COMMENTARY: News, ideological echo chambers and Samantha Bee

On Saturday, liberal comedian Samantha Bee hosted her “Not the White House Correspondents Dinner” to mock the actual event.

On Sunday, Bee was asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper if there was a “smug liberal problem”— a universe in which she and other Trump-bashing ideologues existed, blissfully unaware of anyone else who might hold a different view.

Somewhat surprisingly, Bee admitted it.

“I do the show for me and people like me and I don’t really care how the rest of the world sees it, quite frankly… We make a show for ourselves.”

The comedian made this statement after insisting there was no “smug liberal problem”— which is exactly what a smug liberal would think and say.

Regardless, I would like to thank Samantha Bee for her honesty.

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How many times have progressive personalities — politicians, pundits, activists, comedians and beyond — accused conservatives of being mindless drones who can’t fathom anything beyond the worldview Fox News gives them? I don’t know a single leftish friend or acquaintance who doesn’t believe this on some level.

And they’re not wrong.

Fox News is right-wing by design, branded from the beginning as a “fair and balanced” alternative to the much larger “liberal media” conservatives had complained about for decades. Today, the cable giant reaches a massive audience of millions of Republican voters who prefer their news and opinion red.

There is nothing wrong with this.

Ideological leanings are as old as journalism itself. Most know Fox News is conservative. Most know MSNBC is liberal. At Rare Politics, we lean libertarian-conservative.

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But if seeking a more civil society and politics, there is something wrong with only wanting to talk to people who think exactly as you do.

The problem with a Fox News viewer who only watches that channel isn’t that he or she consumes conservative media, but that it might be the only thing they watch. This can lead to a belief that it is indeed “fair and balanced” with no ideological agenda.

I have known many conservatives who believe this. They loathe Rachel “Madcow,” but appreciate Sean Hannity giving them “real news.” The same is true for progressives. I literally laughed out loud at a close liberal friend a few years ago who tried to convince me that Fox News was “rightwing garbage,” but MSNBC was just “regular news.”

I really did think he was pulling my leg. He was dead serious.

You have to be deep in your echo chamber to legitimately believe that your hard right or left perspective reflects objective reality without giving the other side an ounce of consideration.

As a libertarian, I have the ideological luxury of seeing positive aspects about the left (pro-civil liberties, antiwar sentiment when Democrats aren’t president, marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform) and also the right (constitutionalism, belief in limited government when Republicans aren’t president, deregulation, free markets).

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Also as a libertarian, so many hard leftists view me as indistinguishable from the average conservative Republican, while many conservative Republicans see me as a bleeding-heart liberal due to my areas of agreement with progressives.

But that’s the problem with doctrinaire leftists or rightists — their ideological tunnel vision prevents them from seeing beyond their self-imposed blinders. They more often seek to avoid debate than engage in it, because alternate truths that might clash with theirs could make them uncomfortable. If you don’t fit into the established preconceived ideological boxes, particularly theirs, you’re an enemy who belongs on the other side.

That’s really the problem with many conservatives who only watch Fox News, not merely that they watch Fox News. That’s really the problem with liberals who only watch MSNBC or comedians like Samantha Bee and do not care to engage anyone with different perspectives.

“I do the show for me and people like me and I don’t really care how the rest of the world sees it, quite frankly…” political comedian Samantha Bee says, matter-of-factly.

Could there be a more illiberal or close-minded statement?

Jack Hunter is the politics editor at Rare.

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