by Nicholas Moran ’19
Weeks of tension between the Trump administration and the press violently exploded on Friday, February 24 as Trump barred CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, and Buzzfeed from an “informal briefing.” As the news dominated headlines, President Trump poured gasoline on the already raging fire by ravaging these outlets on Twitter and at Conservatice Political Action Confrence. It began when Trump tweeted, “FAKE NEWS… @nytimes [and CNN have] become a joke,”calling them “the enemy of the American People!” As irresponsible as President Trump’s behavior is, it is not unique. Ultimately, it is another dangerous step in a trend on both sides of the aisle—partisan bubbles. Americans have been retreating into their ideological corners for 30 years, becoming increasingly extreme and vilifying anyone who disagrees with them. Liberals and conservatives can now craft their own reality on social media to fit their biases, no matter how false or horribly slanted they are.
All of this leaves free speech, open debate, and compromise—the very foundations of our democracy—in the dust. Do not fall into the trap; listen to other points of view and burst the bubble. Debate the other side, as vilifying and silencing opposing points of view is both un-American and solves nothing. With both sides hiding in their bubbles, partisanship has become increasingly extreme over the past 30 years. According to research reported by Amanda Taub of The New York Times, its pull is so strong it now “operat[es] more like racism or sexism… fueling negative or positive views on [other] people.” Whereas “a few decades ago… people’s feelings about their party and the opposing party were not too different,” now they view the other side as the devil. So much so that “people select relationships” based on whether someone leans right or left. Partisanship has suddenly become “a tribe to… [be] a part of,” and the other tribe needs to be crushed. Debate or compromise is impossible; your opponent is the enemy and untrustworthy.
In an atmosphere very much like Yankees and Mets fans arguing during the Subway Series, partisanship has turned debate in the media into a shouting match. For Rudy Giuliani and Sean Hannity in the conservative bubble, liberals upset with the Trump administration are not just concerned citizens who disagree with them. Giuliani describes them as “spoiled crybabies” having “a temper tantrum… [who need] tissues and hot cocoa” because they did not get their way. Even worse, evil reptiles from the “Washington, D.C. swamp [are] rising up” and are egging these “crybabies” on. Yet in the liberal bubble, the rhetoric is just as extreme and hateful. The 45.9 percent of Americans who voted Republican do not just disagree with Michael Moore, who says they are “legal terrorists” hell-bent on destroying our system. In fact, for Bill Maher, if you were still undecided on the election by October, it was because you were “comfortably dumb… [and] too stupid to pick Hillary.”
Worst of all, students at UC Berkeley refused to let the alternative right speak on their campus, resorting to rioting instead of debate. With both sides thinking the other is incompetent and evil, the future of our democracy is at risk. Suddenly, compromise is impossible according to researchers from The New York Times, compromise shows that you are “weak… and a bad member of the tribe.” Things that once would have been bi-partisan, like Russia’s involvement in our elections, are anything but. The GOP ignores it because it is “inconvenient” for their tribe and “Democrats are obviously motivated” because it hurts the enemy. Additionally, partisan bubbles could force politicians to become radical, as Pew Research shows both parties have slid farther towards their extreme wings since 1994. And worst of all, it fuels fake news. Now both sides have “wildly different sets of [sometimes false] facts,” making any sort of agreement impossible. All that is left are two sides endlessly bickering with one another, accomplishing nothing.
Yet there is a way to escape this fate. Understand that disagreement is a sign of a healthy society. Having opposing views does not make the other side evil. Do not leave yourself trapped in an echo-chamber of people who agree with you; burst the bubble and stop this downward spiral.