Decent Essays

In the reading “How the Mass Media Divide Us’, professor Diana Mutz argues that the mass media, in an effort to increase audience size, actually divides Americans by entertaining them with television “shout shows” that are built on bitter debate, intense disagreement, and irate confrontations. Mutz believes that this causes Americans to embrace more extreme political views. Uncivil discourse increases polarization by helping partisans think even less of their opponents. A study conducted by Mutz concluded that watching civil versions of political exchanges can lead to decreased levels of polarization. In a civil setting, where differences of opinion are conveyed in a manner which supports mutual respect, viewers are able to see differences …show more content…

Sunstein argues that an echo-chamber effect results when people receive news from various media outlets. Sunstein asserts that, when a person gets their news from a medium which embraces similar ideological viewpoints, this person’s beliefs not only harden, but become situated on more extreme ends of the political spectrum. Three-stage academic studies conducted over the past three decades have found that balanced presentations of news, which carefully examine both sides to an argument, are more likely to increase polarization, rather than to reduce it. This is due to “biased assimilation”, where a person credits the information which supports their original view and dismisses information which opposes it. This also explains why it is difficult to force out false rumors and factual errors, since corrections can be self-defeating, leading people to having a firmer commitment to their erroneous beliefs. However, Sunstein argues, surprising validators can be used to allow people to reconsider information from a source they find credible. Sunstein concludes with arguing that what matters most is not what is being said, but who is saying

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