Think about the world of music. These days there are so many different categories of music that it can make your head spin like a vinyl record. Beyond the basic categories of rock, rap, country, dance and so on there are splinter categories like “dad rock,” “yacht rock,” “alternative rock,” “old school hip hop, "gangsta rap” and more.
The funny thing is that over time these definitions all change. Bands like Pink Floyd are considered classic rock, while my favorite band Pearl Jam rests somewhere between classic rock and dad rock.
Yet when Pink Floyd started out, they were considered progressive rock and Pearl Jam was considered alternative rock. Both bands were started by artists in their twenties and appealed to a young demographic while making parents cringe.
Now the artists represented in these bands are all elder statesmen, with families of their own, and their kids likely listen to music that doesn’t quite click with their respective tastes. Even someone as elder statemanlike as Van Morrison made “Astral Weeks” in his early twenties, but kids these days have a hard time connecting with that music.
Political media can be evaluated in a similar fashion. If you look at the headlines on Fox News or even Breitbart, they are dramatically different from what you see on CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal or USA Today. Some of what is reported is simply false and most if not all of it is spin, but these headlines make sense to different people who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds and who have utterly different views of the world.
I’m not trying to defend the news that opts for ignorance of the facts — those outlets should be held accountable for spreading false information — but you have to understand there is a portion of the audience looking for that kind of news. They resonate with that opinion and while they may be misinformed, they rely on something that gives them a sense of belonging.
I realize that making the comparison between music and politics is dangerous, but it establishes the fact that social and economic influence weigh heavily on what you find resonates with you. Over time those factors can change, so it’s important not to pigeonhole anyone because of what they believe at a specific moment in time.
Some people grow up thinking hip-hop or heavy metal or jazz are just noise, but over time and given the right entry point, they can find the subtle nuance that make each of these genres and the artists within them distinct. Over time you start to hear the different between John Coltrane and Miles Davis, even if you didn’t at first. Your brain has to be open, and your attitude as well.
The same can be said for the state of political media. The people who resonate with certain, more exclusionary points of view may, over time and if given the chance, begin to see a different point of view.
By that same token, even the most liberal political mind would benefit from trying to understand the plight and situation of the person who approaches the world from a right-wing, close-minded, exclusionary perspective.
Over time, opinions change. They say that as we get older, we tend to become slightly more conservative than we were in our younger days because every decision has more impactful consequences, but even that is still just a matter of perspectives changing.
They also say the only constant in the world is change, and the man who tries to resist change will snap like a tree in a hurricane. I hope that approaching things with the opportunity for your mind to be open will create a more benevolent media environment than what we see today. Everyone eventually sees the greatness in Pink Floyd and Pearl Jam, right?