November 8: The day the media died
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, which mean it’s safe to assume most people are upset by the results of our presidential election. If that’s not enough proof, I could brave driving 20 minutes into Portland, Oregon, and snap a few pictures of the protestors. Hell, I could even join them.
Every election in recent memory has suffered from overexposure. But this one was different. Longer. Harder. Dumber. Ultimately though, no matter whom you voted for, we received one semi-positive message: People are not quite as easily influenced by the media as previously supposed. Maybe we’ve built up a tolerance.
America is now like your functionally alcoholic uncle, showing no signs of intoxication despite ingesting half of the liquor stash during a holiday gathering. We take in so many spastically relayed, sensational headlines via our 24-hour coverage of a seemingly endless election process that we begin to tune out a good portion of it. This isn’t entirely good.
Some of our media outlets now consist of people so passionate about facts that they and their team of fact-checking, story-finding gurus actually put together segments akin to mini research papers for their “comedic” monologues. Some of our media outlets ask damn good questions about the legitimacy of someone’s campaign ideals. Some of our media outlets have something to offer, and we can’t discount opinions simply because they’re opinions.
We don’t have unbiased coverage in the ranking of Walter Cronkite anymore, but truthfully we never have. Today’s comedians and commentators and phony newscasters are simply more open about their opinions in this present day. They figure we’re grown up enough to know what goes into the recipe, so they admit that they snuck some pureed vegetables into the dessert. (Or rather, the other way around, if facts are the veggies in this bizarre metaphor.)
On one hand, it’s admirable that we as a people can make up our own minds. On the other hand, simply tuning out the news channels, facts, or monologues that disagree with your personal politics isn’t really making up your mind so much as locking down your mind. Many people this year have uttered statements like: “I’m just so tired of the same old politics” or “The media is biased” and used this as an excuse to be lazy.
They take their facts from the speech of the candidate they support, or the one news source they agree with, and they treat that as if it supports their opinion. Furthermore, we’ve seen fit to demonize those on the other side of the fence — whether politically or ideologically — to an extent never before seen in this country.
It’s no wonder either.
They say familiarity breeds contempt, but the scientific community will quickly point out that we are hardwired to notice and feel more comfortable around what we recognize and what/who we relate to. Differences signal danger, and that may be a large reason why we chose two candidates we knew well over candidates presenting less familiar ideas, from less publicized platforms, and had names and faces we couldn’t immediately place.
What this media failure to influence and predict the election results does is reinforce the simple truth — that we don’t know shit. Common folks like us peasant voters are now investing energy into protests and complaints (many of which are well-founded) but need to start redirecting that energy. The busier and more active we are in researching for ourselves and not just deciding for ourselves, the more likely it is that we can avoid a repeat of Scum and Scummer in the next election. Making your mind up requires effort and deliberation, not Cheetos and YouTube.
It may well be a good lesson that the media outlets failed to prepare us for the election results this year, because it proved to us the need for individual accountability and preemptive activism.
As for the new President-Elect, who persistently demonstrated some form of Narcissistic Personality Disorder during his campaign, the joke is apparently on us, as we are looking more and more Bipolar in our political preferences. Mr. President-Elect, when it comes to all you said you were going to do, please continue to be as dishonest as you were during your campaign, when every verifiable fact checker indicated you were lying at least 60 percent of the time — which, by the way, is higher than the “same old, same old” politicians everyone’s been railing against.
Megan Wallin is a young writer with a background in the social sciences and an interest in seeking the extraordinary in the mundane. A Seattle native, she finds complaining about the constant drizzle and overabundance of Starbucks coffee therapeutic. With varied work experiences as a residential counselor, preprimary educator, musician, writing tutor and college newspaper reporter/editor, Megan is thrilled to offer a unique perspective through writing, research and open dialogue.