Part II: Why Are Today’s Politics So Awful?

“Why are today’s politics so awful?” There are several reasons, many of which will be explored in this four-part series. In a nutshell (pun intended), the Communications Revolution has enormously contributed to the belief politics is more awful than ever due to its impact upon the public, the media, the politicians, and the country. Last weekend, we looked at the public. Today, we examine the media.

Throughout American history new communication technologies have impacted politics. Pamphleteering was an early tool for advancing one’s position on public issues, such as the Federalist Papers, or promoting or assailing political candidates. Later, the advent of newspapers led Martin “the Little Magician” Van Buren, to harness the new communication technology to the Democratic Party and, particularly, Andrew Jackson. Later still, FDR mastered radio and commanded the airwaves through his fireside chats; and JFK was tailor made for the medium of television – just ask Richard Nixon. Today, the Communications Revolution has also led to efforts to harness the social media to political candidates and causes; and to harness the technology itself through censorship.

How could our country’s erstwhile champions of the First Amendment and transparency, the traditional media, abide the censorship of social media by the federal government – be it in-house and/or outsourced to Big Tech and others to circumvent its constitutional proscription? It is because the Communication Revolution’s democratization of information has slashed the traditional media’s profits and broken its hold on public opinion.

Simply, social media is a competitor to the traditional media.  While the traditional media scrambles for ways to monetize its operations in cyber-space, its social media competitor seems to be winning. In some ways, this is due to social media start-ups as being spawned by the communication revolution, whereas the traditional media has had to adapt its long established, ingrained ethos and operations to the radically changed landscape. Traditional media outlets are reducing staffs, which erodes journalistic expertise and ethics, which then diminishes viewers, readers, and subscribers. It is the vicious circle of a failing profession. Consequently, the traditional media is doing what every struggling industry does – it looks to the government for a handout and the erection of market barriers to prevent competition.

The consequences are evident. Newsrooms are being increasingly staffed by Left-wing indoctrinated youth who possess little, if any, actual knowledge of the area they are covering. Ideology and the party line is all that matters. Thus, playing only to a segment of the audience is of no concern, which allows their Leftist biases to manifest themselves in their reporting. In fact, it is a plus when the Leftist political party in power is promising a handout.

The Leftist apologia for this, the ironically named “accountability journalism,” also renders this triumph of Leftist ideology over objectivity a badge of honor for journalists, and burnishes their personal “brand.” This latter is the alleged journalists’ overarching aim, because it facilitates the clicks needed to increase their prominence, pay, and professional opportunities. (The Soviets got the cruel joke of “accountability journalism,” when they named their communist state media organ Pravda – i.e., “the truth.”)

The competition for breaking news is paramount and accuracy an increasingly irrelevant consideration. Combined with the compaction of time caused by the internet, the competition with social media, the prospects for a government bailout, and their paltry knowledge of their subjects, in the reporter-source relationship it is the government “source” that becomes the dominant partner.

One reason is practical: citing a government source provided (or used to provide) a veneer of credibility to a story, however inaccurate; and, ergo, over time reduced the number of sources required to be cited. This facilitated the speed of the “bombshell” report getting to the public, though it often reduced the story’s accuracy – if any. Often, it was deliberate disinformation leaked by the government source to achieve a political objective. What could the reporter do? They could drop the source, but that rarely happens. After all, the government source can find another journalist’s mouth to spoon feed more easily than a reporter can find another government source.

Besides, there is no accountability for a reporter’s practicing “accountability journalism.” Indeed, if the disinformation is in service of the left-wing political objectives, their industry’s approbation and highest awards await, regardless of the “bombshell” report’s accuracy. Over time, not only do many reporters become indifferent to being played by the government source, they welcome it due to their like-minded politics and the professional benefits to be reaped.

Simultaneously, traditional media colludes with their Leftist government cohorts to censor and mute its social media competitors. A prime reason the traditional media promotes “cancel culture” is to silence the content creators of their social media competition. For instance, the knowing, willful, and deliberate censorship as disinformation regarding the New York Post’s report about Hunter Biden’s laptop, and the smearing of social media outlets and individuals who tried to bring the truth to light.

Thus do the government, the journalist and their media outlet become co-conspirators in sacrificing objective truth in the service of a subjective Leftist narrative. It is accountability journalism’s ultimate triumph: the “noble lie” for the common good. It is how the Democrats’ years long, abject lie of “Russia-gate” was not debunked, but rather promoted by the media, because Trump had to be defeated at all costs – including at the cost of the truth.

Traditional media (and some social media) have voluntarily jettisoned its freedom of the press and tethered itself to government, all to profit from its proximity and obeisance to Leftist ideology and politicians. Tragically, this is how journalists devolve into apparatchiks. Free speech and a free press are indispensable pillars of our free republic. This is not lost upon the public – but neither is the fact the media has abnegating its necessary role as “democracy’s watchdog,” willfully failing to hold all politicians accountable and help compel transparency in government. It is why poll after poll show Americans’ trust in the media devolving to historically low levels.

It is also a reason for the rise in political news consumers turning to outlets that will cement their “confirmation bias.” Once more, it is “back to the future.” Akin to 19th Century, newspapers expressing their political allegiance in their banners, traditional and social media make few bones about which segment of the political spectrum they are targeting. Similarly, despite their pretensions to the contrary, what are so many social media sites and their “journalists” but cyber-space pamphleteers, appealing to the existing biases of their prospective audiences?

In consequence, traditional and social media business models allow the public to self-select which opinion and “facts” will most align with what they already believe to be true. Objectivity is challenging for both the news media and the news consumer; confirmation bias is believed to be a boon for both, allowing for the survival of the outlet and the consumer’s opinions. Erecting a self-contained environment of facts and opinions tailored to one sliver of the political spectrum, the current media creates an echo chamber among their audience. Viewing only deliberately slanted “news” outlets, and generally talking only among each other (when not assailing political opponents), and constantly having the certainty of their convictions being cemented (for the like-minded outlet’s profits), the result is today’s state of politics: self-segregating, self-righteous warring tribes who, bombarded by pre-packaged, Manichean ideology that exults their side and denigrates the other, lack the curiosity and humility required to see their opponents as fellow frail, flawed human beings.

This is not lost upon a group who might conceivably be able to lower the country’s political temperature. Indeed, this group is not shy about professing their intention to do so. Yet, to the disappointment of the most gullible amongst us, such is not the overarching aim of the machinations conducted by this wily gaggle of actors –

The Politicians.

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012, and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars; and a Monday co-host of the “John Batchelor Radio Show,” among sundry media appearances.

Get the news corporate media won't tell you.

Get caught up on today's must read stores!

By submitting your information, you agree to receive exclusive AG+ content, including special promotions, and agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms. By providing your phone number and checking the box to opt in, you are consenting to receive recurring SMS/MMS messages, including automated texts, to that number from my short code. Msg & data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to end. SMS opt-in will not be sold, rented, or shared.

About Thaddeus G. McCotter

An American Greatness contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003 to 2012 and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars, and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Show" among sundry media appearances.

Photo: US President Joe Biden speaks during the annual Tribal Nations Summit at the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. Biden signed an executive order intended to make it easier for Native American tribes across the US to secure federal funding. Photographer: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images