Our media consumption shapes our personalities and our worldview quite considerably. We consciously select the news channels, newspapers and online websites from which we form our opinions and understanding of the world. However, to say that the majority of us are aware of what is going on ‘around the world’ may be presumptuous, given that many Westerners are mainly exposed to what is happening within their own nations.

Indeed, whether this be nationalism on a small scale, where individuals focus purely on what is happening within their own nation state instead of concerning themselves with the troubles of others, or a reaction against globalisation; what we see is an increasingly insulated media in certain corners of the West.

 

A Critique of our ‘beloved’ BBC Breakfast Show

Lately, I have been relying on international news channels such as France24, Al Jazeera and Euronews for my morning updates rather than switching on the nation’s beloved BBC. For the vast majority of the time, the BBC Breakfast show focuses purely on issues affecting the United Kingdom, however small they may be, ignoring some crucial news stories in favour of a heartwarming tale about hedgehogs or the like. I understand that the Breakfast show intends to appeal to families at breakfast time, but choosing to report on obnoxiously trivial matters over serious issues creates a sense of deep ignorance towards what is really going on around the world.

For instance, on one occasion I put the BBC Breakfast show on and they were running a story about railway signal boxes (Yes, alright, for the older viewers that may evoke a sense of nostalgia perhaps). But switch to France 24 and I find a story about the humanitarian crisis in Syria that is deeply compelling. Furthermore, news such as the January bombing of a school in Idlib, Syria that killed 22 children, simply wasn’t reported on the BBC.

The Breakfast show may be a ‘family favourite’ but it clearly lacks journalistic credibility and fails to report on the serious matters of the day — all for the sake of boosting ratings and insulating Britons from the reality of horrors surrounding them.

Britain’s Polarising Newspapers

Moreover, UK newspapers do even more to polarise us. The Guardian’s front page often provides a stark contrast to the blatant, headline-grabbing tabloids of The Sun, The Mirror and the trash that is The Daily MailA pertinent example of this is the way the papers have warped vast portions of the country into believing that immigrants and refugees are dangerous and not to be trusted. One Daily Mail headline was ‘YOU pay £36m for Calais clearout’, claiming that UK taxpayers were paying to bus the migrants out of the Calais camp. A credible argument for why Brexit occurred is due to this deeply inbred, anti-immigrant rhetoric that has enveloped the United Kingdom for decades.

The sad irony is that for years now these right-wing papers have been shoving down our throats the narrative that unelected officials are making decisions on our behalf, and now as a result of Brexit, we have an unelected, and now largely disputed Prime Minister running the country. If the reporting from such newspapers and organisations was less biased, then we might not see such a degree of nationalism and strife in our country that has resulted in a rise in hate crimes against immigrants living in the UK.

The content which we choose to read undeniably shapes the way we view the world and moulds our understanding of current events. For example, a typical reader of the Guardian is more likely to be liberal, perhaps a Labour or Liberal Democrat supporter, someone who is more interested in forming an informed opinion on certain matters. A typical reader of the Daily Mail though, is more likely to be Conservative and interested in reading articles which compliment previously held opinions. We cannot deny that the vast majority of us consume our news within the frame of a confirmation bias: we actively seek information which validates those views and opinions that we already hold. Perhaps we are the ones to   blame for the nature of polarisation within the country between left-wing and right-wing views: the media merely capitalise profit on this polarisation.

There’s hope … We are not as bad as America — yet

The American news media, however, is almost 100 per cent more polarised and insulated than the British news media. Luckily, we do not have such bizarre right-wingers as the whole Fox News channel, or online conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones from InfoWars that make any right-wing media organisation in the UK appear extremely moderate in their political views. However, the sense that there is any real ‘liberal’ media in America is misleading: news channels such as MSNBC and CNN may appear to be on the side of the Democrats, yet both have come under fire during the election season for fuelling the Trump train. MSNBC notoriously was very emphatic in its support of Donald Trump during the primaries, whilst CNN has frequently given voice to a plethora of Donald Trump ‘surrogates’ on their airwaves.

Progressives in the US therefore often must look to online news sources such as, The Young Turks or Democracy Now! in order to gain an informed understanding of what is going on across America, as well as across the world. Indeed, the American press is unashamedly insulated, barely reporting on issues abroad such as the crisis in Syria or the refugee crisis in Europe, with viewers merely wanting to know what is going on in America.

The cruel outcome of this neglect by the media towards international news stories is that it has created a state of ignorance across America: a nation of inward-looking individuals who now look to an orange buffoon as their saviour against a background of globalisation that by its very nature threatens their livelihoods.