As a young adult of the 1990’s, I witnessed firsthand the dawning of the Information Age. The commercialization of the internet, the expansion of cable news and news talk radio helped my generation access reliable information live or by the click of a button. The only thing you could call a news bubble at the time was Rush Limbaugh or your local preacher at church.
Over the years that followed, the media got deregulated to the point where only a handful of corporations controlled most of the information we heard or read on television, radio and in print. Social Media came around and made a lot of people rich, but at the expense subliminal partisanship that has torn the country apart. Throughout it all, the Fairness Doctrine was gravely wounded and left to die.
Millennials, the generation that Baby Boomers love to put down after leaving them with a dysfunctional economy and environment, are becoming adults in the Misinformation Age. This is due in large part to their fathers, and their father’s fathers inability to decipher bullshit from reality on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
As those platforms began to monetize you could see our news bubbles starting to grow. As the algorithms changed, people became more partisan and pickier as to where they got their news. These days, liberal or conservative, if you don’t like the information being presented to you, it’s fake news. Whether it’s true or not.
The same was true for cable news. There were no algorithms per se, but if there were, it would be Fox News. The conservative news outlet was the original news bubble. As bad as they were at providing accurate information, their successful business model gave way for copycats like OANN and Newsmax. Alternatively, they also influenced other networks like the centrist CNN and the neo-liberals at MSNBC.
Now, with everyone having their own little niche, the news bubbles are technically smaller, but more people are buying into them and staying loyal. Until one of these outlets does something their viewers/readers don’t like or agree with that is.
When it comes to politics, the citizenry is supposed to question authority regardless of who is in power. The role of the media as the fourth and/or fifth estate is to help the citizenry pose those questions and help keep those in power honest and accountable. What’s happening now is a failure on both accounts.
For starters, no one questions their own side anymore. If you are a loyal Democrat, chances are you don’t question Biden, his policies, or his party. Same goes for the networks that back him like MSNBC. Any fact critical of any of the above will likely anger you, particularly if it’s brought up by a conservative or progressive media outlet. Fake news.
The same is true for all sides of the political spectrum. Liberals, conservatives, centrists, progressives, fascists. It doesn’t really change. Social media has brainwashed us into shopping around for information that suits us, rather than information that informs us. As a result, when people do question their own side, it’s for the wrong reasons.
This past Saturday, a pro Trump rally took place in Washington D.C. where a group of Trump supporters chanted “Fox News sucks” over and over. The reason being their master and commander complained that Fox called the State of Arizona too early. Also, while the evening hosts have seemingly stayed loyal to the President, the regular anchors have been calling his opponent “President-Elect Biden.”
Since the election, conservative Fox viewers have been jumping ship and landing on One America News Network and Newsmax. All because they preferred to trust the word of the President than the facts that were presented to them. Ironic when you realize Fox News helped create that cult of personality his supporters trust so much.
Still, a populace trusting in the words of their leaders over the facts presented by not only a vast majority of news organization, but their own partisan media outlets is just completely backwards. When did people start seeking out news bubbles that would knowingly lie to them just to make them happy?
It’s out of control now, and it’s not about to get any better. As a blogger for the past ten years, I’ve seen it change before my eyes. I used to argue with conservatives over the need for gun control, now I argue more with liberals about why I criticize Biden, when Trump is the enemy. They don’t understand that power is the enemy. Unchecked power in particular. It doesn’t matter who yields it.
The only advice I can give is to question everything, do your own research in multiple news bubbles, come to your own conclusions, all while listening to reason. Hint: Conspiracy theories are not reasonable, nor is taking anything our politicians say at face value.