It’s only my third column of the semester, and I am already wracking my brains to think of something to write about. If I want to write about current events, my options are Trump’s newly certified education secretary, Trump’s deluge of executive orders or Trump’s daily feuds playing out on Twitter.
If I want to write about events on campus, the most relevant happenings are related to the immigration ban and national events. If I want to write about personal events in my life, it all feels trivial in contrast to happenings in the larger world. An orange specter looms large, washing out all beneath it.
Sitting in front of my computer, I started wondering to myself: When was the last time I went a day without thinking about Donald Trump?
Maybe my addiction to news media is to blame. The man makes for good television, like the villain on a Saturday morning cartoon or a pop culture parody. But I suspect that many are in the same boat as I am. The sheer amount of noise coming out of the White House makes it difficult to distinguish meaningful sound from bluster.
I have suspicions that Trump and his administration are throwing inflammatory statement after inflammatory statement, executive orders and twitter feuds, so that we, the populace, become numb to the deluge. I’d argue that even if it isn’t a calculated move on Trump’s and his administration’s part, it does create an atmosphere that suggests sustained resistance and backlash are futile. It also forces the public to constantly fact-check. Trump insists that The New York Times, CNN and other reputable news outlets are “fake news,” and that “Any negative polls are fake news.”
Which brings me to my second point. Has the news, the fact-checking and the White House propaganda actually swayed anyone’s opinion left or right? Are the majority of Trump supporters changing their mind, when faced with data?
We in the 21st century, with our information just a click or swipe away, suffer from a particularly novel problem. Perhaps we also are a culture that exemplifies how decisions are emotional, not rational, and how when minds are made up, they are not so quickly changed. Access to information does not mean a person will make more informed decisions.
Information overload and information fatigue are particularly relevant in regard to the politcal climate today. When faced with more data than can be processed, a person does not make better decisions, and in fact quite probably will make worse decisions.
Too much information without explanation of how the information works, or without trustworthy sources, is as useless as too little information.
This is the responsibility of the news media: to parse the data into manageable narratives that the recipient trusts and can use to formulate an opinion. I would argue that the news media — as a whole, although there are exceptions — has failed in delivering meaningful information in a format that actually succeeds in changing people’s minds.
This isn’t news, but I believe it to be a statement worth saying in light of the coverage surrounding the current administration. It is excessive to a perhaps unnecessary degree.
Yet I cannot really fault or chastise news organizations for their coverage. They find themselves between a rock and a hard place: If everything is outrageous, it must all be reported, but if everything is outrageous, nothing is.
As unsatisfactory as it might be, I have no solid conclusions to draw here, none that would not be a gross oversimplification unless I was to take an extra thousand words or so to explain them. Likewise, I suspect that the current political landscape and the media surrounding it will, like so many other historical events, seem clearer in hindsight.
More than anything else, I think Donald Trump’s Twitter and his saturation in the media was the logical conclusions of two trends: the dispersal of news into infotainment and its polarization into niche groups that serve as information bubbles. And neither of these trends bode well for the next four years.
ISABEL KIM is a College junior from Warren, N.J., studying English and fine arts. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. “It Keeps Happening” usually appears every other Thursday.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.