AMERICA: Healing The Political Divide
Do we Americans want to be at war with each other?
When discussing the political divide in America perhaps the first question we should ask is….
Do we want to be divided?
Do we want the controversy, acrimony and relentless blame game that dominates our politics today? I suspect that we do. But let’s assume I’m wrong, which hopefully is true, so we might explore together how American culture got so divided, and what we might do to heal some of the division.
Corporate News Media
It’s not breaking news that corporate media is part of the cultural division problem. We know this already, but let’s take a minute to give a closer look.
Donald Trump has taken over half of America because as a ruthless businessman from New York City, arguably the media capital of the world, he seems to understand like no politician in my life time that corporate media is not a public service, but a business. And the point of any business is of course to make money. Trump works the system like a pro by providing a steady stream of melodrama to the networks, and they reward him for the service he’s providing by giving him billions of dollars worth of free advertising in the form of coverage. It’s good business for both parties.
In the corporate news media industry, news is not the product, and we are not the customer. We are the product, and advertisers are the customer. Corporate media rents our attention to advertisers. Ad prices are a function of audience size, so the more viewers/listeners a media company has, the more they can charge for their ads.
So the name of the game in the corporate news media industry is to build as big of an audience as possible, and keep them glued to the channel for as long as you can.
OMG, OMG, OMG!!
The way to keep viewers glued to the screen is not with news, but with drama. News requires thinking, but drama is just fun entertainment. Anyone who can provide the needed drama to the news networks will be rewarded with coverage, that is, free advertising.
As example, this is precisely why terrorists blow things up, to get the free advertising for their cause. How many times did we all watch the Twin Towers come down? Every time was an ad for Al-Qaeda. And, this is why Trump is always saying something outrageous, because he knows the news media will reward him for providing the drama corporate media requires.
This can be a bit tricky because the anchors, commentators, and presenters we see on the screen seem to be sincerely interested in the news. And they probably are. But let’s not forget that the people we see on the screen are not running the company. They’re just employees, and like any employee in any company, their job is to help the company work the business model, and make money.
I get most of my news from National Public Radio, a relatively calm network compared to some others. But even on NPR you can hear the interviewers going for the drama in interview after interview. If the story is about a hurricane, you just know that their question is going to be, “OMG!, how bad could this get???” And dramatic politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene sometimes seem to get more coverage than everybody else in Congress put together.
The point here is to remind us that the business model of corporate news media is to get us all excited so that we’ll tune in to their channel every day to catch the next chapter of the latest political melodrama.
Keeping Us Excited
What the news media has learned is that a great way to get us all exited, and keep us all excited, is to generate fear by spotlighting enemies. And who are the villains? Anybody who has a different perspective than the viewer. And so conservative news outlets wail against liberals, and liberal news outlets demonize conservatives. On the surface it seems like the liberal and conservative news outlets are very different, but look a little closer and we can see they’re both working the very same business model.
Drama => Eyeballs => Ad Revenues => Corporate Profits
Let us never forget that the polarized political divisions that afflict America today are, in part at least, a result of a deliberate, carefully scripted, emotional manipulation of the public by a profit seeking industry, corporate news media.
And it’s not just these people…
…it’s pretty much everybody on every channel, to some degree or another.
Whipping us all up in to a mad dog frenzy isn’t a crime. Or even a scandal really. Because corporate news media is just giving us the reality TV political melodrama entertainment that we crave.
I’ve been a news junkie since the sixties, and I must admit that it took me decades to fully realize that a key reason I follow world events is that it’s my favorite soap opera.
Will Russia break up with the Chinese? Will Britain stop dating the European Union? Will America get mad and punch somebody again? Omg, OMG, OMG!!!!
Social Media Is Just More Of The Same
By now everybody knows that social media sites are carefully engineered to repeatedly steer us towards drama. And so cultural divisions are amplified, because division and conflict is more dramatic than cooperation and peace. Social media news is just the corporate broadcast news business model converted to a new delivery system, the Internet.
