Titus Benton

The greatest villain in our society today is not Donald Trump, or Joe Biden, or even Jeffrey Epstein or “the liberals” or “the fascists” or whoever. The most vilified force in all of American life, I’m certain, is “The Mainstream Media.”

No one trusts it, no one likes it, and everyone condemns it. And, you know, everyone consumes it. We watch it in record numbers. We invest countless hours scrolling through it. And, yes, you are reading it right now.

That is, if we can even say we have a mainstream media anymore. Gone are the days when 10s of millions of American eyeballs gathered around the Nightly News. The best news shows these days have a few million people watching. The biggest audiences are reserved for primetime on the cable channels, and that’s more editorial than news.

When the Fairness Doctrine was taken away in the 1980s (I suppose as part of Reagan's Make American Great Again effort?), cable news stations starting popping up and saying things the way they wanted with no danger of retribution. And we all watched with increasing enthusiasm.

There are American homes that stay tuned to Fox News or MSNBC all day, every day. There is tremendous brand loyalty involved. This force of nature in the news media has told us how to think, and most of us have dutifully complied.

So, truthfully, we don’t hate the mainstream news media. We love it. We only hate the corners of it with which we disagree.

I don’t know where your loyalties lie news-wise. I did grow up in Salem, though, so I have a sneaking suspicion about the majority opinion. I’m not one to be hateful or even judgmental — at least not often, and even less often on purpose — so please don’t hear this as a one-sided rebuke. I’ve got plenty of progressive friends who take the bait and get reeled in by biased, “liberal” news all the time. But for so many people I know and love to go hook, line, and sinker with hot takes about how the world is coming to an end if we let the liberals have their way — it strikes me as inauthentic to the values I know many rural, white, conservative people hold.

Many of you are old enough to remember when people you trusted came on the news every night and told you what happened that day. Many of you read this paper every week to find out what you missed in the coffee shops and on Facebook. There may still be voices you trust, but there are also a growing number of voices you do not listen to. They are antithetical to your values. Still, you have your sources.

In the deluge of information, it’s easy to be oppositional — to create enemies out of allies simply because we disagree. We’ve been trained to do this by the “mainstream” news, or maybe better said the mainstream “news.” But do you know what I think?

I think it’s time for some unlearning. I think it’s time we stop blaming the media for pushing their agendas. Turn off your television, log off of social media, and go sit on someone’s patio or in some coffee shop somewhere and have a conversation with someone you know. And trust. Don’t let strangers on cable tell you who you’re supposed to hate, unfriend, or fight with. Decide that for yourself, the old-fashioned way.

Get face to face with folks and figure it out, like we always have before.