The media must be held accountable for dividing this country

Yousuf Fahimuddin,

The current political climate in this country is the most toxic it’s been in my lifetime. In a mad dash to prove themselves right—because nothing is worse than a newspaper admitting that it got something wrong—they’re spreading false information.

“Big media” outlets like CNN, Huffington Post, New York Times, MSNBC before and after the election have all reported several false information or otherwise blatantly supported the Democrats, calling the Republicans so-called the party of nazis and white supremacists.  

FOX News reported that Hillary would be indicted several times, but they were wrong. FOX at least apologized, but none of the others have. CNN colluded with the Democratic National Committee on interview questions for both the debates and interviewing Donald Trump, but only Donna Brazile, chairperson for the Democratic National Committee and former CNN contributor, was punished for leaking debate questions.

It takes me back to the media’s push for the Iraq War. They built up a false narrative based on patriotism, fear mongering and nation building, purposefully ignored the facts and sold it to the whole country. And they’re doing it again.

I say this all as somebody who worked on the 2012 Obama reelection campaign, a lifelong Democrat, and as someone who couldn’t vote for Trump or Clinton because they were bad candidates. I am a Muslim who knows what discrimination looks like. I have fought racists with my hands as well as with the pen.

But the way the mainstream media—and comedians—have purposefully pushed these lies is disgusting. It’s an affront to the trust we put in them as citizens. We’re all owed an apology for the lies and divisiveness, but I know we’ll never get it.

There’s so much misinformation floating around. The day after the election, an 18-year-old Muslim girl at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette stated that a man in a pro-Trump hat grabbed her hijab from behind her and told her to go hang herself with it. She tweeted this first and promptly caught the attention of the school police department, who asked her to come in to file a report. It turned out that she lied. When asked why she lied, she couldn’t give an explanation.

Additionally, claims on Twitter that the KKK were marching in North Carolina after Trump’s election were also false, according to Politifact, but some major news outlets reported it as true.

Even today, news headlines about Trump’s newly chosen Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, describe him consistently and on message as a “white nationalist” and anti-Semite. Snopes, a fact-checking website, states that this is mostly untrue. John Bolton, a Bush-era politician, has been labeled by the Huffington Post as a violent militant. It would be like calling George W. Bush “Chief Architect of ISIS.” Media coverage like this makes our country more divided.

It’s as if the media is going for page views and clicks to generate more revenue. It’s the same mindset that put Trump at the front of the polls.

Given how utterly irresponsible the mainstream media have been over the past year, especially in the past week, I don’t blame some of my friends for expressing fears that Black people will get lynched because Trump got elected or that Trump will take away health care from disabled people. The blame falls squarely on the likes of CNN, Huffington Post, and comedians like Stephen Colbert and John Oliver for taking advantage of our trust in them and using it for their own gain.

Fact check everything you read, especially now, because the big mainstream media outlets aren’t living up to their responsibilities. Fear gets more viewers, but it’s poisonous for all of us.