Let’s be real. Real about politics. We’re dependent on the world around us to provide the information we need about the candidates. There are very few people on the planet that actually get in close enough proximity in any way shape or form to the highest level candidates. And we’ve heard that the world view is slanted because of the media and that this is a new thing.
I’m hear to argue, no it’s not. Well, not a new thing that is.
The media have been part and parcel to the election process since the United States got started and Ben Franklin and other founding fathers were printing newspapers and fliers.
In the past one person might buy a newspaper and then share it with his local community. They would all share that paper until the next paper showed up. That could be days or weeks later. In some towns they might post a copy in a public place, like a pub or town square. And although this created a communal common worldview from the information provided, it still didn’t create a universal reaction as to what to do with that information.
Just like in our world today, we had those who indifferently shrugged and said, “it’s far away and I have other things to worry about”. We have those that react personally to the information and choose to fall into a pro or con on every issue. And there have always been those who mistrust the media. But it’s the nature of humans as much as the nature of the media.
When the Revolutionary War was fought, the populous was not 100% on the side of the colonials. Nor was the media.
Although the world at large would love to view our media outlets as unbiased factual reporters, repeatedly through history we see this is not the case. Whether it was to forward a political agenda during pre- and post civil war era or to forward the interests of one side or the other during the industrial revolution or to gird the nation to war, bias is an ever present fact of the media regardless of the technology used.
What’s different? The media is much more present, available and aggressive with the information they get and provide. It’s much more individualistic now. Any one of us can pick up a cell phone and receive more varying viewpoints than ever imagined possible in the past. And just like in the past, we will see biased media and unbiased media.
Unfortunately many media outlets have a natural slant. And many outlets of opinion can portray themselves as a media ‘source’. And even those ‘balanced outlets’ have editorials, which are nothing more than opinions that someone has published but are frequently grasped onto as fact. And misinformation is hard to avoid like the special presents in dog walking parks, just as sticky and stinky.We have to have the sensibility to take it all in with a suspicious eye to understand not only what we’re reading, but of the source, its bias and what it purports to justify its view.
So, how do we make sense of things?
Start off by realizing our government was established with a system of checks and balances. They are in place so that no one branch of government will get away with running and overriding the rule of law. They’ve kept us from completely coming off the rails through long periods of difficulty and adversity to include our own Civil War. So when you start to get wound up or feeling animus related to a singular specific person, remember this. We’ve survived far worse in our history.
Learn about the government and how it’s run. Understand that everyone has an agenda (set of priorities) and many have agendas that aren’t clearly advertised. Question everything by doing homework on both sides of an issue to include questioning those beliefs you hold to be sacrosanct and true. It could change your mind or at the least convince you the other side isn’t crazy.
Simplify and pick the issues that mean something to you (term limits, the environment, taxation, etc.). Finding actual bonafide facts may be nearly impossible in amongst the memes, rhetoric, hyperbole and outright misrepresentations. Ultimately, after exploring what you can, you really need to hear the candidates expressed principles for governing and balance that with your belief that they will stick to the principles they publicly express.
But understand that no matter their principles, every political office is limited in what it can do. As an example, a United States presidential candidate may espouse the principle of revoking an amendment, but they alone don’t have the power. In this case it takes more than an act of congress. It takes all the branches of government with the cooperation of the populous to revoke an amendment. Just look at how prohibition came about and how it ended.
After all this, do you run the risk of being betrayed by the media? By the candidate? Or by circumstances larger than we can predict? Sure do. Welcome to the human race.