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Editorial: A political atmosphere of distrust

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | MARCH 31, 2015 5:00 AM

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a threat to the United States? Your answer would likely consist of fears from terrorist groups such as ISIS, or perhaps you would mention leaders from countries who have shown their distaste for American foreign policy — Russian President Vladimir Putin might be somewhere toward the top alongside Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

But it wasn’t Putin or Assad whom Republicans voters feared as much as another world leader. According to a Reuters online poll, it’s our own president — Barack Obama —  whom they viewed as the more imminent threat, with 34 percent of those voting saying his presence poses the biggest threat.

Of course, while terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS polled much higher than the current U.S. president (43 percent and 58 percent, respectively) it is still quite jarring to see the name of our own president toward the top of a list of potential threats to America.

Here lies the deeper issue of the world of American politics. A considerable number of Americans criticize a gridlocked Congress for not working together to pass needed legislation while simultaneously clinging to a one-sided political agenda at home, refusing to acknowledge or even trust those with opposing viewpoints. Also in the Reuters polling, 27 percent of Republicans view Democrats as a threat, and 22 percent of Democrats view Republicans as one.

Partisan members of both parties who view the world as black and white, good guys versus bad guys, who’s right and who’s wrong — these folks live in a dream world that is further justified by news networks. It isn’t the people themselves to blame. People are taught what to believe by their parents, who were taught by their parents, and so on. But thoughts, ideas, beliefs systems, can easily be perpetuated even further by behind the TV screen. It’s the mainstream media that are to blame for the fearmongering that exists.

Today more than ever this is the case with cable news networks in the United States by both industry leaders in Fox News and CNN. Both networks were founded by media moguls with their own political ideologies. A right-wing Rupert Murdoch created the standard at Fox News and a left-leaning Ted Turner developed the model at CNN. These channels have preserved their politics to appeal to their respective viewership.

Even though Fox has reigned at the top of the cable-news circuit in ratings for more than 150 consecutive months, its viewership has still fallen, as has that of CNN and MSNBC, which exchange blows monthly for the No. 2 spot in the commercial news category. How do these news outlets increase a viewership that is quickly declining?

They discuss the negative. They discuss the scandals. What’s up with Obama’s birth certificate? Where are Hillary Rodham Clinton’s private emails? And did you know that Ted Cruz is actually Canadian, eh? The focus on these “scandals,” which usually end up being blown out of all reasonable proportion, leads to a political atmosphere in which the prevailing attitude is distrust. When a third of one party thinks the president of an opposing party is an imminent threat to the country, there’s not much room in their heads for compromise.


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