Former President Barack Obama has pointed a finger at media and social networks, arguing they are to blame for growing divisions among Americans - even as he himself admitted that divide grew under his watch.
While heaping praise on the current president during a Monday interview, Obama condemned media outlets for polarizing the American people, saying that those who watch Fox News and read the New York Times “perceive a different reality.” Despite the divide, he said Joe Biden is well equipped to bridge the gap between the two.
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The former president argued that the country has been torn apart by a “combination of political, cultural, ideological and geographical divisions,” insisting, however, that when he first ran for the office America was far more unified.
In the time since, preexisting yet benign differences were magnified by social media, he said, claiming that had allowed netizens to live in their own “bubbles” with like-minded people and avoid considering other views.
However, Obama himself can hardly be considered blameless in Americans’ race to the bottom, given his petty refusal to even utter ex-president Donald Trump’s name while Trump was in office
While he mentioned both Fox News and the Times in his swipe at the media, the former president has never hidden his dismay for the conservative outlets. He hasn’t held back against Fox News in particular, taking every opportunity available to publicly rage at the network that brought the “birther” conspiracy to mainstream eyes and fueled the Republicans who spent his two terms in office blocking whatever legislation he could bring to the floor. In 2017, he chuckled that “If I watch Fox News, I wouldn’t vote for me.” “This character Barack was portrayed in weird ways. It is all edited and shaped,” he said.
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When endorsing Biden for president last year, Obama couldn’t help throwing a thinly-veiled jab at a “propaganda network with little regard for the truth” which “the other side” had at their disposal, without calling Fox by name, and even thanked the coronavirus pandemic for its “way of cutting through a lot of noise and spin to remind us of what is real and what is important.”
Obama nevertheless encouraged Americans from all sides of the political spectrum to come together and curb-stomp fake news, lest it push them irreversibly into an echo chamber from which there is no escape.
He essentially warned that failure to cut off alternative sources of information would fracture the fragile American democracy many might argue was already broken. “Until we can agree on a common set of facts, until we can distinguish between what’s true and what’s false, then the marketplace of ideas won’t work. Our democracy won’t work,” Obama told The 19th, sounding for all the world like the New York Times’ recent call for the Biden administration to appoint a “reality tzar ” – an idea that prompted comparisons with George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. “As citizens, we need to push our institutions in the direction of addressing these challenges,” Obama said.
Not bothering to question the ethical repercussions of such a move – which would essentially make citizens complicit in their own political ‘reprogramming’ – Obama merely expressed confidence that Biden would be able to “bridge our divides.”
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