As we move through the first week of the government shutdown I can’t help but think that the so-called mass media has a lot to do with the problems we have been facing. Of course, we have the now famous problems with Chuck Todd and David Gregory, but that really is the tip of the iceberg. It is impossible to avoid opinions on the goings on in Washington. As they say, opinions are like noses, everyone has one.
Such a statement seems absurd coming from an opinion site like this one. We are admittedly a left-leaning site and a precious few get their news from us. Granted, millions more get their news from MSNBC and Fox News. Maybe even more frightening are the number of people getting their news from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and Colbert Report. Sure, I may agree with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s particular perspective most of the time, but what is the quality of news I am getting?
This culture may have started with Crossfire and The McGaughlin Group, but it has now expanded to entire networks. Somehow we have lost the distinction between commentary and hard hitting news. So, most Americans don’t know the difference between fact and opinion. Opinion pieces certainly should use facts, but they can’t take the place of facts themselves. At least, they shouldn’t take the place of facts themselves.
When the cult of opinion takes over the shutdown coverage we get a culture of blame instead of a simple accounting of the facts. Sure, I stated my opinion in the previous piece, but it doesn’t mean that the focus should be on blame. Someone reported White House employees talking about how they were winning. What exactly are they winning? In a similar way, numerous Congresspeople have talked about getting the outcome they wanted. Really, this is what you wanted?
A CNN poll showed that more than 50 percent of eligible voters were angry with Congressional Republicans, Democrats, and the president. By my count, no one is winning this thing. I do think one of those three groups is far more culpable than the rest, but it doesn’t mean anyone is necessarily winning.
In the cult of opinion we don’t concern ourselves with the actual outcome of a debate or vote, but who wins the court of public opinion on that particular issue. Tune into any station and you see the same general format. Sure, some use more facts than others, but it generally is the same thing. Our side was right and the other side was wrong. In such a world, it is easy to understand why some people in the game won’t concern themselves with substantive policy but with the visceral reaction to such action (or inaction).
At home I get to see the real fallout of such inaction. At home, it doesn’t matter who is in the right and who is in the wrong. No one is winning this thing at home. In our communities we see the fallout and when you dial back the noise you see that no one is really winning. How can someone really win in a situation like this? Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.