I watched FOX news this morning because I had to. (Sorry, Honey, I was at the diner without you…). My first thought: What a shrill bunch of negative voices. Youch! Complain about the President, complain about the President, focus on one thing he said, taken out of context : “We don’t have a military strategy regarding ISIS/ISIL yet” became “the President doesn’t have any ideas on how to deal with the terrorist threat”. Next it was, “The President said he didn’t have one yet. Why not? ISIS has been around since January. It’s August!” Then Oliver North came on and said, “The President’s lack of vision is tantamount to neglect”. Afterwards, Karl Rove came on and berated Obama’s “lack of vision” one more time. Oy vay! How many ways can you say, “We don’t like the guy”?
I thought to myself, “I wonder if this is what my conservative friends feel like when they’re watching the regular news, with its supposed ‘liberal bias'”. Then I thought about it and the regular network news never stays on one story long enough to do this. Then I thought some more and I realized that there was so much opinion being presented among the news, no wonder Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have so many clips to work with. Further, I can see people thinking MSNBC is as shrill as FOX, because it definitely does have a liberal bias, but my experience of MSNBC is that they do stories longer and opinion pieces longer than FOX does in the morning. FOX’s approach is three of the things I hate about commercial TV: it is shrill, repetitious, and fast-paced. It’s the kind of thing that makes a really irritating commercial stay in your head — it screams, repeats, comes at you quickly. Still, some people get their news from there.
The next thing, though, absolutely fascinated me. Some British or Australian man came on, announcing a special he’s doing based in the following facts: There’s a report coming out of somewhere which says “more than 50% or 75% of Americans receive some form of benefits from the government”. They compared this to a period (20 years?) ago in which 25 or 35% of Americans collected benefits from the government”. Their take on these statistics is: Americans are getting lazier, living off the dole, “like in Europe”, and moving towards socialism because … bad Obama. A woman came on to say, “when these programs first started, they were a hand up in crisis, now people are just accepting them”. She went on to say, “Some people have figured out that they can make $20.00 minimum wage this way, rather than $7.50 minimum wage at some retail place and work their way up the system to a good paying (real) job”.
Without bothering to really question the statistics/facts, I could easily see the same information presented this way from a liberal view: “Government benefits are important, because people need them to live. More people need them to live on because there are fewer good paying jobs out there. For instance, unemployment benefits are extended because there are no jobs out there. It costs more than $7.50 an hour to live these days, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting less of the pie. It costs $20.00 an hour for 40 hours to live in most places these days. Since companies don’t give benefits anymore, they don’t have insurance, so the government needs to give them that, as well.
Same experiences, same statistics, totally different narrative of what it means. How did we get here? How did we, as a country, get to such diverse opinions — and such conflict over them? What does it mean of we believe either of the versions? Is there some sort of middle ground?
I don’t know what to think about it this twin narrative/separate view thing. I welcome opinions here, but probably will not respond to them until I have figured out what it all means.
What do I know? People need to eat, have clothes, and have places to live. They also need to find meaning in life and most frequently that means in work. They deserve to be treated with respect. They deserve justice if they have problems. I believe, with all my heart, that institutions and ideas should support people, not the other way around. Any ideology that deals with that deserves to be heard.