Fix Democracy in America with this One Weird Trick

Photo by Ian Baldwin on Unsplash

Turn off cable news.

That’s it. Cable news has no redeeming qualities. They stretch a 5 minute sound bite into 4 hours. They parade opinions as if they are facts. They try to gin up outrage in order to keep you on your sofa and watching advertisements. 

If you want to save democracy in America, turn off Fox News. Turn off CNN. Turn off MSNBC. 

But Brent, you’re saying, how will I learn what’s happening in the world? How will I know who the bad guys are? 

The bad guys are:

  • Accumulating most of the wealth in the country while your wages stagnate and your health insurance and college tuition keep sky rocketing
  • Telling you that brown people / gay people / Muslim people are your enemies
  • Engaging in voter suppresssion

Okay, fine, you’re thinking. Maybe Scooby Doo villains aren’t really the political and religious leaders we need. But I still want to know what’s happening in the world. 

Great! Me, too!

I have two easy suggestions. 

  1. Subscribe to your local newspaper 
  2. Subscribe to a large national newspaper

Do the digital subscriptions and read on your phone. You get to save trees and it’s cheaper.

Subscribe to your local paper because you want to know what’s happening in your community and because baby reporters need jobs. A strong, independent media is the guardian of democracy, and it starts with the gal down the street going to city hall and school board meetings and letting you know what’s happening. 

Subscribe to a national paper because good investigative reporting is what keeps your representatives and the companies that govern all our lives accountable. The largest papers in the country do much of the investigative reporting. But Brent, you’re saying, the New York Times is a trash fire. It’s Fake News. Well, yes and no. It is, indeed, a trash fire in its opinion pages. But this is the beauty of reading a paper–you can just turn the page or scroll down. Read the news parts and skip the op-eds!

2016 called and wants its meme back

And also, that Fake News thing? Fake news is junk Facebook pages feeding you political propaganda from Eastern Europe. Fake news is a talking head peddling opinion pieces as facts. Fake news is anything originating with a state-sponsored propaganda organization. But NPR, the BBC? I love Nina Totenberg and Gary Lineker, too. Both organizations have their faults, but they are at least trying to be news orgs, most of the time. Xinhua? Be dubious. Russia Today? Be dubious. The key, in my book, is the motive. Are they trying to peddle advertisements without any investigative reporting component? Probably crap. Are they sponsored by a totalitarian state? Probably crap. Are they paying reporters to read financial records, ask politicians and businessmen hard questions, and generally hold power to account? Probably decent.

Well, fine. But I still don’t want to give Jeff Bezos any more of my money. You need to take baby steps; I get it. It pains me to say this, but consider the Wall Street Journal. It has plenty of warm, snuggly conservative bias, but at least it tries to present plenty of actual news from actual reporters, which is more than can be said for the Murdoch empire and the cable channels. (Maybe avoid the op-eds.)

Please join me in turning the page on trash fire media outlets. Now that you’re saving all this time not listening to some overpaid schmuck spout nonsense, you can spend it reading my books!  

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