The former US president has argued that a “splintered media” has left people too divided to see the same facts
Americans are so divided by the country’s polarizing media outlets that they can’t even begin to address controversial challenges based on a common understanding of reality, former US President Barack Obama has claimed.
“The thing that I’m most worried about is the degree to which we now have a divided conversation, in part because we have a divided media,” Obama said in a ‘CBS Mornings’ interview aired on Tuesday. He added that when the country had only three major television news outlets, “people were getting a similar sense of what is true and what isn’t, what was real and what was not. Today, what I’m most concerned about is the fact that because of the splintering of the media, we almost occupy different realities.”
Past generations of Americans were able to confront issues based on a common view of the facts, even as they disagreed on policy decisions, Obama said. “In the past, everybody could say, ‘All right, we may disagree on how to solve it, but at least we all agree that, yeah, that’s an issue.’ Now people will say, ‘Well, that didn’t happen,’ or, ‘I don’t believe that,’ or, ‘I don’t care about the science,’ or, ‘I’m not concerned about these experts, you know, ’cause they’re just all liberals,’ or, you know, ‘that’s just conservative propaganda.’”
The former president said one of his goals is to help solve how to return America to a “common conversation” based on a “common set of facts.” He has previously warned that “disinformation” and splintering of media are further dividing Americans and making democracy “more complicated.” In January 2018, one year after leaving office, Obama said the country’s biggest problem was that people didn’t share a “common baseline of facts” – a weakness that Russia allegedly exploited by meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
However, Obama’s own partisan views creep into his arguments about bringing Americans onto the same page factually. Democratic Party claims about Russian election meddling proved largely unfounded. US special counsel Robert Mueller’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation found that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team didn’t collude with the Russian government. Another special counsel report, released on Monday after a four-year probe, found that the FBI never had sufficient evidence to launch its investigation of the Trump campaign.
Obama made his latest comments about divided realities in the context of his view that America needs tighter restrictions on gun ownership. “In Australia, you had one mass shooting, 50 years ago, and they said, ‘Oh, we’re not doing that anymore,’” he said. “That is normally how you would expect a society to respond when your children are at risk.”