Politics: the vegetables of news
Probably the least surprising thing Michelle Obama said during her Democratic virtual convention speech was, “I hate politics.”
That makes her a member of a vast club. That club may even include a majority of people, especially this year.
There are a lot of reasons to hate politics. There’s simply too much of it in the air, and I don’t mean just in an election year. A lot of it is irrelevant to most peoples’ lives. And a lot of it is deadly dull, even if it is important on some level.
A big part of the problem is that there’s literally nothing that can’t be politicized. You could make the most innocuous statement possible, like “I like chocolate ice cream,” and there’s a parade of people ready to tell you how that makes you a horrible person. That usually comes with a side-order of self-righteousness.
A lot of people blame the internet, and that certainly plays a role in boredom with politics. But it’s not like there was ever a golden age when everybody agreed on everything, or at least followed any disagreement with a lot of hand-holding and a rousing chorus of “Kumbaya.”
Suffice it to say that a lot of us compare 2020 to 1968. Obviously, something like this has happened before. And you might remember that we fought a four-year civil war in the 1860s and it’s only now showing some signs of ending. Maybe.
Still, even if you grant that there have been worse political times in America, at least back in the day you could get away from it. The internet gets unjustifiably blamed for a lot of things, but it’s true that nearly everything you find online gets politicized at some point.
Really, whose fault is that? A lot of people blame the media, but that’s a little like blaming a dog for barking. The media’s job is to report things, including politics, and in an election year, that’s what a lot of what’s worth reporting is.
That’s not to say the media does it well. Having to fill a pretty much instant and constant news cycle doesn’t encourage good, thoughtful work (that’s why you should read newspapers, which theoretically have longer deadlines). There’s a thing called Sturgeon’s law, which says (paraphrase) 90 percent of everything is garbage. In times like these, you wonder if Sturgeon wasn’t being overly generous.
He was probably being overly generous when it came to politics, where garbage is pretty much the coin of the realm.
It may seem worse now, but American politics have always been more than messy. And yes, the media has been part of that.
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