Social media and cable news are not real life, parts per million

I have good friends who have been deeply disturbed by things some conservative influencers have been saying about the Ukraine War, specifically those who seem to be sympathizing with Putin or scapegoating the US (even though the US is not directly involved). I’m not going to lie – I find it absolutely bonkers (and anti-American) too.

I am the furthest thing from a Democratic voter there is, but I cannot watch this braindead crap. If the 2024 election is a MAGA rerun, I am sitting it out. As far as I am concerned, the MAGA version of the GOP and the far-left are equally destructive forces in our society. I don’t want either one of them in power again. I’m tired of the totally unnecessary belligerence and manufactured crises that come with both. No one is going to convince me that “this is the most important election of our lifetime” and that “choosing between two evils” is okay. Nominate a grown-ass adult who does not belong in a nursing home or psych ward. It’s not a big ask.

While I understand concern over “influencers” to some extent, especially as I have developed a sort of recreational interest in the conspiracy wing of the GOP following the election, this fringe group of people are exactly that: a fringe group. Approximately 3.4 million people tune into Tucker Carlson every night. There are upwards of 330 million people living in the United States. The main reason he has a high rank in terms of cable news viewership despite all the garbage he has been spewing lately is most Americans who aren’t Boomers don’t watch cable anything. Fox’s primetime line-up is just like 60 Minutes on the left – it exists to rile up the pharmaceutical demographic, and that’s about all. There’s a reason the commercials are for toenail fungus paint and silver coins, folks. These networks are literally one generation away from irrelevance in this country, and it cannot come soon enough. (Not to mention the fact that half of Carlson’s audience is probably hate-watching him and no official statistic tries to measure that modern phenomenon.)

An overwhelming majority of Americans are not conflicted about what caused the Ukraine War. They fully understand Putin is not some great or misunderstood guy or strategic genius. This is not a thing your average American struggles with.

Don’t get me wrong – having a few million people off their rocker in a society is not a good thing. And that’s just the number on the far-right… an equal number on the far-left are emotionally disturbed by politics of a different variety. But this is not some existential crisis for democracy. Democracy is arguably a pretty decent form of protection against people living in alternate realities and being intellectually exploited by bad actors.

These media charlatans do not have to be broadly popular to make a good deal of money because of how media in this country is set up. The same is true on the left – the New York Times gave up on being broadly popular a very long time ago. All they need is the same cohort of lab rats to pull on the same lever and over and over and over and over again to make the advertising model useful to them. It does not mean everyone in the country is one of their lab rats. Most people have kids and boats and soccer practice and Bible study. In other words, healthier things to do than be apologists for genocide.

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