November 12, 2018
Filed In: Philosophy
The midterm elections are concluded. With over 700 days before the 2020 presidential election, the news cycle is running wild with speculation as to who will run, who will be nominated, and who will win. A new Congress will sit in January, and in this lame duck period, conjecture flies about what it will (or won’t) do. The 2016 presidential election continues to be litigated, investigated, and bloviated. The Federal government is getting ready to change top-level leadership, and the antagonism between this Administration and the media continues to fill pages of articles and terabytes of video.
And we haven’t even gotten to talking about anything truly sinister, like geopolitical threats, mass violence, or the next epidemic.
While it’s nice to put the news media up on a pedestal, the truth is, that kind of praise is undeserved. They may aspire to be impartial in their journalism, but it’s hard to get humans to separate their personal views from their work. This doesn’t make journalists bad actors, but it does remind us that as consumers of news, it’s up to us to evaluate bias and draw conclusions.
The fact of the matter is that journalism these days is less of a service and more of a business. Sure, it’s always been a business, but in times past, the public was willing to pay for their news. Not so anymore, hence the cascade of ads all over news websites. Those clickbait headlines? Yeah, they just need you to fall for it so they can get paid. Why do they have a comment section? So that you’ll be on the page longer and they can charge advertisers more.
Journalism is in the fight of its life for survival, and competition is anyone with a computer and access to the internet.
Much like political campaigns, media empires understand human behavior more than any of us could ever hope to know. They do detailed research to identify their ideal client and then mercilessly and shamelessly shape their product to target that demographic.
They also know that the best way to keep you engaged and coming back is to mess with your emotions. If they can get you scared, upset, confused, anxious, or enraged, they’ve got you. Recent surveys are demonstrating that major networks are no longer drawing from a diverse audience, but instead, are megaphone extensions of particular tribes. Conservative, you watch Fox. Left-leaning? CNN. Progressive? MSNBC.
I don’t mean to paint with too broad of a brush. Certainly there are news organizations that do a superb job covering the news and keeping the information flowing. Unfortunately, their business model requires expensive paid subscriptions that keep their quality journalism out of reach for many Americans.
So what’s my point? News, politics, elections, economy. It's easy to get caught up and miss today.
Today is the thing that matters right now. Anxiety over who will win an election in two years does nothing for you. Between now and the next election what could you accomplish if you focused on you and your family? Do yourself a favor and stop falling into their trap.