It’s an election year here in the US which elicits all sorts of emotion and tip-toeing. We all seek to more than likely confirm the decision that we have already made and find the evidence to support it in a conversation.
The majority of Americans have already made up their minds about the candidates, often feeling the remorse of choosing in a binary decision between the least-worst and some of us wondering ‘is this really the best we can come up with?’
At least that’s how I feel about it.
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Our media will cater to this reality with overly simplistic and juvenile coverage supporting an already well-defined world view, or increasingly neighborhood view (or just in the mirror view) since that’s what’s good for business – clicks and pageviews – if not for education or intellect or Dog forbid, democracy.
So in an election year I have realized that the regular news sources that we rely on for local news and what the Dow has done just don’t cut it. These sources have become, well, entertainment – hardly able any longer to hold their noses up against The Sun or The Inquirer.
Their editorial slants so narrowed over time by algorithms like that Pandora playlist that after so many thumbs-ups and thumbs-downs just plays the same song over and over.
And speaking of algorithms, clearly at this point that Google feed knows what you will click and what you won’t and just feeds you reaffirming garbage over and over as well.
So over the last four years since the last election we’ve all narrowed our inputs to match our current thoughts in a self-reinforcing cycle of information that is completely devoid of disagreement, analysis, or the 10,000 foot big picture views or even just a touch of empathy that people may disagree without being evil or stupid.
I’ve found that in these times that my subscription to The Economist has lapsed, the inevitable conclusion of wondering why I have no one to talk to about all of the information I have gathered – about that upcoming election in Sri Lanka or that bit of unrest in Papua New Guinea.
The stacks of the weekly influx piling up on my coffee table, often unread but letting everyone who comes over (or used to come over) know that ‘Hey! I’m smart and worldly!’
But there’s an aspect to reading The Economist that I come to miss, and I am crucially reminded of it as we approach our most important and solemn duty of voting for President of the United States – an outside opinion that acknowledges there are two sides to every story, that things are a trade-off, and compromises must be made in an imperfect world.
Now, The Economist has a world-view, and one that is increasingly under fire and in fact, the dismissal of this world view is exactly what put Donald Trump in office. So it’s best to openly admit this right up front.
Globalization has become a bad word, the voices and votes of those left behind by it increasingly becoming louder in an angry and divided world.
The Economist is an unabashed supporter of globalization, but unlike any other major news outlet stories will acknowledge that there have been losers.
Statistically they will point to the millions lifted out of poverty in the last couple of decades as economic walls have come down and the world has become more interconnected. But the people here in the US (and plenty of other places) who have lost their jobs don’t care about that.
My point here is not to argue for or against globalization. It’s to argue that more of the news, especially political news, should sound like an Econmist article in this regard:
‘We wish the US would do this… but understand that it is difficult to do so for these reasons…’
Or you may also read something like:
‘Despite the incalculable benefits of this… it is clear that the constituency here will be worse off and understandably will seek to protect their interests.’
Impartial, no. There is a view, an opinion – which can of course be debated – stated about what this editorial board thinks would be the right path to take for a long term benefit.
The fact that they present their argument and back it up often too complex and detailed for general consumption. Where’s the click bait and Top 10 lists?
If you’re getting your information from BuzzFeed, well, you aren’t informed.
I’ll be renewing my subscription to the Economist soon (Update: Done). Do I already know who I’m voting for? Probably. Is there any chance I’ll be changing? Zero chance.
So why worry about being informed, getting an outsider’s view, one that has a side, but argues with facts and concessions that acknowledge the complications of the real world?
Well, my own news feeds have narrowed, and despite any preconceived notion of openmindedness, you are what you eat. I feel myself becoming unhealthy, obese on a a diet of junk news – the fast food laziness of someone who won’t cook their own meals.
Another American epidemic perhaps. Information obesity – all junk food, processed into tidbits for us so we can eat in front of the TV (with a dollop of high fructose corn syrup to help it all go down).
Reading Economist articles is like that kale smoothie you know you need, a blast of fiber to the system, unclogging the stuck bits of biased, one sided articles and cleansing the system while adding the nutrition you need to jumpstart your internal debate again.
Do I agree with this? It’s offering an argument while acknowledging the trials and realities of the other side!
Under fire from a world view that’s under attack, I expect Economist articles to have a new tone, less defiance than we expect on our news outlets when someone disagrees, and more compassion and understanding, yet presenting arguments, well researched, to back them up.
This information will be new and fresh and welcome. It’s good for me, and perhaps it’s my duty.