Poisoned punditry pushes polarization

Poisoned punditry pushes polarization


Hi, I’m Antonio Mora. Much has been written, including by me, about
why bias in the reporting of news deserves a great deal of blame for the severe polarization
in American society. Much less attention has been paid to editorials
and op-ed pieces. By definition, they involve the giving of
an opinion so their whole point is to express bias, to give disproportionate weight in favor
of or against an idea. The problem is that the brave new world of
the internet has brought access to an onslaught of commentary from around the world. When it comes to US politics, we can read
the published thinking of pundits at newspapers in Chicago and Charlotte, Denver and Dallas,
Miami and Memphis, even Singapore and Sydney, with just a few clicks on our keyboards. Columnists at the traditional mainstays of
American journalism in New York and Washington are ever-smaller voices struggling to be heard
above the cacophony of an ever-growing crowd. In theory, that should be a good thing. Unfortunately, the democratization and globalization
of opinion has also brought an increase in rancor and bitterness in the editorial writing
that’s a sharp departure from the recent past, something that was especially evident
in columns about impeachment and the State of the Union. On NewsandNews.com we are constantly updating
our “Opinion” section to bring you a balanced mix of commentary from across the political
spectrum and across the world on the biggest issues of the day. A quick look at the pieces we’ve posted
in recent weeks sadly proves my point about the intensity of the acrimony. Here’s the headline for an opinion piece
from the liberal online magazine Slate: “The State of the Union Was a Visibly Degenerate
Variety Show.” On the other hand, from the conservative Washington
Examiner: “Pelosi’s Pathologically Idiotic Paper Partisanship.” See what I mean? Two well-known news sources, one with an editorial
using “degenerate” to refer to President Trump’s address, another using “pathological”
and “idiotic” to describe Speaker Pelosi’s behavior. And then there’s impeachment. The bitterness, spite, and even hatred jumps
off the page in columns about that. For example, from American Greatness: Failure
of the Democrats’ Bloodless Assassination Attempt.” From USA Today: “Trump Impeachment Inspired
the Senate I Loved to Commit Institutional Suicide.” Or the Washington Post: “GOP Doesn’t Deserve
to Survive this Debacle.” And National Review: “Removal Would Be Insane. See what I mean about the hyperbole? Suicide… Assassination… Insanity… Shouldn’t Survive. You get the gist. Calling people liars, something hard news
journalists don’t shy away from these days, even about disputed issues, adds to the animosity. Here’s the Washington Post again: “Let
Hunter Biden Testify so We Can Get Out of Trump’s World of Lies.” But here’s Real Clear Politics: “Lies,
Damn Lies, and Adam Schiff’s Moving Lips.” It’s a big enough problem on its own to
have our thought leaders letting loose with unbridled hostility. But, if you’re stuck in an echo chamber
where you’re only hearing opinions from one side or the other, your thoughts are being
swayed by unanimous acrimony. All of News and News is dedicated to avoiding
those echo chambers, but especially our “Opinion” section, where we provide you with a roadmap
through the morass of spitefulness. Even when it comes to less angry columns,
it’s essential to read both sides, because they consistently describe alternate universes. If you only read a piece from The Federalist
titled “Trump’s Acquittal Is Real and It’s Spectacular,” you would have learned
of a very different reality than what Vox describes in a column titled “Trump Will
be Acquitted, American Politics Will Be Convicted.” I suspect many of you haven’t even heard
of “American Greatness,” “Vox,” or “The Federalist.” And they’re just three of the myriad serious
opinion sources available online. Contrast that to what the world of commentary
was like as recently as the late 1980s. Then, access to opinion journalism was limited
to people who subscribed to newspapers and to a few magazines. But even if you were among those who did,
many of the op-eds you’d find in local newspapers came from relatively few syndicated columnists
based in Manhattan and inside the Beltway. Now, we have access to a dizzying array of
opinion from any newspaper or online source you want, countless blogs, 280-character opinion
tweets, and the often poisonous punditry on cable news and political talk radio. Those pundits and editorialists need to take
some responsibility for the rancor and polarization. To conclude, in no way is any of this meant
to absolve our politicians of blame for fueling the fires of division, but columnists should
show some restraint. In looking back over the long list of titles
of opinion pieces we posted on the impeachment process, one, from ‘The Hill,” stood out
as my clear favorite. I suspect it will be the verdict of history
for today’s politicians and pundits: “All Parties Should Feel Ashamed.”

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