Partisan media fuels hyper-partisan environment

After nearly two years of campaigning, billions of dollars spent on an endless stream of negative advertising, and an increasingly inane political discourse, this election season is about to come to a merciful end. And for most Americans it's not a moment too soon.

After nearly two years of campaigning, billions of dollars spent on an endless stream of negative advertising, and an increasingly inane political discourse, this election season is about to come to a merciful end. And for most Americans it's not a moment too soon.

Save for hardcore political junkies and dyed-in-the-wool partisans, few would find the current state of our politics attractive or even acceptable.

But it's hard not to resign ourselves to the disturbing truth: that no amount of wishful thinking will make our politics less partisan, less poisonous, less vituperative.

As much as we'd like to think we live in a "post-partisan world,” the opposite seems to be true: we're more divided than ever.

Need proof? Watch a few minutes of MSNBC during primetime, then flip to Fox News. A few years ago, they would simply be arguing different sides of the same issue.

Today, however, they can't even agree on the issues of the day. Three hours of primetime coverage might not yield even one topic in common.

Whether this is a symptom of our polarized politics or the cause of it is difficult to discern.

Some would argue that our highly fractured media landscape -- we have a near infinite number of ways to consume news -- has allowed people to self select the news that they already agree with.

So if you're a conservative, you watch, read, and comment to a network of conservative print, broadcast, and online media. If you're a liberal, you do the same thing but with a different ecosystem of media.

The net result: this partisan, self-selected, insular echo chamber simply reinforces the viewers' already hardcoded worldview without ever challenging any basic assumptions.

And because it's the same message night after night in primetime, blog after blog, talk radio after talk radio, the decibels need to get louder and the rancor more hair-splitting in order to keep our attention.

Politicians, of course, being politicians, have observed this trend and taken full advantage of it. If voters are gravitating toward partisan media than so will they.

Which leads to the downward spiraling of our political discourse with little end in sight. Perhaps if voters begin consuming media that challenges their point of view will this cycle finally break.

Nick Ragone is a partner and director of Ketchum's Washington office. He is the author of four books on the presidency, including his most recent - Presidential Leadership: 15 Decisions that Changed the Nation.  He is a regular contributor to Fox News.

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