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Political Culture and the Media

Political culture

“If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.” – Nicholas Nassim Taleb, Antifragile

Politicians have become ever more known for speaking yet saying nothing.

The media creates controversies to sell copies and increase viewership.

And Millennials look at each side and think, what’s the point in paying attention to this? Nothing of value is being presented here.

Several years ago during an election, I tweeted a comment about a politician based on my previous first-hand account of a conversation I had heard while working for her. I had long since left that political party, and returned to the one I had originally been with, because I did not agree with their policies (it was a new party in the early phase of policy platform development when I joined) and I was concerned about the lack of integrity and ethics I observed and experienced there. My tweet – which was actually one of two tweets, where the second explained the first – was spun out of context by members of that party, and in addition to a contrived statement from the politician seeing an opportunity to take advantage of the situation, the media wrote humiliating stories about me for weeks, and still mention me on occasion to this day.

This was when I learned I didn’t actually have freedom of speech.

Any mistake on social media explodes into an example of online bullying and harassment, fueled by a lazy media that watches social media for new stories due to a lack of ability to come up with original and fact-based journalism. No reporter contacted me prior to publishing my name in their chosen context, and only one journalist, whom I had never met, came to my defense.

I have not met a single Millennial who says they trust the media, and many have shared with me examples of either themselves or someone they know being publicly shamed because a good story was better than the facts. The media are not in the business of telling the truth, they are in the business of making money. This isn’t to say there aren’t worthy journalists exposing things the world needs to know about, but altruism is not the foundational culture of the media.

Back to the politicians. As I discussed in an earlier post, politicians are just people and their character determines the political output. There are many people who go into politics out of a genuine desire to do better for society through government, and unfortunately there are always going to be those who pursue public service as the path for personal gain. Particularly for the good politicians, why would one make a comment that could so easily be taken out of context or misrepresented by the media, damaging their reputations and possibly ending their career? This fear and lack of trust to be represented accurately creates a political culture of the same.

This clash presents a dilemma for Millennials. How do you improve either without becoming collateral damage yourself? For me, the worst that could happen has happened and I feel liberated to push ahead with thicker skin and deeper wisdom. I can’t promise it will be easy for Millennials to change either culture, but I do sincerely believe it is worthwhile to try. The strongest, most resilient and best qualified of our generation are needed in politics to break the echo chamber dynamic and step by step create a culture based on the values of our generation – respect, collaboration and actual results.

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