On 29.11.2016 I attended a seminar “America after the Elections” organized by Department of Political Science and International Relations at Izmir Economic University. The department hosted Mr. Phillip Kosnett, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy in Ankara. Mr. Kosnett focused mainly on what recent elections mean for democracy and he expressed his opinion about the news media. He emphasized the media’s failure to recognize potential of Trump to win the elections. Today’s media are characterized by “echo chamber”, which means that the news media practice the repetition of ideas, beliefs in enclosed system and different, alternative views are rejected or underrepresented. Today’s media simply do not accept other point of view.Everyone who thinks differently becomes the enemy.
This seminar encouraged me to express my own view about the news media nowadays.
Tocqueville in On Democracy in America said that free press is a great tool to defend rights of individuals. In democratic state, where the society as a whole has a enormous influence over individual, where often individual rights are sacrificed for the sake of common good, the free press is the only way to give voice to those who feel isolated, neglected and lost in the crowd. Indeed, he was absolutely right but let’s not forget that Tocqueville was a philosopher of his times. Understandably, he could not see that some day the press or rather the news media, which were supposed to prevent tyrannies to occur, would become new tyranny itself. The aim of news media should be to talk about facts, encourage discussion and bring about new and alternative ideas. What we observe today is the radicalization, one- sidedness of all news media. In other words, we are exposed to mediocrity of journalism. No matter with which ideology the media are associated with, they are blind to see what the other side has to say. In the American elections campaign we had a chance to see that all kids of the news media were busy with creating more and more ridiculous stories about both candidates. The aim was to insult and denigrate either of candidates. At the end of the day, the blindness and ignorance prevented all news media from seeing that Trump had a big chance to win (and he actually won). What we were exposed to was ridiculing Trump by media that supported Clinton and denigrating Clinton by media that supported Trump. Everyone was ardently occupied with primitive journalism and they missed to see the changes that have been happening in American society for a while.
The media associated with the establishment did not realize that Trump’s supporters represent vast part of the American society; they are those who are dissatisfied with the economy, high unemployment and could not see the future for themselves. Americans, like other people in many parts of the world, have experienced negative consequences of globalization. The situation of working class, which used to live relatively good life, has drastically deteriorated. The same happened in the Great Britain and many other countries. Another thing that everybody missed was that the youth has totally different expectations from older generations. Neither Republicans nor Democrats could see that American society has changed, that expectations and needs have changed. Both sides have been too busy with maintaining status quo that they forgot about founding principles of their own country: the people decide to whom give the power.
Neglecting and underestimating a vast part of the society is foolish and ignorant. History offers many examples of similar situations, where in Europe or other parts of the world the elections brought unexpected results. During American election campaign people were too busy insulting each other and did not have time to read some history books to see analogies. History is the best teacher but nobody is willing to learn. Now, big news media are doing self-study, asking themselves where did they make mistake. Dear all, your mistake was IGNORANCE.
It is not only about media or politicians, it is generally about people who are too afraid to realize that listening to the others would help them to better understand themselves. Listening what others have to say does not mean you join their camp. Accepting other points of view is not a demonstration of weakness, it is demonstration of your strength. Reason and good judgment come from experience rather than from isolation from the world.
All of us should see that these are not the media or politicians that limit our horizons, we limit them ourselves.