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The news you want to hear

By Daniel Freedman

Section: Opinions

February 3, 2017

The eyes of the world are upon Trump, and everyone condemns his actions—opposition is fierce among experts and the populace alike. Well, that is what the news would have you believe. If you are reading this article you are likely a liberal-leaning and politically motivated individual. I say this without much doubt due to the prevailing culture at Brandeis, but I would like to take this one step further. My first sentence did not evoke an immediate and visceral rejection of a falsehood for you. Yet it is very false, as only half of the U.S. disapproves of Trump thus far.

The ideological split in this nation that gave rise to this election cycle did not exist in a vacuum. Both sides were polarized and indulged by media. The media we consume tells us: “Yes, the way you see the world is correct. Here are more stories affirming your world-view.” It is a cheap and vile form of self-affirmation, listening to the talking heads that confirm what we turned on the news to hear. It can be quite cathartic to open a newspaper and find the condemnation that you expected spoon-fed back to you.

All news has a slant and a bias, and when it aligns with our perspective, we do not object. When it comes time to find news we invariably end up with politically consistent sources. This is no accident, and it extends beyond the choice of a liberal news source. The majority of us are surrounded by the same left-leaning people and see stories from more politically syntonic sources. However, this is not just a liberal phenomenon. Conservative media finds conservative individuals, reaffirming their beliefs and shielding them to the realities and opposing positions.

I challenge you to take a peek at a right-wing news affiliate and find your storyline presented. You will find stories decrying liberal media fallacies and tales of bitter Democrats trying to impede the progress of a newly minted Republican president. Where you say patriot, they will say traitor. This is not only an explanation for the rise of Trump, but also the persistent belief among his base that he really is the good guy in all of this.

Imagine a world in which you have grown up blindfolded, as has everyone else around you. From childhood you were told the sky was blue, and all of the stories you heard affirmed this. Your friend, however, was told from infancy that the sky was red, and similarly everything they heard was consistent with this notion. Now imagine these views of sky color are further deeply entrenched in your economic and moral perspective. When a person without a blindfold comes along and tells you both that the sky is blue, you might pridefully smile while your friend will write it off as an elitist detractor undeserving of trust. The allegory symbolically reveals my political bias, but we already knew that: Your media is liberal.

Protest all you want, you’ll reach only the ears of those that agree. A conservative media outlet will characterize your protest as a liberal tantrum devoid of cause. I am not saying to avoid protest on issues that matter; it has a place. But protest alone will not affect the change you wish to see.

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