I saw some statistics today that made me think about something that I think many who have center-left or even liberal political leanings already inherently know, but which is rarely actually flushed out. David Atkins at the Washington Monthly touched on it in a post yesterday about the demographic that the Republican candidates seem to be focusing on, namely the angry 20-30% of the population that is either obsessed with gun rights, anti-immigration, or vehemently against a raise in taxes for the wealthy.
What he doesn't touch on there, (despite noting that 88% of Americans support stronger background checks for gun purchases, 70% of Americans support comprehensive immigration reform, and 63% support raising taxes on the wealthy), is that the angry 20-30% of the population they are focusing on DOESN'T KNOW THEY ARE IN THE MINORITY.
In fact, most of these people, due to the media distortion on both the right and left, the echo-chamber effect that comes from listening only to those views that support your own side, and the inherent inertia of viewpoints built up over their long lives, believe themselves to be part of the "Silent Majority." This was a term coined by Nixon for the supposed majority of the country that believed in old fashioned values, or whatever it was he supported at the time. Obviously, with the rise of social media, these people are far from silent. However, they believe that the viewpoints they hold and trumpet in their latest Facebook post or Twitter rant, most of them fed to them by Fox News are held by a majority of Americans and they are merely the only brave soul willing to stand up to the insidious takeover by liberals who they believe to be a smaller subset of the population forcing their views on others. Donald Trump is currently bringing back the idea of the Silent Majority at his rallies, notably in Alabama of all places.
The fault here lies with the media. They of course refer to it as the 'liberal media,' and truth be told there is a fair amount of liberal media out there doing the same damage to its viewers and listeners all in the name of ratings and profits. However, when the most profitable news cable news network by far is Fox News, and yet they still manage to brand themselves as the underdog standing up to big media, you can see the manipulation they are working on their viewers. These viewers should be offended... clearly the network doesn't think much of them if it so callously manipulates them (mainly to the ends of the corporations they are currently raging at).
That being said, the point of this post is probably something along the lines of... Your conservative friends on social media are brainwashed by right wing propaganda, and its not really their fault if they believe the NRA's views, endorsed by only approximately 12% of the population, are what the majority of the country stands behind. Any proper news story should quote the above statistics, even if they want to editorialize against majority opinion. However, leading their viewers to believe that they are learning from Fox what the true majority of Americans believe is journalistic malpractice, and has lead to Fox News viewers being the least informed Americans. We get some brainwashing from our own echo-chamber as well, and as I've stated in the past we should all just stop watching cable news altogether, particularly any show that purports to put up two people arguing each side... which is just an invitation to watch idiots. If you want to see some fun political arguments, go watch the excellent documentary Best of Enemies. (Although those televised debates are pretty much what lead us to this current wasteland.)