Our View | Polarization of America: Good TV, Bad for Reality

By The Signal Editorial Board

The well has been poisoned, and we’ve come to conclude it’s no accident. We are witnessing the polarization of America — for profit. 

Think about who gains from it: Some politicians, of course. But who really profits from America’s inability to have a civilized conversation?

The national media, and in particular, cable news networks and social media platforms. That’s who.

Yelling at each other and insulting each other and tearing each other down — it’s great theater. It’s good TV. It makes for wildly entertaining threads on social media, where the ability to attract eyeballs equals the ability to profit from online advertising.

It’s bad for America.

And, it’s not a “right or left” issue. Obviously, much of the focus is on President Trump, whose rhetoric is pro-America yet highly divisive. But this problem is bigger than any one person, even the president. Both extremes of the political spectrum are guilty of bad behavior, as are the media outlets that cultivate discord.

Make no mistake — when there’s an opportunity to pit people against each other over something the president or his critics have said, the national media eats it up like candy, and it’s not limited to one side or the other. Just as CNN fans the flames of discord for ratings and profit, so does FOX.

It’s to the point where there’s no room for respectful disagreement. Everyone wants to be heard, but no one is willing to listen. If you don’t march in lock-step with the left or the right, they will shout you down, distort your views, engage in intimidation and, in extreme circumstances, will even resort to violence.

Worse, we’re teaching the younger generations that this is how it’s done.

America needs to learn how to once again disagree, agreeably. Remember leaders like John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan? They unified, with positivity, not insults.

Our national media need to learn how to reward that kind of behavior, rather than the inflammatory behavior they are rewarding now.

Something has to change, because the current environment is literally tearing America apart. In a 2017 Reuters poll, 16.4 percent of respondents said they had stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of political disagreement.

More than 17 percent had blocked a family member or close friend from their social media accounts, and 13.4 percent said they had ended a relationship with a family member or close friend.

Literally, families have been torn apart — and it’s a safe bet that those percentages have increased in the past year.

On a national level and on a local one, we need to bring the conversation back to the high road. Collectively, we all need to be more tolerant of opposing viewpoints, and make more of an effort to understand where the other side is coming from. That’s not to say we can’t disagree, but we accomplish a lot more with persuasive positivity, without tearing each other down.

It can start locally. As the Nov. 6 election approaches, these are the qualities we will be looking for in the candidates seeking to represent the Santa Clarita Valley and its residents. 

This post was last modified on August 24, 2018, 1:06 pm

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