American Media Has Us On A Hamster Wheel

Don't Blame The Media - They Reflect Us

The media landscape in the United States is a complex ecosystem where various interests intersect, including those of the media organizations owners themselves. The notion that media may have a self-interest in maintaining a state of conflict among the populace is a topic that has been discussed and analyzed by scholars and commentators alike for a long time now.

Since the beginning of the Fox News era started taking on the CNN hegemony, we've seen tribalism gain strength to the point where it is the topic itself. Long gone are the days where journalists stopped wanting to be the story. In fact, they now try to become the story for more likes, clicks, and engagement.

This leads even good-hearted people to think, "You're evil if you're in that camp and I have moral superiority because I'm in this one."

The obvious reason the media companies do this is that conflict narratives can be compelling content that engages viewers, increases readership or viewership, and, by extension, boosts advertising revenue. This economic incentive can potentially lead to a media environment that emphasizes divisive issues and sensational stories over nuanced or reconciliatory discourse.

Evidence of this is clear during the Trump presidency when CNN and MSNBC both had record viewerships while covering Russia or whatever was the next "shoe to drop" for Trump. Conversely, now that Biden is in office, Fox News is back on top with their non-stop demagoguery of the president.

The politicians are relying on this division to stay in power. They can control a split population with bifurcating issues.

As such, the media's role in setting agendas and framing issues can significantly influence public perception and discourse. The way media outlets choose to report on events can either exacerbate tensions or contribute to conflict resolution. The "agenda-setting effect" of international media giants like BBC, CNN, Fox News, al Arabiya, and al Jazeera demonstrates the power of media to shape political and social narratives.

However, it's important to recognize that the media also has the capacity to play a constructive role in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Local media, in particular, can contribute to peace by restoring trust and self-worth in communities affected by violence. Additionally, new approaches to understanding the media's role in deterring conflict in times of peace suggest that a multilevel and hybrid media environment can be leveraged to support peacekeeping efforts.

To break the cycle of blame and begin rebuilding the country's spirit, it is essential to foster media literacy among the public, encouraging critical consumption of news and understanding of media's potential biases. This includes recognizing the difference between opinion-based commentary and fact-based reporting. The ability to recognize this by the general population is at an all time low.

Furthermore, supporting independent journalism (like USA.co and The Free Press) and diverse media sources can help provide a broader range of perspectives and reduce the influence of any single narrative. Initiatives that promote dialogue and understanding, such as community-based media outreach projects and long form podcasts like The Joe Rogan Experience, can also play a vital role in strengthening social cohesion.

While there are elements within the media that may benefit from keeping the public in a state of conflict, there are also opportunities and mechanisms through which the media can contribute to peace and unity. It is a collective responsibility of media producers, consumers, and policymakers to navigate this landscape thoughtfully and with a commitment to the greater social good. The path out of the cycle of blame lies in a concerted effort to promote media that unites rather than divides, fostering a spirit of community and shared purpose.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.