President Obama makes some insightful comments in this piece about the toxic interaction between saturation political media and the terrible quality of the presidential campaign.
He definitely misspoke here, however:
“Some people are just watching Fox News; some people are just reading the New York Times,” Obama said in January during a YouTube interview...“They almost occupy two different realities in terms of how they see the world.”
No question, these two outlets provide different views of the world, but one must be careful not to be drawn to the mushy muddle of false equivalence. The “terms” by which the NYT “see[s] the world” are much less ideological and more fact-based than those of Fox News. Yes, the Times editorial page has an unabashed liberal ideology, but there, too, the arguments are invariably rooted in fact.
There’s also little equivalence between the D and R candidates in this context (to be clear, the article does not suggest that there is). Though every candidate from time immemorial will bend, if not break, the facts, Clinton and Sanders have of course been far more substantive and accurate than their counterparts in the other party.
As far as the role of the media, surely part of what’s going on is in the age of social media, with such deep outlet proliferation, there’s a huge collective action problem that wasn’t there before. The tonier outlets might well be happy not to get into the mud where Trump et al. are most comfortable. But let us not forget that these folks are in the eyeballs biz, and if everyone else is talking about what’s deep in the mud, they can’t afford not to.
The only way to solve collective action problems of this magnitude is through collective agreement on the supply side, which of course would be impossible if not un-Constitutional. The only answer is then on the demand side. Perhaps when enough of us become disgusted enough by the quality of debate to eschew the messengers, those messengers will lift their games.
[I loved the reference to the late Robin Toner at the end of the piece. I’ve missed her calm, sage voice for years, but never more than now.]