Reminder: Why We All Need a Balanced Media Diet

January 3, 2018

Happy new year and merry Tenth Day of Christmas!

This is just your friendly annual reminder to make sure you’re getting a balanced diet including at least some liberal and conservative media.*

(Feel free to pick your own favorites! If you’re looking for thoughtful conservative recommendations, try National Review (print magazine) and/or National Review Online (surprisingly, not quite the same thing); Hot Air; or Ricochet podcasts like Three Martini Lunch (daily political news and quick commentary) and Ladybrains, The Remnant, or GLoP (relatively more long-term reflections on culture). If you’re looking for a liberal recommendation, my personal favorite is NPR, which of course comes in many flavors and programs—collect ’em all!)

I think it’s important to get a balanced diet for at least three reasons:

First, otherwise we get only part of the story! Like a good trial lawyer, news media don’t always get around to mentioning the facts that aren’t congenial to their side (here’s just one example). As with the lawyers, don’t even think of this as a criticism; they’re just doing their job (and doing it well)—it’s not that they’re lying or making false statements, just leaving certain things unsaid (or unexplored). Relatedly…

Second, otherwise you won’t always hear the best arguments for the other side’s policy proposals and other positions. This may sound unimportant, but in fact we all need to engage with others’ ideas and views; it’s part of how small-“r” republicanism and a healthy democracy function. If you’re already right, what do you have to lose? The opposing arguments won’t talk you out of anything, and you’ll understand even better why you take the position you do on a given issue. (On the other hand, if you’re wrong, you’d certainly like to know that!) Perhaps most crucially, if we don’t hear the best proponents of the other side of an issue articulate their best arguments, it’s always easy for us to forget there is another side, that our opinion on the issue isn’t the only rational or legitimate one. (Come on, admit it to yourself—you’re tempted to slide in that direction, even without realizing it. I am, you are—we all are!) Relatedly…

Third, consuming a balanced media diet is like vitamin C against scurvy: It’s the best way to minimize the odds of sliding (knowingly or unknowingly) into a Two Minutes’ Hate perspective on politics and culture, sometimes known as tribalism—the feeling that WE’RE the good guys, THEY’RE the bad guys, and How could they think that? The only possible reason is they’re terrible people who hate all that is good and right, or They have no empathy, or They must have only selfish motivations (and, sometimes, We must stop at nothing to stop them…). On most issues, reasonable minds can differ—and do!

If we assume that everyone who disagrees with us is irrational or evil, that leaves little room for respectful and meaningful debate on the issues (and little room for republicanism or democracy!), but even more importantly, it represents a failure of empathy on our own parts, a growing darkness in our own hearts.

Stay sunny, friends!

(* If this is the first you’ve heard about this, honestly, you’re probably getting only information from liberal media without realizing it. If you don’t really watch or read the news, and hear about things only from friends or secondhand, you’re probably getting only information from liberal media without realizing it. If you get news only from sources that don’t clearly identify as liberal or conservative (e.g., the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR), you’re probably getting only information from liberal media without realizing it.)

5 Responses to “Reminder: Why We All Need a Balanced Media Diet”

  1. Tricia Says:

    I so appreciated this post! I do tend to read mostly Conservative media (National Review and wSJ fan here! and so really have to force myself to branch out to other sources. If nothing less it helps you argue your position better by knowing what the other side stands for.

  2. Will S. Says:

    Not only do I make sure to read some liberal media, such as the CBC and the BBC, but I also read a variety of different rightist media, across the spectrum. And some hard-left, and some an-cap / paleo-libertarian, and more.

    Because the neo-conservative / liberal spectrum is just too narrow, doesn’t present enough diversity of thought.

    Widen your own personal Overton Window! :)

  3. Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea Says:

    I’m with Will (above). The liberal/conservative dichotomy has long been a simplistic model of U.S. sociopolitical thought, but developments of the past two years have rendered it mostly useless. I shudder to imagine a reasonably open-minded Democrat tuning in to Sean Hannity now and then to get the “other side’s” perspective.


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