liberal or conservative for nefarious reasons and should be called to task. Rather, it is that the business model for daily news drives its content to the left and the business model for talk radio tends to drive its content to the right. If we are to make serious progress in bridging our political divide, we have to deal with these business models. 

In numerous surveys over the past 20 years, Pew Research has documented our growing political divide: "In 1994 23% of Republicans were more liberal than the median Democrat; while 17% of Democrats were more conservative than the median Republican. Today, those numbers are just 4% and 5%, respectively." And each side has a different view of reality: According to a Suffolk University poll before the 2016 election, 77 percent of Clinton supporters believed Trump is a racist, while 87 percent of Trump supporters believed he is not. 

Pew also found that liberals and conservatives tend to migrate to different media outlets: Liberals consume a wide variety of media sources that essentially follow the traditional model of daily news: PBS, The New York Times, MSNBC, CNN, etc. Conservative media, with the exception of Fox News, is dominated by talk radio: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Mark Levin, etc. 

There are numerous explanations for the media divide that corresponds to our political rift. Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple believes that mainstream media leans left because they are headquartered in politically liberal cities, and because activist journalism has been cool since Watergate. Academics Jeffrey Berry and Sarah Sobieraj have written that conservative media attracts its audience by venting outrage, which they presumably correlate with conservatism. My liberal friends echo Berry's and Sobieraj's belief: They believe that liberals are more thoughtful and less emotional than conservatives, so liberals favor written media like The New York Times while conservatives are attracted to the anger of talk radio. 

What these and other views miss is that the economics of media pushes traditional daily media to the left and talk radio to the right. Each naturally creates its own cultural bubble, contributing to our political divide. 

Why do traditional media lean left? As historian John Summerville points out in his book "How the News Makes Us Dumb," the daily news business model relies on convincing viewers and readers that they have to consume news every day; that the news is urgent, that today's news is bigger and scarier than yesterday's news and that people who don't watch or read today will suffer as a result. Stories are often couched in terms of groups – mostly race, gender and sexual preference – which accentuates the drama. A media mindset that focuses on urgent problems often concludes that someone in authority, namely the government, should fix them. 

Why don't these same economic forces press talk radio to the left? Talk radio by its nature puts greater emphasis on the individual, which aligns with the conservative mindset. The program host does much of the talking, but spends a fair amount of time with callers, who provide content and sometimes the direction of the dialogue, such as Limbaugh's "Open Line Friday." Participants in talk radio are more likely to see themselves as part of what is happening than are passive consumers of PBS or CNN, for example. So talk radio favors mindsets of individual responsibility for making one's way in the world and helping others. 

What about outlets that update constantly, like blog-oriented outlets and news aggregators? At present, these business models don't seem to favor either political view as each political side has its own websites. That the primary economic driver is page views driven by breaking news would seem to lead these outlets to eventually lean left. But as long as the government is large and active in people's lives, and people worry about what the government will do to them next, conservative-oriented sites might continue to flourish. 

Is there a media business model that helps bridge the divide? It isn't a forgone conclusion that the divide is bad. What is harming us is what appears to be our growing inability to understand how others might hold a view different from our own, except for others being ignorant, unintelligent, or of low morals. What is needed are media businesses that break out of the bubbles, employ contributors, involve consumers of different mindsets and make the consumers, not drama, central to the action.

 

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As more of Trump's regime get comfortable in their new positions of power for which they have little-to-no qualification, they find new ways to implement the heinous ideas they believe they are empowered to undertake.  They spend every day crafting and implementing policies with destructive consequences for our country, our world and our future.

Fortunately, organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) continue to fight on behalf of The People, seeking to minimize or delay the impacts of these terrible actions and policies to the extent possible.  In early August, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against Trump and his administration over the illegal detention of immigrant teenagers for “unsubstantiated claims of gang affiliation.”

...the ACLU accuses ICE and the Office of Refugee Resettlement of detaining children and transporting them to detention facilities without notifying their parents or lawyers.  The organization alleges that ICE is detaining and deporting the immigrant teens “under the guise of a ‘crackdown’ on transnational street gangs” and accuses the federal agency of making arrests based on “unreliable claims of gang affiliation and flawed reports of criminal history.”

