Election 2016: Beyond the numbers, the impact of real and fake news on future elections

The Media’s failure to adequately cover this election starts with the fact that locally based journalism has all but disappeared. And in the resulting information vacuum the influence of inflammatory cable and right-wing national media as well as fake news such as we’ve seen recently on Facebook has been to borrow from the Drumpf, “Yuge.”

The MSM’s slavish devotion to “real news,” … I mean obsession with trivial and faux scandal sensationalism, seemingly willing to say and print anything that will attract the attention of their viewers, and enhance their bottom line. And when coupled with their relentless obsession with presenting two “sides” to everything; it prevents common agreement on things which are undeniably facts.

 And it’s a false equivalence which has gotten so bad that I’m surprised we haven’t seen one of the major media outlets come up with a story, titled “Gravity, real or a hoax?”

The lamestream media’s incurious and stenographic approach to journalism is one of the reasons outright lies, such as the continued denial of climate science spreads unchecked. And when combined with their failure to cover the issues, or to even know anything about them, is it any wonder that fewer and fewer of their readers and viewers listen to them?

Their hands off approach to journalism was a major factor in why  less than half the country chose to put a man in the White House who ran on a campaign of straight-up racism, misogyny, and fear. Enabling them prove beyond a doubt that they are “mad as hell” they aren’t going to “take it any more.”  And in their desire to shake up a political system which has by any objective measure failed them, the American people have revealed the depths of their desperation.

Running parallel to the media’s failure to adequately cover this election is the long standing contempt that their customer’s have for them, and is summarized below:

1) The big disconnect:  Citizens care about what politicians and government will do for them, reporters focus on what politicians will do politicians will do for them.

2) An elite perspective:  Covering politics as part of a game played by political elites, not from the perspective of the reader.

3) All about predictions:   Reporters are more interested now in predicting the future than reporting the news.

4) Laziness:  Political reporters see themselves as stenographers and don’t do the hard work of learning about issues.

5)  Lack of accountability and transparency:   Reporters demand to know every detail of a politician’s life, but despite their hold significant power, politicians aren’t held to any standards of accountability:

6) Out of touch:  Reporters care about the game of politics and don’t really understand what resonates with or is important to voters.

7) It’s all a game:  Reporters aspire to be celebrities famous for their opinions, not ‘just’ reporters who serve the public interest. They don’t take their role as pundits seriously, so the public doesn’t either.

Keep in mind that this still-prescient 20 year old article was written before the rise of Fox News and the Internet, and changes in the media landscape have only exacerbated these trends.

To say that the widespread dissemination of propaganda has done incalculable and perhaps even irreparable damage to our political system is an understatement.  But there may be an even more corrosive legacy of decade’s worth of the media’s failure to cover the issues lurking in the shadows.

One that Isaac Asimov’s famously noted in the early 80’s, when he said that “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

And today, there is growing body of evidence which shows that notions of what constitutes reality have shifted so far, that a significant portion of the population now accepts the supremacy of their beliefs over facts, and have become almost pathologically contemptuous of any new evidence, regardless of its source or validity.

evidence

And just to be clear, we’re not talking about the usual garden variety “conspiracy theories,” such as who shot JFK, or aliens in Area 51.  We’re talking about fundamental distortions of reality as these graphics from a recent media analytic study below indicateConspiracy1

Conspiracy 2

Which bring us to another development in the nations discontented disconnect, the rise of “fake news”, misinformation being deliberately spread by everyone from Republican operatives, to alt-right and hate groups, along with state agents, most notably Russia.

internet

What those development have to do with 3rd and 4th Party voters, along with “undecided” voter’s wholesale rejection of major Party candidates two months out from the election is anyone’s guess.

npr-3rd-undecideds

But the fact that this number has remained fairly consistent right up to the election indicates that this electoral trend is significantly stronger than in elections past, and may now be a permanent feature of presidential elections to come. More importantly, it the fact that these two groups of voters turned out nationally in numbers sufficient to have changed the outcome of several key state elections.

undecideds-3rd-party-voters

Remember that the purpose of all of this misleading and conflicting information is to sow doubt and confusion amongst the voters. And according to the New York Times, roughly 17 % of the voters are still undecided about which of the two major candidates they will be voting for a month away from the election.  A number which is significantly higher than the five to ten percent range we’ve seen in recent elections.

2008-unedcideds

2004-undecideds

By electing someone as unfit for the Presidency as the Drumpf, any arguments that this country tries to make to the rest of the world that we are an “exceptional nation” based on ideals and principles will and deserves to be laughed at. Not that this is news to the rest of the world, who have extensive experience with as Ted Rall so eloquently put it, America’s penchant for being assholes.

Now we’ve simplified things and removed all doubt by electing a grifting egomaniac asshole to lead our country.

Drumpf will not make things better for this country. What few people know or even remember, is that even before announcing he was running for President, he went on Fox News to talk about Russian foreign policy in 2014 — an unusual subject for a reality TV show host— saying during the interview that in order for America to go back to where it was, to go back to being great, we need total economic collapse and we need riots.

Drumpf’s rise to the presidency is but the opening act. Racism, white supremacy and violence are all bubbling very close to the surface, and the inevitable scapegoating will only add fuel to the fire greatly increasing the chances that this country will explode in anger as it implodes economically.

drumpf-poop

And they say elections don’t have consequences.

Jon Taylor