It’s easy to call MSNBC biased toward the left and Fox News biased toward the right because of the television hosts on their programs. Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity don’t hide their political views. But despite the bias of the hosts, both networks do their best to ensure that viewers hear all sides of political issues.
For example, while Hannity may be a conservative, he does debate with liberals on his program, like President Barack Obama’s former economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, or journalist Juan Williams. This allows viewers to hear both sides of a political argument.
It is crucial for liberals and conservatives to hear all arguments on a topic. While I consider myself a conservative, I always make sure to listen to the political views of others, even if I disagree with them, without getting mad.
Wisconsin’s political makeup provides us with opportunities to encounter the full range of political opinions. I live in Milwaukee, a center of Democratic politics, but all I have to do is go west and in a matter of minutes I’d be in red suburbs. Though the University of Wisconsin campus leans left, there is a loud and proud right-wing voice represented.
While this divide can cause conflict, exposing young adults to both sides of a debate allows our citizens to be well-rounded and more intelligent. Unfortunately, the liberal activist organization Media Matters for America disagrees.
Media Matters claims to expose “conservative misinformation” and regularly targets organizations that lean to the right. A recent video from Media Matters for America goes so far to advocate for shutting down those surrogates who support Donald Trump. In the video, Media Matters senior fellow Carlos Maza targets CNN, which is the most centrist of the big three cable networks (Fox News and MSNBC being the two others).
The video targets four hired political contributors who support Trump: his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former White House staffer Jeffrey Lord, columnist Kayleigh McEnany and political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes. When they are on CNN, they often debate surrogates of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, but Maza argues that allowing them to debate about important issues makes CNN’s coverage “unwatchable.”
Maza seems to have a problem when conservatives are on the network simply defending their candidate or supporting positions he holds. In fact, he argues that you shouldn’t be angry at them for defending their candidates. Instead, you should be mad at CNN for hiring those who have political views that differ with his.
Maza seems to find it shocking that a news network would pay people who have political and media experience, even though they do the exact same thing with Clinton’s supporters on their program.
Maza calls Trump surrogates “apologists” and “professional bullshit artists” rather than normal political commentators, but a right-wing version of Maza could easily say the same thing about Clinton supporters on CNN if he didn’t like their views. The conclusion to his argument is that hiring people to express political views he disagrees with is “bad for democracy” because viewers will get so confused that they will be unable to separate fact from fiction or just stop caring about important debates.
Maza complains that having Trump surrogates on CNN is bad for democracy, but news networks have a responsibility to showcase all political views. People who watch political news are likely going to vote in November, and even if their mind is already made up, it helps to watch surrogates of both candidates to understand how half of the country sees the latest topic.
If networks completely shut out opinions they don’t like, they are cheating their viewers and perpetuating a false impression that opposition doesn’t exist. This could cause tension and shock when someone who is going to vote for Clinton meets someone who is going to vote for Trump.
In many ways, Media Matters for America is causing the political divisiveness that exists today. By dismissing arguments made by Trump’s supporters as entirely false, this “media watchdog” just becomes another arm of one political party. Unlike the major networks, Media Matters doesn’t provide any conservative arguments on their website. Rather than expose their own viewers to a real debate, it has kept them in the dark of differing opinions. In doing so, Media Matters has simply added more fuel to the fire that destroys discourse in America.
John M. Graber ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in history and political science.