The America portrayed on the evening news is unrecognizable to most Americans.
Rather than reflecting the realities of a complex and dynamic nation, the national news media seems to treat real events as little more than a Rorschach test for measuring what the political activists think is going on. Then, in solemn tones, the television presenters pass on the absurd interpretations that become a national narrative.
In TV-Newsland, America is presented as a hopelessly divided nation where hate-filled people battle over how they can get the government to give them what they want. Extremists of all political persuasions are presented as reflecting the real views of everyday Americans. It’s a scary world in which every symbolic event can be used to demonstrate that most Americans are stupid, racist, socialist or whatever other condescending view the elites wish to project.
I recognize, of course, that there’s an audience for this sort of thing. Conflict sells and that’s true whether it’s Survivor, the Bachelorette, or national politics. There’s nothing wrong with entertainment executives putting on shows that draw good ratings. But it is a great disservice to the nation to equate what happens on the nightly news to what is happening in America.
More than 90% of Americans don’t watch the evening news and experience an entirely different America. It’s an America where most people want to work hard, play hard, take care of their families, help their neighbors, and do what they can to make their corner of the world a little bit better. When someone falls on hard times, others look for ways to help out.
In this real version of America, there are 63 million community volunteers, 27 million entrepreneurs, and tens of millions of others who serve their community in different ways. Rather than begging for a dysfunctional political system to bail them out, the vast majority of Americans recognize that these community servants are the people who can actually get things done and solve the problems before us.
These Americans are more pragmatic than ideological and Instinctively committed to our founding ideals of freedom, equality, and self-governance. They are united by a belief that all of us have the right to live our lives as we see fit so long as we don’t interfere with the rights of others to do the same. Because they see it working all around them, they celebrate the fact that we create a better world by using our freedom to work together in community.
This America is not obsessed with extremists and their battles. They are also not obsessed with the petty partisan political battles than consume official Washington. Many might see those phrases as redundant, since politics in DC often seems like little more than a platform for extremists to fight their battles.
In pointing out the differences between America and the TV-Newsland version of America, I am not suggesting that the national evening news programs need to change their ways. They have found a formula that serves their niche audience and that’s what entertainment companies do. What I am suggesting, however, is that we need to look elsewhere if we want to understand what’s going on in America.