Donald Trump is a buffoon who lives in a world fabricated out of his own delusions. He is able to dismiss any unpleasant reality as “fake news.” A racist police officer shooting an innocent black man? Fake news. Economic problems? Fake news. A pandemic raging across the country? Fake news. Trump lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden? Fake news. Clearly he is foolish and dangerous.
But what about all of the people, including some evangelical Christians, who voted for him? Why would so many of them believe his outrageous claims of “fake news”? Are they also delusional?
There is another aspect to the situation. Consider that the media in the United States—television and movies—are largely produced in New York and Los Angeles, two urban areas of the country that vote heavily Democrat. They present an incomplete picture of American life. In the comedies and dramas they broadcast, all of the characters have multiple sex partners both and after marriage, if they get married at all. It is the norm, at least for the people who make the shows. The idea that two virgins could marry and remain faithful to each other throughout life is inconceivable to them (even though many people in other parts of the country have done it and still do it). About 30 percent of Americans faithfully attend church every week, but almost no one on television and in the movies does. When ministers and priests are portrayed, they are invariably presented as ineffectual fops, sexual abusers, domestic abusers, hypocrites, racists, hateful bigots, and murderers. Pro-life advocates are usually presented as extremists who bomb abortion clinics, murder abortionists, oppress women, and have no love for children after they are born. Meanwhile, mobsters, pimps, hit men, drug dealers, shady lawyers, money-driven advertising executives, and power-hungry politicians are portrayed as heroes, pursuing just another lifestyle choice. Late night talk shows ridicule Christians, Republicans, and middle Americans. But the TV networks say there is no problem because in their newscasts they can be trusted to present the truth in a fair and impartial way.
But they don’t. It has been observed that Walter Cronkite used to tell people what happened and modern newscasters tell people what to think about it. The news media don’t generally lie, but they not infrequently present a somewhat distorted view of reality through what they choose to report and how they report it. They tend to have a secular, liberal bias. It is no wonder, then, that many middle Americans distrust the media and have tuned out.
In reaction, those who do not feel represented in the mainstream media have created their own media sources, presenting alternative news with their own and opposite biases.
If we wonder how two groups of Americans could perceive reality in such different ways, the answer is that they are perceiving the world through the lens of different news media. They aren’t talking to each other or listening to each other. The bias, on both sides, exists both in what “news” is selected to be presented and in how it is presented. And the “information” passed around on social media, of course, is frequently far more biased, extreme, hateful, and downright dishonest. There is a culture war raging in the United Sates, and, as has been observed by the ancient Greek writer Aeschylus and many later observers, the first casualty in any war is truth.
This also explains why Canadians, who get their news from mainstream American media, cannot understand how anyone could vote for Donald Trump. They have no means to access what Trump supporters are thinking, except through the distorted lens of the mainstream media.
Perhaps the media conglomerates in the United States should pause their daily and nightly attacks on Donald Trump and his followers long enough to look in the mirror. Perhaps they should examine how well they have fulfilled their own responsibilities. Perhaps they should ponder the role that they have played in creating the strange phenomenon known as President Donald Trump.