News trustworthiness vs. ego reinforcement

Matt Classen is the Editor in Chief of Our Times
(Twitter:@mattclassen; Facebook: @ourtimes.matthewclassen)

Matt Classen, Editor in Chief, Our Times

Matt Classen, Editor in Chief, Our Times

While CNN and ABC News still maintain the largest audiences in the US, that does not necessarily mean that they are the most trusted. Of course, personal ideology plays a role in whether one trusts a media outlet or not. But where does across the board trust go where it concerns overall trust in particular media outlets? Look no further than two from Britain. According to a new study from Pew Research Center, the BBC and the Economist are trusted news outlets in the U.S. And which are the least trusted? The Rush Limbaugh Show and Buzzfeed, naturally.

More conservative news outlets, according to Pew Research Center, are less trustworthy as a whole within the mixed ideology crowd. Liberal news outlets like Mother Jones and ThinkProgress rank lower than the more business conservative media outlets, The Wall Street Journal. In fact, the WSJ is more trusted than the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Guardian.

pj_14.10.21_mediapolarization-01Interestingly, most Americans claim to get their news from local TV, Facebook and the news organizations with the biggest name recognition – CNN and Fox News. Whatever the case, where it concerns the active consumption of news, about politics and government, especially, both liberals and conservatives live on different planets. Whether discussing politics online or with friends, they are more likely than others to interact with like-minded individuals. This would seem to indicate that trustworthiness is not as important a factor as individual and collective ego reinforcement. This would also clearly indicate that the U.S. population gives its consent to living in a bubble where they are more easily propagandized to believe whatever they are told to believe. This also makes it impossible for legislators to carry on any sort of rational, facts-based discussion where it concerns policy when their constituents are so bitterly divided.

It boils down to this: whether we like it or not, news outlets have a vested interest in facilitating division within American society with false, yet ego reinforcing, information. As the research shows, whether a news outlet is the most believable or not is not nearly as important as attracting and maintaining attention based on ideology. After all, birds of a feather flock together and we all want to believe that our opinion is the correct one. This is well known by media companies and has led to tried and tested business models, most of which are for-profit organizations operating in an intensely competitive industry. While the most trusted news outlets may not play this game, as that is not their niche, other news outlets like Fox News and MSNBC will, and that makes any sort of civilized political and societal discourse impossible. The next two question that arise are A) who owns the ego-reinforcing media outlets and B) how are they being utilized to maintain vitriol at the expense of the collective interests of the vast majority of American society?  Much conjecture could enter the fray here. The main point is that there is a profit motive in sowing division in American society and it is each individual’s civic duty to see through it all.

While all the above will be self-evident to many reading this, to the vast majority it isn’t. This majority cannot be viewed as stupid or incapable of seeing through the veil, or that we live in a vast echo chamber where we hear exactly what we’re meant to hear. The first step for the majority is to realize that a veil exists in first place. For those who get this concept, and when interfacing with the majority, we need to keep a peaceful perspective. We need to see our neighbors and family members as human, and to gently help them, wherever possible, to see through the for-profit media game of individual and collective ego reinforcement. It’s the only real hope we have for transcending our current state of affairs to a more equitable, peaceful, evolved society. Sharing this article, and others like it, is a definite start.


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