Alternate Realities: The State of the Union versus The State of the Media

By | 2019-02-14T20:36:55-07:00 February 14th, 2019|
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Is there a starker contrast than that between the upbeat message of hope and pride in America’s past, present, and future delivered by President Trump in the recent State of the Union, and the constant drumbeat of crisis, “chaos,” outrage, and bigotry portrayed by the mainstream media? Truly, it seems that Americans on the left and on the right now occupy “alternate realities,” and those of us on the right can only pity the Left their self-induced (but media-abetted) culture of doom, aggrievement, and vilification.

Consider the vast catalog of American achievements proffered by the president in the State of the Union: from rock-bottom unemployment figures, to inspirational historical triumphs like the defeat of fascism in World War II and the moon landings; from record-setting reductions in government regulation, to the removal of hundreds of thousands of criminal illegal aliens from American streets; from a new determination to reject trade manipulation and intellectual property theft by countries like China, to the rejuvenation of the American manufacturing sector; from the obliteration of ISIS, to the fragile new detente with North Korea; from the increased representation of women and minorities in almost every walk of life, to the abolition of the dreaded “Obamacare mandate” and falling prescription drug costs.

And there are innumerable other signs of hope and renewed American strength that the President failed to mention: reductions in pollution and carbon emissions; a long-term decline in rates of violent crime; falling numbers of abortions; greater life expectancy and improved health outcomes, especially for seniors; an information revolution of unprecedented scope; and much more. There are, in fact, far too many American success stories to list here.

As President Trump declared, in America, “We do the incredible. We defy the impossible. We conquer the unknown.” And, for this reason, “Our biggest victories are still to come.” No wonder those who tuned in to watch President Trump’s masterful speech were overwhelmingly impressed and reassured.

Compare this narrative of past achievement and endless possibilities for the future with the dark, self-pitying narrative favored by the mainstream media, imbibed as it is in vast, profoundly unhealthy quantities by liberal Americans. In this alternate reality, Trump is the greatest tyrant of all time (never mind that the worst thing he’s done to most of his critics is to lower their taxes). The planet will be soon be unlivable. America’s alliances are “crumbling.” All members of the Trump family are ghoulish marionettes operated by Russian handlers. Racism and sexism are rampant (forget that they have never been less commonplace, except on the PC fringe where hatred of white males is becoming mainstreamed). Wealth is hoarded by greedy capitalists, while ordinary Americans sink into poverty and desperation (in fact, modern-day Americans suffer more from material—and dietary—abundance than they do from want and hunger). Sexually aggressive men, needless to say, besiege womankind, necessitating a new, more abbreviated standard of justice: “If she says it, then it must be true.” Children are in “cages,” and polar bears are but skin and bones. Little wonder that, in this world of hurt, many liberals believe that their only solace lies in smoking (recently legalized!) marijuana and watching Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert crack jokes as Rome burns.

Lest anyone imagine that this portrait of leftist paranoia is overdrawn, consider the facts: As of July 2018, the gap between Republicans and Democrats who were “extremely proud” to be Americans had widened to an unprecedented chasm of 42 points (74 percent versus 32 percent). In a recent Economist/YouGov poll, only six percent of Democrats viewed America as “generally headed in the right direction.” Six percent!!!

This rabid pessimism, undergirded by Trump Derangement Syndrome, is fostered by equally unprecedented levels of media bias. A study by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy found that, even in the “honeymoon” period of Trump’s first 100 days in office, he received unheard-of levels of negative attention from major news outlets, and made history in the sense that coverage of his administration was negative in all policy areas. The study found that CNN, NBC, and CBS covered President Trump negatively more than 90 percent of the time. Liberals’ severe anxiety can hardly come as a surprise, therefore, given this maniacal Trump-hatred in newsrooms, and considering that Trump dominates news coverage as a whole (one study showed that he receives three times as much airtime as President Obama did). According to the Media Research Center, by 2018 the three major networks were covering Trump even less charitably than before: now 92 percent of their coverage was negative. They accomplished this feat partly by droning on about Trump-Russia “collusion,” and covering the robust economy less than 1 percent of the time. Even Fox reflects the media’s anti-Trump bias to a point: its Trump coverage achieves rough parity between positivity and negativity, belying Fox’s reputation as slavishly conservative.

But surely the online news media is a bastion of right-wing commentary, right? Not so fast. A 2017 Politico study determined that around 90 percent of “all internet publishing employees work in a county where Clinton won” in 2016. To put it another way, even emerging digital media giants are concentrated in heavily blue, urban/coastal areas where liberalism holds sway, and “Trump” is a dirty word.

The sad part is that local and regional journalism, which is often more detached and responsible, is still tainted by its association with the left-leaning elite media. At all levels of the modern media, however, conservatives and Republicans are increasingly rare, as long-term studies have confirmed.

The takeaway is that, more and more, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, and—yes—journalists and ordinary Americans, live in alternate realities. They understand the world around them, and process its moral lessons, in dramatically different ways.

For all the left-wing doom-saying, however, the central message of President Trump’s State of the Union address remains overwhelmingly compelling to most Americans: life in America is good, and it is only getting better. Why, then, are liberals, Democrats, and journalists unable to see or acknowledge this? Ultimately, this is more a question for philosophers and psychotherapists than it is for politicians and talking heads. In life, after all, we see, generally speaking, what we want to see. Liberals, apparently, want to see the world hurtling towards a fiery, hate-fueled apocalypse. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We can only hope that leftists, and their naïve victims—those who consume the bitter fruits of mainstream journalism—will soon awake from their long nightmare. When they do, they will find that the real world is far more congenial than the dark fantasies that long have tormented them.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

About the Author:

Nicholas L. Waddy
Nicholas L. Waddy, an associate professor of history at SUNY Alfred, blogs at www.waddyisright.com.