Political ignorance illustration

(Arianne Haban / Daily Titan)

American citizens have always relied on mass media to educate them on newsworthy events regarding politics and government. This dependence on TV, newspapers and radio has grown into a monster — feeding on the uninformed and easily persuaded who continue to fall prey to an outlet's agenda.

The role of newspapers seems to become less vital in people's daily lives due to the rise of social media and agitation propaganda from television news organizations. Yet, even with the evolution of social media into a distorted news platform, the impact of agenda-setting from news organizations to generate revenue has done damage beyond repair.

It has become commonplace across broadcast media outlets to prefer punditry in place of unbiased reporting of a political event, because objectivity is not what people want to see. 

Whenever there is a perceived blunder regarding a prominent political figure, it is expected to be covered by an alleged expert who shares their hot take to people seeking enlightenment.

The problem with this lazy form of reporting is that people are often given information without much context. In comparison, newspapers and other printed formats have more room for contextualization. 

The attention span for those watching their news hinges on outrageous headlines and controversial statements to attract viewers.

A masterclass example of this comes from mainstream network giant Fox News, particularly from shows like "Tucker Carlson Tonight." Tucker Carlson, a right-wing political commentator, drew infamy from his provocative commentary covering current events, hot culture war issues and other right-wing talking points propagated on the network.

As the host of the highest-rated show on cable, Carlson's prime-time slot at 8 p.m. has earned the loyalty of his 3 million viewers night in and night out. He cleverly angles his show by asking questions that Americans who tune in should ask, regardless of the legitimacy or implications of the questions. 

Carlson has been subject to legal trouble, but the irony could not be more apparent toward the defense of his show. 

After being sued for his anti-immigrant rhetoric and racist implications made on the program, the case essentially evaporated after U.S. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil agreed with the defense of Fox's lawyers.

"Fox persuasively argues, that given Mr. Carlson's reputation, any reasonable viewer 'arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism' about the statement he makes," Vyskocil wrote in the court ruling involving Carlson. The Trump-appointed judge gave broadcast media a pass to continue agenda-setting and altering public opinion on not only what is newsworthy but what is a fact.

A more horrendous example of broadcast media taking full advantage of public ignorance is coverage regarding Afghanistan. Following the removal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, signaling the end of a 20-year war that was disastrous and unwinnable for the U.S., networks were quick to find reactionary voices assigning blame to President Biden for the images broadcasted nationwide.

Dodging fair and concise political coverage in favor of irrational reactions from pundits is flat out inexcusable, considering that The Washington Post had exposed the pointlessness of war efforts, corruption in Afghanistan and the number of lives lost in "The Afghanistan Papers" released in 2019.

Admittedly, not all coverage surrounding Afghanistan was outright bad. CNN's Clarissa Ward had excellent coverage on the ground while Americans were being evacuated. Ward even challenged a Taliban fighter as Kabul was being taken over, questioning women's rights under the Taliban's regime.

While Ward's bravery and reporting deserve nothing but praise, examples of this are few and far between. As soon as the opportunity allows for a commentator to share his opinion on air, slots for trustworthy journalism become scarce.

Unfortunately, the current business model behind the success of broadcast media has driven networks to prioritize profit over everything else. While not a new dilemma, people unaware of what motivates news broadcasts end up suffering because of it.

Consuming current newsworthy stories via television is meant to be anecdotal, but reliance on such media has created a delusional sense of politics in America.

Even if ingesting political news can be difficult without understanding nuance or not knowing the context, people should always be skeptical about reporting shown on a TV screen.

Before picking up a control to see what's going on, perhaps picking up a phone, tablet or laptop would better suffice one’s needs for reporting on current events, especially when politics are concerned.

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