“We’re talking about teens who were picked up for play-fighting with a friend, or for showing pride in their home country of El Salvador,” Stephen Kang, an attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in the release. “The Office of Refugee Resettlement is accepting wholesale that young immigrants should be kept behind bars because of what they look like or where they come from.”

The ACLU class action lawsuit seeks the release of the teens who are the plaintiffs in the case as well as an injunction to prevent the government from further detaining immigrant children without cause.

The ACLU keeps fighting for us and we should support they and other organizations who will prevent Trump and the Republican majority from achieving their goals.

The ACLU has launched numerous lawsuits against Trump’s administration since he took office, suing over Trump’s travel ban and challenging the legality of his voter fraud commission.

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The Flood of our lifetime, again. 

Hurricane Andrew; a once in 100 year storm - Super Storm Sandy; a once in 500 year storm - Hurricane Harvey; a once in 1,000 year storm. As these storms reintroduce us to the phrase "Storm Surge" the movement under the storm, so rises the American Spirit, the movement under the white noise of political anarchy.The Flood of our Lifetime Erases Personal Politics, Racism, and Division - and we once again become a melting pot accentuating the brilliance of what makes America truly great; Race, Ideology and Political Persuasion, melted into a single-minded purpose: Humanity. 

The United States of America has had many interesting weeks lately – We found some very creative ways to highlight our differences - how to hurt each other - new ways to express anger - costumes meant to instill fear - and organizations, clubs, or groups that further accentuate our differences.Depending on your source of news or private "social-media" reality, we're either at the brink of civil war, on the precipice of a race and class uprising, or simply "emboldened” to call upon that darkest, most secret, stain of racism, hate, or accusations of blame that sully's the dark recess of our heart. Or maybe.. Russia is fucking with us and using a cosmic "satellite operational chaos-anarchy (S.O.C.A.) super-ray-gun? 

Or maybe, they have another way in, we yet understand, but when we do, we will kick their ass just like we always have: together!The media has overwhelmed anyone within reach; (the way they do) largely through thoughtful presentations of tabloid style journalism; "first time in history" threats to our existence: "first time in history" political Armageddon: and "first time in history" a dozen ways to civil unrest.

Always dozen reasons and dozens of fears, each [of course] pitting us against one another so they harvesting their mutual product, ratings. America has become a tinderbox fueled by the worst versions of what freedom fundamentally provides. We spoke freely, we spoke angrily and we spoke hurtfully. We honored this first amendment, barely. We allowed each others’ civil rights, reluctantly. We pay homage to the 2nd amendment and bear our arms, but view the enemy... as one other. We allow freedom of religion, then use our prejudices and fears of [some] religions against their believers. We slander one another through the anonymity of social media, and the right to privacy dies a little more every time we dox (expose private information) someone we think deserving, to say nothing of what some fear a government (foreign or domestic) may be doing to manipulate our privacy utilizing social media platforms to divide us even more.

Not surprisingly, groups and organizations of every color and belief, ran away from [what should be] the unity provided by the Bill of Rights — and compartmentalize with others of their own kind or own belief - creating a [false] safety-in-numbers scrum - false because any section of us divided; is less than the whole; and while we war with each other, the government operates untethered.

And then it rained. And rained. And rained. And the colors ran together, politics became fuzzy, a race became: how quickly could we could get there to aid those in need. After a few bumps and bruises from 7 months of division and hate, we are reminded that when faced with natural or man made disaster, we care less about the color of a helping hand and more about the hands available to clutch. It has taken a flood of biblical proportion outside this beltway that isolates Washington D.C. from the country it leads to remind us of who we are. Without government, without media influence, we united in the blue basin of a red state that is now one - that is now without color - and a melting pot once again for a singular cause: Humanity. 

As drab as whatever color a melting pot is, in the end, it is a majestic Red, White, and Blue. These are the colors of Americans. Not brown, black, yellow, beige, red, green, or white. These are the colors that preserve and provide: The United States of America.

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