'Morning Joe': Internet and New Media Are Dividing America

If you're reading this or spending time at politically oriented, new media websites, you are adding to the caustic tone in Washington, D.C.

Such was discussed on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday during a roundtable segment wherein no one disagreed with this premise.

Joining Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were conservative contributor Pat Buchanan, Time's Peter Beinart, and NBC's Savannah Guthrie.

The topic of discussion was the evolution of partisan politics, and although Beinart pointed out how the parties have been much more greatly divided in the past than they currently are, the conversation continually referred back to the Internet being to blame for today's divisions (video embedded below the fold with transcript and commentary, h/t Story Balloon):

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Peter, it seems to me that you look at what Scott Brown did yesterday. He voted for a tax-cutting bill. He's already being savaged on the right, far right, by, by Republicans. Democrats have been savaging throughout this entire healthcare process any Democrat who decides to be conservative on, on this plan. I wonder, is it new media? Is it the Internet? Is it the cable networks in primetime that are savaging moderates like Evan Bayh who say, "Forget this."

MIKA BRZEZINSKI, CO-HOST: Yeah, I'm out of here.

SCARBOROUGH: You want a Republican in Indiana, you take him.

PETER BEINART, TIME: That's absolutely true. We now have these kind of media and blog ghettos where conservatives listen to conservatives and liberals listen to liberals. And we don't have Walter Cronkite figures anymore.

Yeah. What America REALLY needs right now is another liberal news anchor. THAT'LL solve ALL our problems.

Besides that obvious inanity from Beinart, the subject here was surprising coming from folks that apparently live on the Internet. Is the instantaneous, round the clock availability of information REALLY the cause of today's political polarization?

NBC's Savannah Guthrie thinks so:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC: So we're institutionally polarized. But I wonder just from this conversation whether it's a lack of civility across our culture. It's not confined just to politics. But why were things more polite in the era of Nixon or even Reagan? It's because our society has gone that way where topics aren't off limits anymore. The Internet. So I think that there's maybe a general degradation of our time.

To a certain extent, Guthrie has a point that conservatives would agree with. In many respects, the Internet has removed limits of decency, the most obvious of which being pornography.

But as it pertains to politics and the dissemination of current events information, has the Internet REALLY degraded us?

SCARBOROUGH: There are no guardrails either. And we were talking about it earlier today on my Twitter feed yesterday.

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, my gosh.

SCARBOROUGH: The savagery. I'm serious.

BRZEZINSKI It was a bad day.

SCARBOROUGH: If they disagree with you --

BRZEZINSKI: They're ugly.

SCARBOROUGH: You're not wrong, you're evil. And I just wonder if --

BRZEZINSKI And a lot more.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, and I just wonder, again, if new media doesn't get in the way of bringing people together, of making a consensus.

Is the freeflow of information getting in the way of making a consensus? Well, first one has to decide whether or not a consensus is a good thing.

For example, Nobel Laureate Al Gore and his media sycophants arrogantly and falsely claim that there's a consensus concerning man's role in global warming.

Without the Internet and new media, more people would believe in the existence of this consensus, and likely wouldn't have heard about ClimateGate as well as many of the recent revelations concerning pivotal mistakes in IPCC reports.

As such, consensus isn't necessarily a good thing:

BRZEZINSKI: It opens up the discourse.

PAT BUCHANAN: It exacerbates it.

SCARBOROUGH: It does. A great example. Let's say Ben Nelson walks into a Republican's office six months ago and says, "Hey, maybe we can do an amendment to kill the public option." Fifteen minutes later, it's on a left-wing liberal blog site, and he's being called a corporate pig. If a Republican tries to do it, they're a socialist.


SCARBOROUGH: It puts pressure on the system.

Sure it does.

But isn't that tremendously American? Shouldn't we celebrate individuals being able to directly pressure their elected officials to did THEIR bidding rather than forcing legislation they don't want down their throats?

Also of note was how this discussion totally ignored how OLD media fits into this equation.

After all, despite the inroads new media have made, there still is a large percentage of folks getting their news from traditional sources.

If we are a divided nation, shouldn't THEY shoulder some of the blame as well?

Strangely, that didn't come up in this discussion.

Or maybe not so strange, for this conversation is probably an extension of what George Will was discussing on Sunday's "This Week": all of the current carping and whining about government being broken is because the Left is having a hard time enacting its agenda.

Would the "Morning Joe" crew be talking about the evolution of partisan politics if Obama had been able to get healthcare and cap and trade passed?

Probably not, but that doesn't explain what must have gotten into Buchanan's coffee this morning to go along with the premise being discussed.

MSNBC Morning Joe Video Peter Beinart Mika Brzezinski Savannah Guthrie
Noel Sheppard's picture