How the News Organization Pretends to Be Populist While Fueling Partisan Flames

Linked on our blogs with Danny Schechter, USA. – Published on AlterNet, by Danny Schechter, May 13, 2011.

… When asked if he thinks this is healthy for a democracy, he said, “Well, up to a point. I think that a certain degree of polarization is healthy in a democracy. It clarifies the choices people have in elections, and it helps voters to hold the parties accountable for their performance.”

At the same time, other political analysts say, the more polarized political parties are, the less most of us care about the political process. 

Survey data shows that people often take polarized positions because they think they are expected to when they identify with a certain party. With the sincerity and beliefs of Democrats mocked and under constant vitriolic attack, who would want to be thought of that way?

If they have questions, they don’t raise them. It’s easier to parrot the party line.

Recall, it is politicians, not “the people” who define those issues. They rely on corporate-style market research and focus groups. They choose slogans and even language that often has a patriotic subtext. When government programs are likened to socialism, it’s not surprising when people who consider themselves conservatives reject them even when they don’t really know what socialism is.

This is also true of what appears to be populist movements like the Tea Party, whose agenda and talking points have been established by professional consultants, guided by political operatives and funded by conservative billionaires.

As one study put it, “In other words, since the parties are now more clearly divided — and on a broader set of issues — it is easier for people to split accordingly, without changing their own views.”

That’s the key point –”without changing their own views.” The dirty little secret is the discovery in many studies that the most systematic polarization appears only in mass partisanship: those who are politically active or identify themselves with a party or ideology tend to have more extreme positions than the rest of the population. But, at the same time, their core political views have changed very little. For example, many on the Right depend on and support Medicare. (full text).

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