When it comes to the media you consume, trust no-one, including yourself.
Let’s imagine for a moment a world without racism, homophobia and bigotry. It would be like switching off the 24 hour coverage of the fear-and-hatred Olympics that broadcasts on a daily basis. It’s a world that you are likely cultivating right now in your Facebook feed, mostly by weeding out the rancid opinions of those who post objectionable material or say fundamentally disagreeable things. You read all the negativity only through the filter of commentators baying for justice or crying, “how can this be?”
Here’s the rub. When we filter the behaviour of Donald Trump through The Daily Beast or laugh at the Daily Show or Stephen Colbert; you are caught in a self-made trap. Are you bewildered that a man like Donald Trump could be President of the USA? Surprised that Brexit happened? It might be a startling realisation, but when we curate our media consumption to reflect our own views (and by extension, our friends and their opinions) we can often get blindsided by reality.
1.) Be careful who you listen to
It’s a sword of Damocles to surround yourself only with the media we agree with. It is dangerous. I am reminded of Nelson Mandela’s studying of the Afrikaans language, not just the words, but its poetry and history. He knew the value of understanding the way your “enemy” thinks and sees the world. As I mentioned in The media of being right vs. winning, the very idea of enemy is transmuted through understanding. Even if Trump is beaten at the polls, the sentiment that has millions voting for him is not going away. I know that screening my social feed has undoubtedly made me deaf to the scale of the problem. No wonder I am bewildered that Trump has come so far.
2.) Feelings are not facts
We are entering an era where “facts” are easily found to fit whatever beliefs garner mass support, no matter how unfounded or outrageous; and the great BFL (Bare Faced Lie) is now considered fair play in the arsenal of media politics. Trump might be leading the fray in this (you can see the scale of the lying here), but he is certainly not the only one. When we can entertain creationism as a valid alternative to evolution we have lost the very notion of what evidence should look like. Check out this video, which has about 4 million views, if you really want to see the extent of the saying that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.
3.) Win at all costs, paints everything in stark black and white
The media is always on the attack, it doesn’t matter whether it’s inflation or crime or political scandal. The threat is made into a clear and present danger. Words that are used to describe acts of war, crimes against humanity or simply outrageous and inflammatory statements are headlines on a daily basis (the examples abound, but take for example this one, or take a moment to watch this campaign to try to curb the selling of hatred below)
And the more vitriolic the attack, the more stubborn the defence. Just take what is happening right now with Trump and his second amendment “solution” to Hillary. I recently read a number of articles from Republicans who point out that having painted the likes of Mitt Romney as evil incarnate, its hard to up the ante when we get to Donald Trump (this a good read for some of the issues around Trump’s rise). What is apparent in the media maelstrom is that both sides have cried wolf so many times, that even performing sacrifices of living children on national TV would not alienate their support base – or fuel more hatred for their detractors. We are, it seems, stuck at DEF CON 1.
We are out of expletives and saturated with repulsion, so how can you increase it? You can’t.
And that’s part of the problem. We have painted our enemies with such wickedness and hatred that only their complete destruction is a valid outcome. This is why rioters burn their own schools, why Brexiters tear apart their own economy, or why Bernie or Bust is even considered an option.