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Let’s Fix America: Why Does Everything Seem To Suck So Much Right Now?

Is America more polarized than ever? A Pew study from earlier this summer found, according to PBS Newshour, that “American adults are less likely to compromise and often decide where to live, who to marry and who their friends should be based on what they already believe.” Yet, how did we get here?

Thirteen years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on 9/11/2001, America was united in fear and hope that things were not going to be as bad as they seemed. Yet, slightly more than a decade later, folks on Red Team and the Blue Team won’t even eat the same crappy fast food.

This subject was discussed on the fall opener for HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, as noted by Mediaite.com, in an ultimately ironic segment. The host railed about the role the media has had in polarization, but Real Time is running an experiment in which they are trying to “flip a district” with a targeted media campaign to unseat Rep. John Kline of Minnesota and help his Democratic challenger win the election.

In fairness, the Real Time project is meant to highlight the problems inherent in gerrymandering, but deserves a mention when talking about polarized media. Naturally, Bill Maher blames the hyper-partisan nature of the national conversation on Fox News, and he’s not entirely wrong.

Because Fox News has been a consistent winner in the ratings, other media has tried to emulate it – with everything from the inclusion of argumentative panel segments in most “news” shows to the ubiquitous newsticker at the bottom of the screen a mainstay in cable news started by Fox on 9/11. However, one can’t blame Fox or other the cable channels for doing what their audience appear to want.

On this very site, news stories about the issues of the day (such as climate change or any bit of policy coverage) are always buried in the stats under stories featuring Republicans (not always elected officials or even popular conservative spokespeople) saying terrible things. The debate is not substantive because the audience only rewards the extreme viewpoint.

Put another way, we are all culpable for the embarrassing state of democracy in America today. The politicians and elected officials are to blame for playing lowest-common-denominator politics. We in the media are to blame for not making the important stories more interesting and as entertaining as the latest nonsense from the World Net Daily. And you, my dearest readers, are also to blame for not forcing all of us to be better.

So what do we do? Check back tomorrow and the rest of the week for the answer. And this is not an already-written plan, it’s live and fluid. So if you have any gripes, thoughts, suggestions, or rebuttals, post them in the comments below!


Photo by Beverly via Flickr Creative Commons

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.