Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Where Is My Fox News?

On a roadtrip last week from Portland, OR to Las Veges, NV, I stopped for the night in a Motel 6 in Redding, CA. The following conversation was overheard by someone in my party. It occurred in the lobby of the Motel 6 between a customer and the front desk person:

Customer: Hi. There are two things you need to help me with. (Spreads out map of Redding). Show me where I can find a McDonalds...and show me where I can find a Wal-mart.

Front desk: I can show you where you can find a McDonalds INSIDE a Wal-mart.

Customer: Okay, fine. And one more thing: I've got a little piece of advice for you. Not everyone who stays here is as liberal as you people in California. There is no Fox News on your TV. I suggest you do something about that. I mean, is there no Fox News at any Motel 6?

A couple of things struck me about this rather humorous conversation. First, it suggests that, given the customer's political framework for the conversation, going to Wal-mart and McDonalds might be, at least in part, a political act, and not only about low prices. I'm sure we are all familiar with NOT going to Wal-mart as a political act, but it may be that the opposite is also a practiced phenomenon.

The second is that it is a good example of how segregated the world has become in terms of where we get our information. And of how that information is so often politically biased. It is an oft talked about phenomenon that, sadly, I find hard to refute: people tend to want their ideas and attitudes re-enforced rather than questioned, and they go out of their way to make sure they expose themselves exclusively to information sources that parrot their already-hardened attitudes. And I don't think this holds true only for conservatives. It's not too hard to imagine a liberal having a similar conversation in, say, Texas. "Not everyone is as conservative as you people in Texas. The only news channel you have in this motel is Fox News. I suggest you carry another news channel."

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