Political coverage has become a vile Rorschach test
“At his second sporting event in a week, and just days after news emerged that he had changed his residency to Florida instead of New York, Mr. Trump received a very loud, mixed reaction as he headed toward his seat next to the octagon as “Back in Black” by AC/DC blared throughout the arena.”
— The New York Times
“Both boos and cheers can be heard in videos of the event, but the president and his adult sons disputed reports of the negative reception.”
— The Washington Post
“President Donald Trump was met with loud, sustained boos and some cheers as he entered Madison Square Garden for the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Saturday night in New York.”
“USA Today reported the president received ‘a mixed reaction’ from the Garden crowd, and Newsday of Long Island’s Mark La Monica tweeted the reception was ‘nothing like at Nats game.’
“Nevertheless, many users on Twitter were promoting a ‘Trump was booed’ narrative, which Donald Trump Jr. disputed.”
— Fox News
“By asking the person to tell you what they see in the inkblot, they are actually telling you about themselves, and how they project meaning on to the real world.”
— Dr. Mike Drayton, “What’s behind the Rorschach inkblot test?,” BBC Magazine, July 2012
I’ve developed a powerful aversion to scrolling through Twitter. It only depresses me.
But I got trapped in the morass the other night. As happens with social media, I went looking for something specific and instead got pulled through thread after horrifying thread of what historians will someday call the Diary of the Downfall of Decency.
It was Sunday, a day after President Donald Trump visited an Ultimate Fighting Championship bout in New York City. Trump had just announced he was moving from the Big Apple in favor of the warmer, sunnier, and more politically profitable climes of Florida.
Showing up to the screams of AC/DC’s “Back in Black” (if anyone knows who chose that song and why, let me know) Trump was greeted by …
Well, the end of that sentence is kind of the point of this column.
Multiple smartphone videos from multiple angles throughout the arena make it clear to any honest observer there’s a pretty even mix of boos and cheers competing with Angus Young’s Gibson SG for decibel space.
However, Twitter made it clear — through ALL CAPS SHOUTING — that, despite the evidence, those from opposite ends of the political spectrum saw diametrically different versions of the same event.
Liberals heard nothing but overwhelming boos and called the conservatives all kinds of invectives for not seeing things their way. Conservatives claimed the boos were few and called the liberals all kinds of invectives for not seeing things their way.
Many of those tweets came from people I know, from friends and former sources who are polite, reasonable people in the real world. On Twitter, they cussed and swore and spat at strangers for not seeing a truth they were obviously blind to themselves.
As has become the sad norm, about the only thing on which the two sides could agree was that they hated the media for reporting facts that didn’t support their arguments.
Headlines from my top Google search results for coverage of the fight night shows, per usual, newspapers shooting straight down the middle and TV news paying lip service to one side while leaning heavily the other way:
∫ USA Today: “President Donald Trump got a thunderous reaction at UFC 244”
∫ New York Times: “Trump takes in a different kind of fight: U.F.C. in New York”
∫ Washington Post: “Boos, cheers greet Trump as he ventures from friendly campaign rallies to mixed martial arts event”
∫ CNN: “Trump met with loud boos, some cheers at UFC fight in New York”
∫ Fox News: “Trump cheered (and booed) at UFC match in New York City”
In the real world, the media reported what was plainly obvious in the videos: Trump got some cheers and some boos. On Twitter, news outlets are vicious liars for reporting either that Trump was booed or that he was cheered.
Political coverage has become some kind of vile Rorschach test. People take a straight photograph and melt it, in their minds, into shapeless blobs of ink before putting it back together into whatever it is they hate, whatever Mr. Hyde they want to CURSE IN ALL CAPS.
How do we survive that?
How do we, as a society, keep from crashing into one another if we can no longer even agree whether a light is red or green?
Justin A. Hinkley can be reached at 989-358-5686 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.