Trust is one of the key facilitators that allows a government to prosper, as it is the trust invested by voters that brings a regime into power and enables them to serve the needs of a society. Where this trust becomes diminished, there is a severe danger that citizens will become cynical towards the government and political function as a whole, and this could create an environment where every political movement is viewed with mistrust and apprehension. It is not only government and politicians who contribute to this situation however, as modern and new media types play an increasingly significant role in the forming of opinion and political viewpoint.
With the online revolution and the subsequent explosion of news websites on the World Wide Web, there are a vast number of daily bulletins and articles for a user to absorb. The competitive nature of these sites and their output can occasionally take hold however, and see content that is published with a view to generating interest rather than educating the reader. This can lead to a situation where stories that cover a similar topic are published on different sites, and contradict each other both on the basic facts and the subjective view of their individual writer.
Mistrust for Political Powers
Senator Jon Kyle’s assertion concerning Planned Parenthood and their function was at the heart of recent controversy, as he claimed that abortions accounted for 90 percent of their overall work. However, as this figure was vehemently disputed and revealed to be closer to 3 percent than Mr Kyle’s original suggestion, his office rallied to issue a support of his actions. They claimed that his words were ‘not intended as a statement of fact’, and caused a public and media outcry that has resonated since.
Mr Kyle has subsequently become the subject of much political discussion and satire, and prompted a serious debate as to the integrity of political assertions in the contemporary age. If his words, issued through CNN and with the purpose of making a serious argument to reduce the organizations federal funding, were not intended to be factual then it is very difficult to understand their exact relevance. More likely, it appears that he has made an ill informed and generalized statement in the belief that there would be no significant consequence.
This is both naïve and disturbing, and reveals a startling lack of attention to detail amongst modern politicians. It is naïve in the fact that it is almost impossible to make an incorrect statement that remains uncorrected, especially when you consider the levels of information and knowledge that exists within the pages of the internet. In addition to this, it asks serious questions as to the respect that politicians have for the society that elected them, and the ease with which they can provide misinformation in the name of enforcing a subjective point of view.
The Influence of Modern Media
Of course, the prevalence of contemporary online media in politics has afforded huge publicity to this incident, and served to highlight the growing mistrust between the people of the US and their federal representatives. Aside from providing intense exposure to politicians and their errors in judgement, it also has an underlying influence in the manifestation of this mistrust in the first instance, both through providing an outlet for dissenting political voices and by publishing contradicting stories on a particular topic.
While facilitating the freedom of information is crucial in a democratic environment, the largely uncensored nature of the internet can occasionally become detrimental to this purpose. This is particularly true with independent websites that are vulnerable to the subjective machinations of their operators or writers, and therefore generate content which is based in something other than fact. Not only this, but the competitive nature of these websites can lead to publications which are sought to generate controversy as opposed to educating their reader base, and ultimately contradict the factual assertions of other outlets or political powers.
Establishing Trust for the Benefit of Society
These factors all contrive to create an environment of political mistrust, as citizens are unsure whether to believe the assertions of the countries politicians or the many media outlets that seek to inform and educate. With this in mid, it is each citizens duty to forge their own political knowledge and opinion, based on their own experience and observations of the presiding government. Through this process, it is easier for individuals to hear political news and statements and make their own independent judgements, and form a decision making process that dismisses the incorrect or ill considered ramblings of others.
Politicians, for their part, should make an improved effort to support their policies, and they can achieve this through the application of accurate fact rather than vague assumption. It is here that online media can benefit the search for knowledge, by being used for the purpose of seeking factual information to corroborate a specific claim. It is relatively simple to discern fact from opinion, so political powers must ensure that they utilize online resources responsibility and with a view to creating and enforcing relevant policies.