Editor’s Note: The past few months I’ve been asking older folks around the community and at church why they believe there seems to be an increase in divisiveness in recent years.
Who’s to blame? Is it Facebook? Twitter? The oligopoly of the media? With the bulk of U.S. media outlets owned by just four corporations, thus less voices and opinions.
I personally believe it’s ‘all of the above.’ You and I grew up in a country that prided itself on competition, freedom, personal liberty, freedom of thought and freedom of choice.
According to recent BNC News poll found that a majority of Americans blame sites like Twitter and Facebook for dividing the country — even as around the same amount admit to using social media at least once a day.
- 66% of adults say they log into social media at least once a day.
- 33 percent don’t log into social media daily.
- 64% of Americans said they believe the platforms do more to divide the country — including 77 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of independents and 54 percent of Democrats.
- Only 27% think the social media platforms do more to unite the country.
The sentiment against the social media giants appears to be hardening. Fifty-seven percent of the Americans responding to the same question last year said the platforms were more divisive and 35 percent said they were more uniting.
Among the Americans who use social media every day, 49 percent say it makes their lives better, while 37 percent said it makes their lives worse.
Personally, I think, we as ‘Americans’ need to be on high alert against those that continue to seek to divide and conquer our country. Folks, believe me there are those who want to continue to cause chaos and discourse. A little disruption is great in technology, business and marketplace of ideas-but when certain groups, media and people can only bring to the table ‘division’ it is time to wake up and see what is happening to our country.
I’m concerned our country could be approaching a period of political upheaval that could lead to open conflict, disunion or move towards authoritarianism. Was George Orwell was right when he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four? In the book, Orwell speaks about truth being mutilated, language being distorted and manipulation of language as a weapon of mind control, power being abused and how bad things can get with authoritarianism.
I’m reminded of the words by one of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln who said,
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
The commentary below is by Dr. Larry Burriss, a professor at MTSU who teaches journalism, communication and media law. I took Dr. Burriss class, ‘Freedom of Expression’ which focuses on the First Amendment. The class really peeked my interest and encouraged me to continue my education and learn journalism, communication and created a sense of need to value the First Amendment and our US Constitution. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants us five freedoms: the freedom of religion, speech, press, petition and assembly. Folks if we lose those freedoms—then we’ve lost our democracy…
Commentary by MTSU Professor of Journalism Larry Burriss: The Nobel Peace Prize, journalist working under turmoil that included the murder of other reporters – and then a look at non-governmental entities trying to manipulate public opinion. With a look at journalism and the involvement of media control in certain areas of life, here is MTSU Journalism Professor Larry Burriss…
VERBATIM of Above Audio: “Back in December the Nobel Prize Committee, for the first time in more than 80 years, awarded the Peace Prize to two journalists, one from the Philippines and one from Russia.
The committee said a free press is essential to “democracy and lasting peace,” and noted both journalists are working under threatening and intimidating conditions, often involving jail time and murder of reporters.
But the committee failed to take any notice of efforts by non-government entities to control the media and manipulate public opinion.
Take, for example, last week’s suspension by Twitter of the personal account of Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene because of her comments about the Corona virus, vaccines and masks.
Or one could cite similar actions by other social media providers to block comments about the last presidential election or the capital riot last year.
Actually, it seems to me, any media platform ought to encourage unpopular facts, distortions and misinformation. Such a program would, in fact, help eliminate fake news, fabrication, or simple misunderstandings.
Let’s take a silly example to see how this works: You decide to block anyone who claims Bigfoot is real.
Well, let them have their say, but then your side makes an offer asking them to explain their evidence. Then, when they reply with their evidence, introduce your evidence, with backup, to show how they are wrong.
If the ensuing debate can remain civil, which I actually doubt will happen, then you will see an honest discussion, with give-and-take, with evidence, rather than just empty rhetoric, bombast and name calling.
Now, imagine what would happen if we used the same technique for discussions about vaccines and mortality rates, elections and vote counts, carbon levels and ice temperatures.
Both sides would have to present their evidence, with supporting documentation, and both sides would have the opportunity to refute what the other side is saying.
Back in the dark ages, just as the Internet was being developed, we were told this electronic marvel would promote global debate, comprehensive education and the triumph of truth. Allowing all sides to have their say will help achieve that worthy goal. – I’m Larry Burriss“
About Dr. Burriss
Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications.He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss’ publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth.
Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.