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Era of Intense Vast Media Scrutiny is Creating Overhyped Outrage

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Richard Drew

Are you tired of hearing that every little thing occurring in politics is something drastic? Although clickbait titles are on the decrease, in part due to Facebook banning those types of sites, there is still a lot of drama that is unwarranted. It has led to an effort to impeach President Trump by Democrats, based on a misleading account by a so-called whistleblower of a conversation Trump had with the Ukrainian president. The transcript of the phone call has been released, exonerating Trump, but there is a continued media barrage claiming he is guilty of a quid pro quo. They have built up something minor into something they claim is impeachable.

Frankly, I’m tired of all the overhyped headlines claiming the worst is happening. There are thousands of new news sites popping up all the time, something we didn’t have to deal with 20 years ago. I click on an article and it’s rarely half as drastic as the title proclaims. I feel like I’m constantly in this stage of raised adrenalin from reading the titles. I don’t appreciate the undue stress. I understand that news sources now make money based on how many clicks they’re getting on articles, so they deliberately hype things up. But it is affecting politics. It has made it easier to believe the worst about people. It is contributing to a feeling that maybe Trump really should be impeached. 

The Drudge Report, which used to be fairly conservative, is now posting hysterical headlines against Trump. As I’m writing this, the top featured article there is entitled “30 Minutes That Changed Trump Presidency.” It links to a biased left-wing article from the Associated Press, which claims that the phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president has really hurt Trump’s presidency. How do they know? Nothing has happened yet, other than the Democrats deciding to start impeachment proceedings — something they’ve been threatening the entire time he’s been in office so nothing new there. 

The Drudge Report has also hyped up negative polls about Trump (“shock poll”), including a Fox News poll that showed 51 percent of voters want Trump impeached. But nowhere was there a breakdown of the demographics of those polled. Many polls are biased by surveying a larger proportion of Democrats than Republicans. Rasmussen Reports, a reliably conservative polling company that was the most accurate pollster in the 2016 election, analyzed a previous Fox News poll from July about impeachment. The company found that the poll breakdown was 46 percent Democrat and only 40 percent Republican. Another problem with the survey is it polled registered voters, not likely voters. That tends to favor Democrats. 

Trump tweeted that only 25 percent want him impeached. It is not clear what poll he was referring to. A recent September poll from Rasmussen Reports found that only 17 percent believe Trump will be impeached. 

I waste a lot of time clicking on the links to overly hyped articles that others post on social media. I get partially through an article merely to find out that it doesn’t live up to its headline or description. Yet it will be massively shared all throughout social media. In this era, people hit “share” too often without actually reading the article. A study found that 59 percent of people hit share without actually clicking on the article. If they would actually read the article, they might discover that it is overhyped, from a sketchy site and not worth sharing.

The Science Post ran an article last year entitled “Study: 70% of Facebook users only read the headline of science stories before commenting.” The first paragraph sounded valid, although vague. The rest of the article was just a block of generic Latin text. However, 46,000 people shared it. 

The overhyping of news just stirs up more hate from groups like Antifa. They believe every headline and article that claims Trump supporters are Nazis and white supremacists. Ironically, they follow the famous line of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”  

The partisanship of politics is no longer just about the issues. It now includes the media and social media framing the issues. A chorus of voices — especially influential media voices — can escalate the most mundane situation into something dire. We’re not talking about politicians murdering people in these hyped up stories. Murder stories should generate outrage. In contrast, we’re talking about behavior that has not yet been investigated, much less prosecuted. 

It’s like the boy who cried wolf. People are becoming so desensitized to the constant hyped up articles that when a real scandal comes along, they won’t recognize the seriousness of it.

It would be nice if we could return to the days of William F. Buckley, Jr. He discussed current issues on his show Firing Line in a calm, even-keeled manner. He didn’t need to talk hysterically about every topic, people still watched his show in droves. Unfortunately, that may not be possible anymore since news organizations make money based on how many clicks articles get. The way to get around this is readers should stop clicking on the hyped up titles and be more selective about which sites they visit.   

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