Here is why it matters.
Yesterday was the first day of impeachment hearings for President Donald J. Trump. Like a lot of people, I spent most of the day working with one ear on the TV listening to the testimonies. My opinion of them is irrelevant here, although I do have one. It’s just not part of this story.
This morning, while scrolling through the news on my phone, I noticed a lot of journalists (NBC and FOX included) writing that the hearings the day before were boring with “not enough pizazz.” Yes, their biggest complaint was that impeachment hearings were not “showy” enough, as if the witnesses should have brought props and told jokes in some kind of bizarre performance.
Bill Taylor and George Kent have been in government for decades and have served under presidents of both parties. Taylor is a U.S. Army veteran, and Kent is a career foreign-service officer. Yet they both committed the ultimate sin yesterday. They weren’t “good on TV.”
A lot has changed in our country since the Watergate hearings. In those days, there were only three major networks (CBS, ABC, and NBC). All of them showed the hearings live every day. Guess what FOX was showing on their channel yesterday? The Wendy Williams show. We live in a time when you can literally pick your news station according to your personal beliefs. We can even choose to avoid news altogether and watch one of the other 180 channels instead.
I’ve seen a lot of articles and posts on Facebook where people are calling Trump supporters names like “stupid” and “uneducated.” I don’t think that’s true at all. There are friends of mine who are very smart who support Trump. Has anyone considered the media’s role in all of this? What’s their responsibility to report on facts and not shape opinions? How can we be living in two completely separate Americas?
Let’s say your parents watched FOX News or CNN as you were growing up. You overheard bits and pieces of talking points, and maybe your parents shared their opinions about the shows. Isn’t it most likely that you’re going to be drawn to the same channel when you grow up? If your news channel is mostly reporting opinions rather than facts, how are you ever going to find out those facts? What if that channel tells a lie or distorts the truth? How would you know any different? It’s supposed to be a news channel.
I believed we have only scratched the surface of the media’s impact on America. Our media today is incredibly polarizing, and it doesn’t help when the White House gets involved. If President Trump knows anything, it’s how important the media can be in shaping public opinion. If the administration and a news station work together on daily talking points which run on the channel throughout the whole day, people almost become brainwashed to think a certain way. Especially when it’s fed to them in bite-sized chunks and catchphrases like “quid pro quo” they can then repeat to others.
Most Americans are smart, but when the world is being skewed for them by a media they’re supposed to trust, the facts can get lost in the shuffle. With great power comes great responsibility, and framing politics or important world affairs as “not exciting enough” is the media doing us a great disservice. Impeachment is not supposed to be fun and exciting. It’s actually rather serious and sobering. The media needs to treat it that way. Maybe there won’t be a cliffhanger or a special guest star in these hearings, but there doesn’t have to be. We shouldn’t have to need that. We simply need the facts so we can make an informed decision.
I’d argue that there shouldn’t be opinion shows like Anderson-360 or Hannity on news channels. They sit behind a desk and look like news and sound like news, but the hosts are reporting on their personal beliefs rather than the facts. That is dangerous at a time when we desperately need to know what’s going on in our country. Not a host’s version of things but the actual truth. The media focuses on ratings and polls, but where is the concern about the viewer who watches them? In most cases, we’re only getting one side of the story, and accepting that because the news told us to does not do us any favors.
It’s so important for us to get the whole picture of what’s happening in the world, not just one side. Our country is nearly broken because people can’t come together and find common ground. We accuse each other of being hateful and deranged rather than asking why a person feels this way. We put each other into boxes called “libtards” and “Nazis” and deny we have anything in common with each other. We forget what makes us human and connected. It’s like we’re walking around in a daze, firm in our opinions no matter what and unwilling to bend even an inch.
The media worries you’ll unplug your TV and actually talk to your neighbors again. They want you glued to them every second of every day. It terrifies them that we might take our power back and inform ourselves. Maybe that’s the best possible outcome. We could be living our lives freely rather than being told how to live. We could open our eyes and our minds and remember a time before the media ruled everything.
Or we could just shut off the TV.