American Freedom and Misinformation

How Much is too Much?

Clearly, the constitutional right of free speech reigns supreme in America. But how much freedom is too much? Some argue the autonomy of the American media has led to issues being blown out of proportion. Further, they propose that many American citizens are misinformed.

In an article for The Washington Post, Jennifer Hochschild and Katherine L. Einstein explain how American politics contains several great examples of how citizens can be misinformed. Many citizens have expressed concern over a media bias.

An editorial cartoon on media bias. Courtesy of The Boston Globe.

The media tends to exaggerate problems while highlighting the issues that it wants voters to focus on. By controlling what the people see, the media can paint a positive or negative picture of a candidate, and these pictures can often be far from the truth.

Consequently, American voters have pieces of information that might contain facts, but do not accurately reflect the situation. Ultimately, they end up making misinformed decisions, but they are not completely uninformed (“No, We’re Not Arguing from the Same Facts” par. 7). Hochschild and Einstein go on to deduce that:

“In some cases –such as parents’ refusal to vaccinate or Americans’ belief that the Iraq invasion was necessary in order to eliminate the country’s weapons of mass destruction–people died because of the choice to act on misinformation. In other cases–such as opposition by the uninsured to the Affordable Care Act or liberal African Americans’ support for confirming Clarence Thomas to be a Supreme Court justice—people have relied on false ‘knowledge’ to make choices that ended up violating their own interests as they defined them.”

par. 6

Here, Hochschild and Einstein assert that misinformation is a serious problem because it leads people to act contrary to their actual beliefs. Still, it is important to note that the access to accurate information is available to American citizens.

Even though certain media outlets may be biased, any American citizen can easily pull news from the Internet and properly research their beliefs. If an American citizen is misinformed, they are at least partially responsible for themselves. While their opinion might have been influenced by media bias, there was no reason not to research the topic.

Hochschild, Jennifer, and Katherine L. Einstein. “No, We’re Not Arguing from the Same Facts. How Can Democracies Make Good Decisions If Citizens Are Misinformed?” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 21 July 2015. Web. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/07/21/no-were-not-arguing-from-the-same-facts-how-can-democracies-make-good-decisions-if-citizens-are-misinformed/

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