Bursting the mainstream media bubble

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Perpetuating its game of smoke and mirrors, the mainstream media has found another culprit to blame for Hillary Clinton's electoral defeat - the Internet echo chamber (see also: James Comey, Fake News, Russia). "The social bubbles that Facebook and Google have designed for us are shaping the reality of your America. We only see and hear what we like," explains a writer for Wired Magazine ("Your Filter Bubble is Destroying Democracy;" Nov. 2016). Though this statement appears to accuse both sides of seeking out news and information that confirm pre-existing beliefs, it is in fact an indictment of right-leaning online publications. The Washington Post describes the issue less subtly as "Donald Trump's echo chamber of conspiracies, grievances and vitriol" (Oct. 2016).

But the only echo chamber of any real consequence is the mainstream media. Undeniably informed by left-of-center notions, it has long promoted an arrogant closed-mindedness. For instance, when Democrat Senator George McGovern lost the presidential election in 1972, decades before the Internet existed, New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael famously exclaimed, "I can't believe Nixon won. I don't know anyone who voted for him."

From national newspapers (The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times) to broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, PBS and NPR) and Hollywood, news and entertainment channels unmistakably skew to the left. Centrists and conservatives simply cannot escape from encountering intellectual difference and resistance. In sharp contrast, one need only ignore Fox News, AM radio, the Wall Street Journal's editorial section, and conservative websites (e.g. The Federalist, The Daily Caller) to remain cocooned in leftist orthodoxy. Additionally, Democrat leaders like President Obama routinely dismiss legitimate opposition as "corrosive," thus dissuading anyone inclined to venture beyond the mainstream bubble from doing so.

Ideological silos also characterize local media in New England, as evidenced by the vast majority of left-leaning editorial writing. For example, the Bennington Banner defended NFL player Colin Kaepernick's right to take a knee for the national anthem, and to wear socks on the field portraying police officers as pigs ("Kaepernick should not be shouted down;" Sept. 2016). The editorial (originally by the Providence Journal) pretends that the controversy surrounding Kaepernick challenged his freedom of expression but in reality, his detractors took issue with the uncivil nature of his actions and not his First Amendment rights.

Paradoxically, freedom of speech warps into malice and discrimination when exercised by those on the right. In "The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech" (2016), Kimberly Strassel explains how the IRS denied conservative groups non-profit status to prevent them from participating in the 2012 and 2016 elections. It wouldn't be surprising if you haven't heard of the book because the mainstream media ignored it altogether. The New York Times refused to review it, and even misrepresented its sales figures to exclude the book from its best-seller list.

The Times did, however, shower high praise on Jane Mayer's polemic against conservatives, "Dark Money" (2016), which attempts to expose the "hidden history of the billionaires behind the rise of the radical right." In the mainstream echo chamber, billionaires that donate to left-wing causes are never criticized. That's why you've likely heard of the Koch Brothers but not of environmentalist Tom Steyer or Pat Stryker who has used her enormous fortune in the past decade to turn Colorado blue (American Prospect: "The Democratic Sugar-Daddy/ Sugar-Mama Dossier;" Aug. 2014).

Before the advent of conservative talk radio and Fox News in the 1990s, the traditional media successfully presented left-wing ideology as objective and self-evident truths. That illusion has since faded, aided in no small part by its heightened partisanship since the 2000 presidential election. However, the media establishment isn't about to relinquish power - especially now that Donald Trump is President.

"The [White House Press corps] ought to start thinking of covering Trump's Washington like a war zone, where the assignment is a matter of life or death," advised Jack Shafer of Politico ("Trump Is Making Journalism Great Again;" Jan. 16). Similarly, CNN's Brian Stelter warned journalists that they are "in for the fight of their lives." Keep in mind that the journalists who fear persecution under Trump made nary a peep when the Obama Administration secretly subpoenaed over two months of telephone records of Associated Press reporters and editors in 2013. They also kept silent when federal prosecutors covertly tracked the movements of Fox News' James Rosen in and out of the State Department, and seized his telephone records and two days of his personal emails in 2010.

The Democrat-mainstream media complex, i.e. the true opposition party, will churn out tales of sound and fury in naked defiance of Trump's win over the next four years. Should you choose to burst that bubble, a touch of healthy skepticism and tolerance will suffice.

Meg Hansen is a syndicated columnist from Windsor. The Vermont House Republican Caucus consults with her communications firm.

The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.



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