House Divided: We the People Must Stand Together Against Divisive Rhetoric

More so than ever before in my entire life, I truly feel as though American society is crumbling. Am I a little over-dramatic¬†with that statement? Perhaps. However, you’d have to be a very naive¬†person not to notice the political divide that pulls both major political ideologies in this country further apart.

Mainstream media, both on the right and left, continue to profit off of their echo-chamber programming and propaganda. Our elected representatives, perhaps our president most of all, use their power to turn the citizenry against each other. It certainly seems to be working.

The continued demonizing of those with differing ideas has turned political discourse into a mudslinging competition. It is far harder to have civil political discussion without offending or angering people.

For the record, I don’t think this devolution of politics started with Donald Trump as the liberal media suggests. Trump is a symptom of a much deadlier disease. The disease has no political affiliation. It is not Democrat nor Republican. No, this has been a slow, bipartisan process. But, that’s what makes this so scary. Few people are talking about it, nobody truly knows the cause, and the powerful in this country only care about their own successes.

Whether it’s Hillary Clinton calling half of Donald Trump’s supporters “deplorables”, Representative Mo Brooks essentially blaming Bernie Sanders for the June 14 shooting on Republican party members, the Huffington Post telling cis white men upset at the news of Trump’s trans-ban in the military that they aren’t doing enough, or virtually all of the president’s tweets, it is easy to see the divisive rhetoric that permeates contemporary American politics.

I’ve already made my case for why the news needs to be as unbiased as possible. However, fixing the way we consume news and politics, a daunting task in itself, is not going to be enough to mend the wounds.

We need to be open to new ideas, listen to others and try to understand where they are coming from. Personally, I love having conversations with people that have different opinions. I learn from them, and hopefully (if I’ve done a good job), they learn from me too.

I consider myself a progressive, though I do gravitate toward the center on many issues. As a result of the venomous political atmosphere, I have felt the pull to become more and more liberal. Between random internet commenters throwing out insults and many conservatives declaring war on “liberal intellectuals,” it’s easy for me to want to pick a side.

Luckily, I don’t live in an echo-chamber. My primary news sources tend to be centrist. Politically, my mother leans right. My step-father is a life-long Republican, and he is an avid supporter of Donald Trump. My father leans left, but he generally gets most of his political opinions from me. My brother leans right, and considers himself a moderate Republican. I’m surrounded by people with different opinions, and, much to their dismay, I talk politics a lot. Though I admit I do get heated from time to time, I never stop trying to understand their varying perspectives.

I’m not telling anyone to debate extremists like Richard Spencer or Tariq Nasheed. I just think that we can all benefit from playing devil’s advocate every once in a while.

Honestly, at a time when Americans on the left and right declare each other enemies, it’s probably best to stay in the middle anyway.

 

Sources: CNN, Huffington Post, The Daily Caller, The Atlantic, Philip DeFranco

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Why Delve Into the Cesspool of Political News?

In a time where news is more accessible than ever before, public trust in American mass media is at an all-time low, according to Gallup polls:

Gallup Poll.png

You don’t have to delve into the farthest corners of the internet to hear people question the reliability of news sources like CNN, Fox News, and The New York Times. The lack of public trust in the mainstream media is among our society’s biggest problems. According to the Washington Post, a public that does not trust the media can (and has) turn its attention to partisan sources that reaffirm their previously held beliefs. Breitbart, The Blaze, The Huffington Post, and our president’s off-the-cuff 3 a.m. tweets are a few good examples of this.

As people find themselves in these echo-chambers, their partisanship toward specific issues becomes stronger and their likelihood to have a reasonable conversation with the other side diminishes. And so, political discourse between right and left grows ever more venomous. For more on that topic, you should check out Chris Cillizza’s 2014 article on the increasing divide in American politics.

In my opinion, the day where I, a self-proclaimed progressive, cannot have a polite conversation about a political issue with an educated conservative friend is the day democracy truly dies in this country. Hopefully that day never comes, but I do not like our current trajectory.

Between CNN being accused of staging news, Sean Hannity of Fox News pushing conspiracy theories as actual news, and Forbes misrepresenting independent news sources like Philip DeFranco all within the last month, it does not look like mainstream media is going to change any time soon.

So, how do we as citizens help combat the spread of misinformation and ensure that the facts receive attention?

  1. Do not take any one source as fact, do your own research and fact-checking.
  2. Be wary of information and stories shared on social media, anyone can write a false article and share it.
  3. Look past the headline, click-bait titles entrap many into spreading misinformation.
  4. Support independent journalists and media companies that prioritize presenting facts first and opinions later.
  5. Challenge your preconceived ideas and beliefs; it is perfectly fine to change your opinion when new information is presented to you.

Here at Into the Cesspool, my mission is to try and make sense of complicated political issues, represent all sides of the story (to the best of my ability), and offer my opinion after all of the facts have been presented.

The political cesspool that is modern news will not be easy to navigate.

Good thing I brought a snorkel.

 

Sources: Washington Post, Forbes, Gallup, Politifact, The Philip DeFranco Show, The Daily Caller, Media Matters