Today’s political dialogue is full of intensely absolutist rhetoric that at times borders on the apocalyptic. In terms of pure theatre and drama, the constant parades of verbal and written shout-downs ensure high ratings, popular social media sites, and a steady audience of gawkers. However…is this the best way to address the issues facing our country?
Obviously, strong debate and dialogue has and will always be necessary in political circles. This is because the issues at stake are so very important to all of us. Unfortunately though, the level of political noise now being generated often leaves little room for the opposition to truly debate. On a rhetorical level, many political pundits and politicians infer that the opposition is now an enemy that needs to be defeated totally and at all costs.
Sadly, such rhetoric can lead to unfortunate consequences on both sides. As we’ve seen, political gatherings are sometimes being upstaged with violence, and some politicians, political pundits, and government officials have been verbally assaulted or escorted out of restaurants simply because of their political views. Is this the type of America that we want?
Although the social unrest of the 1960’s is often talked of as a high-water mark for American unrest, there’s a chance that we border on surpassing that era. After all, in the 1960’s the civil unrest pitted those in the Civil Rights, Anti-War, and other movements against the “Establishment.” In those days “The Establishment” consisted of both Republican and Democratic politicians at all levels. When we fast-forward to today, the social unrest centers around a philosophical split between Republican and Democratic ideals. This split not only impacts politics, it impacts all of society. This is the reason why America is experiencing a surge in “Political Segregation” maybe unseen since the Civil War era. As we know, friendships between those with opposing political views are now being highly discouraged. As a result, not only are friendships being destroyed over politics, families are sometimes split over irreconcilable political views.
There’s a line where the concept of Us vs. Them can cross over into chaos. On a political level, we may be experiencing that. By dehumanizing those with opposing political views as an enemy to be ridiculed at all costs, we’re creating the angry-mob mindset that philosophers such as Montesquieu warned could occur with democracy. This herd-like propensity of being quick to anger is being shown with the frequent social media gaffes that occur lately on all levels. Some people now react first, and think later.
As a result of these trends many ask…how did we get here?
Although there are many theories for how we got to this point, one important factor that led to today’s political climate was the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine for media in 1987. Once this was repealed it became easy for media outlets to tilt their presentation of factual information more towards the perception of either Liberal or Conservative bias. When the Fairness Doctrine was in place there was a need to present both sides of an issue as factually accurate as possible so that the viewer could decide what to think.
Thirty years after the repeal of the doctrine we’re now seeing that relying on actual facts in the news has been replaced with bending the facts as far as possible for either a Liberal or Conservative effect. This has led to the frequent charge on both sides politically about “fake news.” And yes, this mindset has infiltrated social media strongly. A glance at some political social media sites will quickly give a glimpse of the subjective bias in store.
Although Conservative media has often been blamed for creating the echo-chamber media that we have today, it’s become apparent that Liberals have caught up to Conservatives in regards to media bias. In addition, some feel that Liberals are surpassing Conservatives in sheer numbers of media advocates for their cause.
As for an answer to the political chaos we see, there’s no single answer that’ll restore civility and fair play. Basically, an important thing to remember on all levels is that the concepts of Liberal-Progressive vs. Conservative-Traditional have been around for centuries. Each has their place. After all, as the cliché “today’s radical is tomorrow’s conservative” implies, each of us can possess both Progressive and Traditional tendencies at different times. Therefore, many of us can at times both understand and empathize with opposing political views.
Although the chance is slim to none that the Fairness Doctrine can be ever put back in place, it’s important to realize that all of us have within ourselves the ability to be fair. This idea is so very important to remember in these chaotic political times.