Here’s the headline:
Obama resembles Thomas Jefferson. Gingrich channels John Adams.
Welcome to America. Polarized America that is. Gone is the good ol’ Red, White and Blue America, now we’re down to only Red or Blue. Everyone knows whether they live in a Red State or a Blue State. When we’re in our cars, if we’re not listening to music, we listen to Red talk or Blue talk. We read Blue newspapers or Red newspapers, but not both. And of course, we watch Red news or Blue news on television. Oh, and by Red news I mean Fox News and by Blue News I mean CNN. There’s no attempt at purple by either of the top two entertainment news networks.
I say entertainment news because that is largely what they have become. They’re like real reality shows (can I say that without being redundant? again). They take daily events and beam them out to their audiences filtered through their (red or blue) colored lenses. If you take a snapshot of their websites you will see two completely different takes on the day’s events. Almost as if the networks themselves were in two different countries. Now, some people today are disturbed by this. They worry that you are getting your news skewed with one ideology or the other. And you are. They worry that the great majority of middle America is unaware of the situation. And they are. But mostly they worry that this causes a polarizing bias on both sides. And it does.
Here’s the rub. We Americans take our politics very very seriously. We live it and breathe it. But this polarization of the news is not news. It isn’t even a new situation. Fox didn’t invent it and neither did CNN. Here’s where we do the look ahead – look back thing that I love to do.
I’ll bet that you would be surprised if I said that President Obama and Harry Reid have lots in common with Thomas Jefferson! Don’t go sticking your tongue out yet (because you could easily step on it). I’ll bet you’d be surprised by my suggestion that Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain bear some distinct resemblances to John Adams! OK, maybe those two ideas are a bit of a stretch. But there is a huge connection here. You see, the polarizing press has existed almost from the very beginning of our country. And almost continually ever since. Starting right with the Presidential election of 1800. That election deserves a bigger place in our national memory bank. It was the very first time that there were two candidates opposing each other. Up until that, George Washington took two terms uncontested. With Washington there was no need for political parties. He was the unanimous choice of the electors. BUT – starting with the Adams/Jefferson election there suddenly were parties. With the parties came heated and divisive oratory on both sides. AND this is where it gets really interesting – Adams and Jefferson both had newspapers that worked directly for them, that they actually funded! The editors wrote the stories that they wanted written, and trashed the opposition the way that they wanted them trashed. In retrospect, Obama and Gingrich can’t hold a candle to Adams and Jefferson. They’re literal (or literary) babes in the woods by comparison. No, I don’t really believe that Obama resembles Jefferson. Jefferson was so much more accomplished at the task. And Gingrich, he kind of does resem….. (forget that). So the lineage of Fox and CNN goes back over 200 years. It didn’t seem to damage the national psyche in the interim. It most likely won’t damage it now either. But in order to get a truly ‘fair and balanced’ portrayal of the world, you need to watch a little Red and a little Blue. Or get yourself a pair of HD-3D multi-color reading glasses.