Reading into the right wing — The effects of consuming right-wing news for 48 hours
Consuming news has become a part of my everyday life, and most likely for you too. Until recently, I did not realize how many media outlets there were to choose from. I didn’t go out of my way to watch news that was not immediately accessible to me. It wasn’t until I performed an audit of my news consumption that, I discovered what political stances my outlets took.
I referenced a couple of infographics that illustrated media outlets’ positions on an axis. On one side, the far left and on the other, the far right. Of course, this topic on its own is subjective. However, for the purpose of finding which outlets contrasted mine, these graphs served as a clear illustration. The majority of the media outlets I regularly consumed were categorized as mainstream and neutral; a couple was slightly liberal. As a result, for 48 hours I decided to replace my news sources with ones that were furthest from my views. For me, this meant consuming stories from the far right news outlets.
Before I began consuming, I prepared for the worse. My expectations were not far from reality. I read articles about “ethnic infiltration”, homophobia and sexism. I expected to be shocked by the vulgarity of the content; however, this wasn’t the case. As I continued to read, I began to see the insecurities of these aggressive news outlets. Their fears became apparent and furthermore, they seemed to play the victim. I started to see similarities between the far right and liberal biased outlets, who often feel threatened by right-wing views. Although I may not agree with some of the right-wing views, I understood the motive behind many of the strongly opinionated articles. The outlet writers were scared. Their perspectives were often predicated on a reluctance to change or accept new ideas. It became apparent to me, that there was an underlying tone of fear. To these outlets, any social or political changes did not often equate to progress.
Additionally, this fear is relayed to the reader through exaggerations. Reading some of the stories made me feel uneasy or even anxious. No matter what the content, there always seemed to be a sense of chaotic urgency. I can imagine this instilling fear and discomfort in other readers. Even more impactful, is the effect this would have on reinforcing people’s opinions that are already stemmed in fear and hate. Also, it was interesting to observe the type of advertisements on these websites and their target demographics. For example, I found it odd that male enhancement drugs were advertised on the same page as daily global news.
As expected, all the right-wing outlets were very opinionated. Every news story felt like an argument and the reading experience was comparable to that of a persuasive essay. As a result, I believe there is no opportunity for the reader to formulate their own opinions. They are forced to adopt those of the writer without full assimilation. There is also less of a focus on the individuals who play a part in the stories. People are labeled and even dehumanized to the point of merely serving as an illustration of someone else’s perspective. The opinions of people involved in the stories, are not accurately represented or often not represented at all. There appears to be no intention to address both parties to solve conflicts. In the end, the news stories held many similarities to propaganda.
To my surprise, the scope of the stories covered was very different compared to the media outlets I was used to consuming. I thought the right wing would mainly cover the same stories but, from their own perspective. Interestingly, I found topics and stories that were not in other outlets, at least compared to the neutral news I was consuming. This made me realize how media outlets leverage their views by handpicking the stories they cover. Media outlets possess tremendous power due to their ability to control the delivery of information. By limiting oneself to the same news outlets, one is susceptible to entering echo chambers and filter bubbles. In these states, people can become isolated. Their current views are amplified or reinforced through exposure to the same perspectives. I suspect, to a degree, this has happened to me. Additionally, news plays an important part in the way one views the rest of the world. Our perception of the world and, any opinions about the events that occur in it, are based on the information you have been given access to.
Consuming right-wing news for 48 hours helped me understand the importance of diversifying my news intake. For me this comes down to two reasons:
- Experiencing a broader range of news;
- Being able to understand the perspective of those who have opposing views to your own.
The world is filled with many people who all have their own views, ideas, and perspectives. By experiencing a broader range of news stories, I was able to put my own perspectives in greater context. Even if my views did not often match those of the right wing, I still gained from understanding the cause and motive behind other peoples actions and content. Although this “understanding” did not necessarily change my views, it helped me to identify ways of relating and communicating effectively with those who have opposing viewpoints. It is often said that “people fear what they don’t understand”. I believe this level of understanding enables a productive dialogue; a dialogue where conflict can be accessed in terms of everyone’s benefit. However, for this to be the case everyone, including the left and right wing, must be willing to engage in a dialogue that can result in both parties modifying their views. Too much to ask for, perhaps. However, if the individual, like you and I, adopts this mindset, at the very least, I believe they will find comfort in having the ability to analyze other perspectives.
“If you don’t read the newspaper you’re uninformed if you do read it, you are misinformed”.
- Denzel Washington
As my 48 hours was coming to a close, I thought about the impact of “fake news”. With no exception, every right-wing media outlet I consumed referenced fake news as a threat. I then began to think about the relation between, perspective, opinion, and misinformation. The way I see it, it is very easy to watch the news, regurgitate it and adopt it as your own opinion. This little experiment has taught me, that no matter what information you consume, it is important to critically analyze the information that is given to you. The people who produce news stories are often individuals who have no greater authority to speak about subjects that you and I. If their listeners adopt their views blindly, with no attempt to analyze, frame or question, they will create a mass of people who believe the same thing and share the same opinion of that one person or party. I believe this is a great loss for the individuals but as well for the collective. By regurgitating someone else’s opinions, the life experience and perspectives of every individual is put to waste. This is detrimental to the cause of finding effective solutions since, debates, conflicts, and even solutions are not representative of the true needs of the individuals who comprise the population. The one who listens learns the most, and the one who is open to other’s perspectives is more likely to understand other people. In turn, one is able to better understand themselves.
I discovered a lot from this simple exercise, and so can you. I encourage everyone for 48 hours to replace their news sources with ones that are furthest from your views. In a world where too much information is a real problem, critically analyzing news and formulating your own opinions is a valuable skill. I hope this exercise will put your thoughts in perspective, as they did mine.