Richards: Blind acceptance of mainstream media is dangerous

Jason Richards, Staff Columnist

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Americans have been desensitized by dishonesty. We appear to be content with settling for what we want to hear rather than what we need to hear. Objectivity has been categorically replaced with “alternative facts,” or ones that we choose to accept rather than ones that exist in reality. In this era, emotion rules over logic. That characteristic is what truly highlights the current Trump administration.

Look no further than how James Comey, former director of the FBI, was treated. For years, Comey has been the target of the Trump administration in their attempts to destroy his credibility to curry favor with their supporters. Comey, who led the investigation into Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, was fired in May on the grounds of mishandling the investigation into Hilary Clinton’s 2016 email scandal. However, just a few weeks ago, a judicial report was released on Comey. Although it condemned him for irresponsible practices that set bad precedent for FBI employees, it claimed that Comey and his associates never leaked any classified information to members of the media. This contradicts the most significant criticism the Trump Administration had against Comey.

This not only resembles the Clinton controversy over her emails, but is tightly linked to it. Yes, she made some irresponsible decisions with her private email server, but the nearly two-year long investigation into her actions concluded that she never broke any pre-established laws (nor did the investigation indict anyone, unlike the Mueller investigation). Yet, one of Trump’s foremost rallying cries, and a major reason why he was able to garner support early on in his successful presidential bid, was “lock her up.” Lock her up on what crime? Clinton never committed any crime, but she was painted in an extremely negative light by Trump and many mainstream media outlets, which led to the general population assuming that Clinton was guilty. Although I am not a Clinton supporter, I recognize that basing fiery rhetoric around lies and misdirection is not conducive to an objective atmosphere of discussion, for which we, as a society, should strive for. 

Trump’s claims, publicized on his Twitter account, may be the worst offender in spreading false information. According to The Washington Post, Trump made 492 false or misleading claims in his first 100 days in office. This averages out to around five false or misleading claims per day. Why do people even listen to what he says anymore?

False information is so incredibly widespread now, and easy to spread further, that it makes sense a large number of people buy into it. Consider this: try to compare the number of lies you hear from your peers as opposed to the number of lies you hear in mainstream media. In order to do this, you would need to know the real information to identify whether other information is true or false. However, finding accurate information now can be incredibly difficult. This core concept is why a substantial amount of people still trust what Trump says; they are easily misinformed because of a lack of access to real, accurate information.

I am not sure if they are entirely at fault for that. We, as Americans, have accepted that we prefer to hear the things we like to hear rather than the things we need to hear. The Trump administration and many mainstream media outlets are intoxicating to people because they cater to audiences who may not know the truth, and who accept whatever confirms their pre-existing opinions. We set the terms for our own consumption of media and information.

From the same logic, we have the power to these terms. America as a society can no longer tolerate the widespread distribution of false information. Once we make a stand and demand that correct information be made more available, administrations plagued with dishonesty like the Trump administration will hopefully disappear. 

Jason Richards is a third-year computer science major. He enjoys programming, biking and spending his money on Chipotle.