I read David Carr’s brilliant piece, “It’s Not Just Political Districts. Our News is Gerrymandered, Too,” the other day.
Mr. Carr is smart and writes well.
His claim — that we tend to limit our reading of current events to a small number of sources that reflect our political views, which means there’s no chance for us to develop empathy for folks who disagree with us — is nothing new.
But it’s scary nonetheless.
(Yes, I read Mr. Carr’s piece in the New York Times, which I read every day. No, I don’t read the Wall Street Journal or the Washington Times every day.)
And that’s a problem, says Mr. Carr. From his article:
Unless you make a conscious effort to diversify your feeds, what you see in your social media stream is often a reflection, even amplification, of what you already believe. It’s a choir that preaches to itself.
The problem gets worse if you consider the amplification of the Internet. If you’re like me and get some of your news via a content aggregator (e.g., Twitter or an RSS reader), your filter becomes even more refined. You wake up, check your regular sites, and messages you already agree with get streamed into you like an IV.
A couple years ago, I thought that maybe I should do something about this problem. My idea was to provide a service that presented high-quality articles on current events topics, side by side. If you identified as a liberal, for instance, and thought that the Tea Party was the cause of everything bad in America, you’d get articles from The American Spectator to read. The same would be true the other way around. The point was to broaden the conversation.
Most of my friends said it was a horrible idea. “Mark, nobody wants to read what dumb people think,” one said.
So what is the answer, then? Do we just keep complaining, in a polarizing way, about how polarizing our lawmakers are? Once we believe what we believe in, is that it? If that’s true, what’s the point of reading the news, anyway?
Ah, a four-question-in-a-row conclusion. (Please share your thoughts.)