Whenever I turn on the TV or the car radio, go online, or even walk down the street recently, I notice there is a seemingly unreasonable amount of trash talking and mudslinging going on. This can only mean one thing: a big election is coming up.
Now I am sure most Americans, or at least those who have access to literally any form of media, are aware a presidential election is about to occur. However, I can also practically guarantee that there is a much smaller group of people who actually know the policy platforms of the candidates.
Why are these numbers so skewed? The answer is the media and the public appetite for scandal and horror as opposed to facts. The candidates want the most votes and the way to do this, or at least in the eyes of current campaign managers, is to not only feed the American appetite for scandal but to blatantly backstab the other candidate.
For example, when the U.S. embassies were being attacked in the Middle East, the Romney campaign did not even try to gather any facts or do any fact checking before they had a press release condemning the response of the Obama administration before the response was even made. While this haste proved to be more detrimental to Romney, as it made him look entirely misinformed, the willingness to attack so quickly in a very delicate, and what should have been somber situation, shows how the political climate emphasizes the need to shoot down the other candidate.
Obama isn’t guilt-free either. While, to my knowledge, he hasn’t gone out on a ledge to attack Romney as much as Romney has in the past, the only things I see sponsored by the Obama campaign are ads that label Romney as a corporate elitist who will enslave the middle-class.
Throughout the entire campaign I have not seen a single ad or sponsorship that extols the qualities of the candidate they are endorsing but instead all of them tell the American people why someone is so terrible and why one shouldn’t vote for them.
This strategy of name calling and finger pointing is not a practice one would imagine in a country where access to information is so easy and where everyone has a right to the truth and yet, it happens every election season, not only in national elections but at every level. I have no idea when my local elections are but I can pretty accurately tell you the date simply by the level of demeaning signs and ads that increase exponentially as the election approaches.
This phenomenon is not isolated to the political sphere. The media constantly attacks well known members of every public sphere from Oprah to Paris Hilton and literally anyone with a name in any field. The reason for this is the American people. We, as a people, have become so addicted to tales of horror and scandal that it is hard for the media to present anything else.
It is all about supply and demand. As such, we should begin to wonder why we like to turn on the news and hear about murders, accidents, and disasters to the point that many other things that should be known are tabled so as to clear air time for horror and tragedy.
Why are these topics so appealing? Does it help us connect in some way, or is it simply a way to make the world around us seem more terrifying and hostile? The world of politics has plenty of examples as to how our system has gone astray. The facts are hidden and the emphasis is no longer on platforms but on how bad the other candidate is.
However, if we ever hope to change, we are going to have to change the desires of the public as a whole. We need to move away from media focused on death, gore, scandal, and travesty to one based on the clear and honest conveyance of fact.
This system would provide a much clearer picture for the American people to make important electoral decisions and at the same time remove the provincialism that led to the freezing of the government just a few years ago. This change will neither be easy nor cheap, and it is up to the American people to decide if we want our government based on mudslinging and slander or on truth and honest policy.
Questions? Email Justin at firstname.lastname@example.org.