And don’t forget, the Russians, Chinese, Iranians and other not so nice people around the world are hard at work every day trying to divide Americans from each other too. The Russians especially are all over the Internet on all the social networks working every divisive angle they can find. So when we yell at each other just for fun, we’re helping dictators undermine democracy.
How Do We Heal The Political Divide?
Let’s return to the question we asked at the beginning of this article.
Do we want to be divided?
We might look at this question as honestly as we can, because if we like being divided and at each other’s throats, if we enjoy the fantasy superiority, the blame game, the finger pointing, the outrage, and the never ending OMG! melodrama, then no solution to cultural division that anyone might suggest is likely to work.
When we do finally get sick of all the repetitive unproductive noise which threatens the stability of the nation, we’ll start looking across the political divide to the other side in a sincere attempt to find some areas of agreement.
Given that I’m a liberal Democrat Woodstock hippy kinda voter, the folks across the political divide from me are usually Republicans. What are they saying that I might be able to agree with to some degree?
In spite of what corporate media might like us to believe, there are literally millions of calm reasonable Republicans in America. “Reasonable” doesn’t mean that they agree with me on EVERYTHING. It just means they hold views which are worth considering.
Wow, do I love this woman! She knowingly gave up a leadership role in Congress to speak truth to her own party. Country before party before career. We Democrats could surely use some real leaders like that. God bless you Liz Cheney!
As I’ve ranted here, both parties seem to have abandoned reason on this topic. “Both” parties would include the party I vote for. So if many Republicans are alienated from Democratic Party statements on the subject of abortion, I can relate, because I’m quite often alienated from the Democratic Party on this issue too.
To me, outlawing abortion isn’t rational, because it makes no sense to force people to have children that they don’t want so much that they’d be willing to kill them before they are born.
That said, it does make sense for the Democratic Party to take a long hard look in the mirror regarding it’s culture of rationalizing the mass murder of unborn children. I can agree with Republicans that what abortion really is most (not all) of the time is a baby killing service we provide to those too lazy to use contraception. Yea, we on the left need to look at that, agreed.
The population of the United States has doubled in my lifetime. Here in Florida where I live the population has grown 7 times over the same period. Yes, you read that right, Florida currently has seven times as many people as it did in the 1950s.
It seems reasonable to have concerns and questions about this population explosion. It seems reasonable to have concerns about great masses of people pounding on America’s door at our borders, especially given that we don’t seem to have much of an idea what to do about that. We’ve had decades to deal with this, and have failed. Having concerns about immigration mismanagement does not automatically make a person a racist hater.
Too often the Democratic Party could be characterized as the party that never met a tax payer dollar that it didn’t want to spend. So I can relate to Republican talking points on this important subject. But regrettably, they are just talking points for the Republicans these days, as they now seem happy to deficit spend so long as they are the ones doing it.
That said, to those Republicans who sincerely reject financial irresponsibility even when their own party is doing it, you have my respect.
I heard a story on NPR the other day about a reporter in Wisconsin who went around to all the small towns and rural areas of Wisconsin to learn what people were talking about. This was just before the Trump era.
These rural voters expressed that they felt ignored, neglected, disrespected and increasingly alienated from American culture. I get that. Farming isn’t cool we lefties thought, it’s not hip, cutting edge and trendy. “Who cares what farming folk think?” we said. Well, Trump does, that’s who. Why did Trump get these voters? Because we on the left discarded them.
Where is the Liz Cheney of the left who will speak truth to our snooty condescension?
Another American Civil War?
Is that what we want? The last American Civil War was only two lifetimes ago. It can happen again. Civil wars happen all the time all over the world.
It’s time for us to grow up and dial back the polarization. Of course we can disagree about things, but we need to find a much better way to go about it.
Nobody is ever going to get everything they want. Let’s stop pretending that is possible. We’re always going to have to compromise with each other if we want to hang on to the miracle of America which our ancestors have sacrificed so much to give us.
These guys didn’t storm Omaha Beach so that we could call each other names on social media.
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