As witnessed by the midterm elections, the US is cracking up along political and cultural lines. The mainstream media must accept a large part of the blame for this dangerous period of partisanship that only promises to worsen.
Ever since Donald Trump crashed the White House, the US media has dropped all pretensions of being a fair and impartial observer of the political scene. The gloves of objectiveness have come off and journalists now compete in the political ring as full combatants, as opposed to neutral ringside announcers reporting the action as it happens.
That much was proven on Monday, the day before midterms, when popular Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro appeared on stage with Trump at a political rally in the blood-red state of Missouri. This stunt unleashed the predictable howls of protest from sea to shining sea.
"By taking part in the rally, Mr. Hannity was crossing the line that had traditionally separated those in the news media... from the people they are supposed to cover," The New York Times wailed. "Fox News entered new territory - a thicket in which it's hard to tell where the network ends and the president begins."
Although it was surreal to see Hannity at a rally stumping for the Republicans (a move that Fox News said it did not condone, calling it an "unfortunate distraction") it was not surprising given the guerrilla-style reporting that passes for journalism these days. Media partisanship has delivered a broadside to the US political system, and the fact that there are media trenches in the first place explains everything we need to know.
Even before Trump got elected, the mainstream media was priming its audiences to disavow the maverick from Manhattan. Did this have anything to with his promise to ‘drain the swamp' known as Washington, DC? It is a very tantalizing explanation. Whatever the case may be, the left-leaning media organized and published stunningly flawed media polls predicting a landslide victory for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
As we now know, just the opposite transpired as Trump sailed to easy victory. The half-deranged disappointment felt by the Democrats was intensified by the unsubstantiated claim that Russia - not the American voter - was responsible for putting Trump into the Oval Office.
That fantastic media story, which can best be described as the conspiracy theory of the century (admittedly, the century is young), snowballed into an FBI investigation known as ‘Russiagate'. Entering its second year, this media-inflamed show trial - starring a colorful cast of porn stars and Ukraine-linked businessmen - has failed to produce a shred of evidence pointing to collaboration between Trump and the Kremlin. Yet the Mueller show grinds on, driving a wedge between Americans, while bringing relations with Russia to the boiling point. And lest we forget, while peddling the ‘Russia meddling' smokescreen, the media was able to ignore the explosive claim that Hillary Clinton used her personal computer to send and receive top secret government emails, which was the real story all along.
At this point, battle lines between the Trump administration and the mainstream media were drawn in the sand. The Republican leader, assaulted on a daily basis by every tentacle of America's six-headed mediamonster, understandably began denigrating it as ‘fake news'. This led to some very intense press conferences, especially with CNN, which many on the right have come to call the ‘Clinton News Network'.
Although I admit the 45th president of the United States may have some character flaws, I fail to understand why the media has declared a permanent open season on this man. After all, like it or not, Trump won the election fair and square. And let's give credit where credit is deserved: there are no wars (yet) on the horizon, while the economy, stupid, is roaring. Nevertheless, fair, balanced and objective news reporting has been jettisoned in favor of fantasy. This radical flight from fancy is at least partially responsible not only for the political psychosis that has attacked the nation's frontal lobe, but for leading the country to the very doorstep of civil war.
In the not-so-distant past, the media could be counted upon to tame the more impulsive reactions of the electorate, blunting controversy with reasoned argument and substantiated reporting. Today, by comparison, it is the media that is responsible for inflaming the passions of the dual constituencies.
An ideal solution to this media mayhem, where the Republicans and Democrats both enjoy their own private propaganda services - is to let journalists from Fox News and CNN labor together inside of the same four walls. I only slightly jest. But think about it. Such a move would help encourage what is so missing today in the torched media landscape: the eradication of barriers and meeting the ‘enemy' for face-to-face debate. Today, the media seems to be arguing for argument's sake, not for the sake of promoting the public good.
The bifurcation of the mainstream media into two hostile camps exactly mirrors what is happening in society at large. This is no coincidence. Voters from both sides of the political aisle (the fact that there are only two political sides to choose from also greatly complicates the situation) have barricaded themselves inside of an electric moat known as ‘social media', which is in reality anything but social. Each side hunkers down behind their Facebook and Twitter accounts, lobbing the occasional verbal grenade from inside their heavily defended echo chambers. The media is equally guilty of such behavior with all of the disastrous consequences we are experiencing today.
In such a sheltered and bitter world, there is no chance for honest conversation among the people nor the media. Political debate has been reduced to short and snarky 280-character ripostes, while the walls between the two camps continue to grow higher. Those inside the media world, where subjective passions must take a backseat to objective reporting, should have resisted the temptation to take sides in the political debate. Instead, they now finds themselves serving as mere pawns on one or the other side of the great game. The public can see through the ridiculous charade, which only damages the credibility of the mainstream legacy media.
This dangerous new development, where the media and the people are split into parallel universes or alternative realities, each clinging to their own false narratives, can only end in disaster for America's great experiment in democracy.