I recently saw an old episode of NCIS in which a reporter asked a passerby for her personal opinion on a political issue. The woman responded, “I don’t know. I’ll have to go home and ask my husband.”
While most of us would find this submissive attitude ridiculous, the fact is, we’re all this woman, one way or another. We may not be running home to ask our husband what “we” think, but we’re asking someone. Intentionally or not.
Between social media and online options, more and more people are sharing their opinions and influencing others. However, are they educated opinions? Do they have merit?
Some, like the aforementioned wife, think they’ve done their homework when they ask friends and family for their opinions. Then, they just piggy-back on the sentiment.
Meanwhile, others will turn to the media for answers. And this is where the “research” many claim to have done, goes off the rails. There are as many falsehoods online as there are facts. For every truth, there is an alternate theory. For every reality, there is a conspiracy.
So instead of anonymous internet opinions, many turn to television for “truth in reporting.” And there, things can get even murkier. Depending on the network they tune in to, not only will viewers get different perspectives on the issues, but also they’ll be told which issues are of actual importance based on the amount of media coverage.
For example, last month, while the more “liberal” news outlets were reporting on Biden’s trillion-dollar Covid relief bill, the conservative channels were focusing on Mr. Potato Head’s gender and a handful of obscure Dr. Seuss books that were being taken out of print.
Now, admittedly, one of these topics is pretty dry. It’s constantly changing. Frankly, it’s depressing. And yes, that could describe Mr. Potato Head’s genitalia. However, I am, in fact, talking about Covid relief. It’s exhausting and increasingly complicated.
But it’s important – vital to the U.S.’s survival – which should make it the hot topic that day for every news outlet. And yet, Fox News and its beloved Tucker Carlson instead focused on the Potato Head drama, Dr. Seuss, and “liberal cancel culture.”
So those who leaned right – being informed by Fox, NewsMax, OAN and the like – were told that these were the most serious issues affecting their lives. Meanwhile, those who consumed their news from left-leaning CNN, NPR, the alphabet networks, and HuffPost (to name a few) were more focused on Covid policy.
Their opinions moving forward will be based on what their respective media outlets tell them to think. And if you asked both groups why they believe what they do, they’d staunchly argue that they’d researched the issues. They’d done their homework.
But the truth is their “husband” who tells them what to think is now a biased news network, questionable online information, and social media attitudes just like their own.
So before everyone gets too confident in their opinions, we need to think about where they’re coming from. And if those opinions are truly our own.