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Media-driven rhetoric leads to apathy
Published 10/3/2012 6:00:00 AM
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Every time I hear someone say the word politics I feel like I need a shower.

This shouldn’t be the case, as college ideally is a time of political socialization and education. Students, newly out from underneath their parents’ roof, have the chance to discover their own views about the world.

Unfortunately, they've become so detached from statewide politics their voice is unrepresented in Whitman County.

Even though the WSU campus has a significantly higher liberal population than the rest of the surrounding region, county government officials positions have been dominated almost entirely by the Republican Party.

This year the Whitman County State Representatives Susan Fagan and Joe Schmick, as well as State Senator Mark Schoesler are running unopposed. Each of these officials is endorsed by the GOP.

I have to wonder whether this conservative sweep of Whitman County would have taken place if more WSU students had gotten involved.

This disturbing trend goes beyond local politics.

As the presidential election approaches, few of my fellow students seem to care.

I’ve heard my peers say they will be voting for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney because he is “the lesser of two evils” more than once. This sentiment doesn’t exactly convey a rousing enthusiasm toward either candidate or toward the whole election process in general.

College students have developed a decisively apathetic attitude towards politics and for good reason.

The source of this indifference lies in the onslaught of political rhetoric citizens hear each day and how it makes it impossible to discern fact from fiction.

Followers of campaigns have become so used to hearing exaggerations and lies that they don’t even bother to search for the truth anymore, according to a New York Times column.

“The expectation is that any statement made either by a politician or by a media outlet is a false ideological distortion,” according to the column. “As a result, no one blames politicians for making false statements or statements that obviously contradict that politician’s beliefs.”

Because we cannot trust candidates to present us with truthful information, one would hope the media would provide a fair interpretation of their claims. While many news sources strive for balance in their reporting, it should not be forgotten that they are businesses trying to increase the size of their audience.

Andrew Cline, former Missouri State University journalist professor, said reporters share inherent professional bias.

“The news media (is) biased toward conflict because conflict draws readers and viewers. Harmony is boring,” he said.

As a result, we get a sensationalized, conflict-oriented, us-versus-them version of perspective that makes news more exciting but less accurate.

Students only hear from two extremist sides fighting over the most influential and groundbreaking issues, and they are desensitize by the constant superlatives.

Turned off by so much falsified information, our generation avoids involvement in the political process. We allow representatives who do not truthfully represent our beliefs to be elected without contention, as was the case in Whitman County.

This principle reigns true on a national level as well. Of course I can’t speak for everyone, but the atmosphere of the coming presidential election just doesn’t convey the gusto of those past.

From what I can collect, most Democrats seem fairly disappointed in Obama’s inability to deliver on promises he made in 2008.

Most Republicans seem a bit underwhelmed by Romney’s inconsistent platform.

Worst of all, most undecided voters, including myself and the majority of my fellow college students, find the whole process of picking a team entirely distasteful in this era of empty rhetoric.

The result: The WSU campus echoes, from Bryan Hall to Beasley Coliseum, with a single, resounding ‘meh.’

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