The Opinionated Decade

As the first decade of the twenty-first century came to an end, editors and op-ed columnists began working on their verdicts of the ‘00s. Cloaked in newly obtained hindsight – hardly 20/20 – Time Magazine bombastically named it the “decade from hell”:

Bookended by 9/11 at the start and a financial wipeout at the end, the first 10 years of this century will very likely go down as the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post–World War II era. … Call it the Decade from Hell, or the Reckoning, or the Decade of Broken Dreams, or the Lost Decade. Call it whatever you want — just give thanks that it is nearly over.

According to The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne, Jr., however, we’ve just lived through the “decade when the U.S. lost its way”:

I’m afraid that the past 10 years will be seen as a time when the United States badly lost its way by using our military power carelessly, misunderstanding the real challenges to our long-term security and pursuing domestic policies that constrained our options for the future while needlessly threatening our prosperity.

On a similar note, Bill Moyers described assertions of a “decade of conservative failure” in a recent interview with Thomas Frank:

I mean, remember before Obama, they turned a budget surplus into a deficit. They took us to war on fraudulent pretenses. They borrowed money to fight it. They presided over a stalemate in Afghanistan. They trashed the Constitution. They presided over the weakest economy in decades—[Frank: Not weak for everybody. Moyers: No, no. Frank: Some people did really well.]—Okay, they compiled the worst track record on jobs in decades. And they ended up with the worst stock market in decades. I mean, it was a decade of conservative failure.

With this short review in mind, let me give you my take:

In the previous decade, opinionated news blossomed – and not just the “fair and balanced” kind. With the continuing evolution of cable news, the notion of the never-ending news cycle took on a new meaning. Eventually, traditional news anchors weren’t the only ones presenting the “news”. The suit and tie remained, but something happened to the journalistic ideal of objectivity. No one person, organization, or event is to blame, but objectivity – and to a certain extent credibility – was left aside as the news media drifted steadily in the direction of entertainment. Actual reporting by actual reporters still takes place, but the ones driving the ratings and dissecting current events are increasingly commentators. They look the same, but their approach is different.

With opinions added to the mix, news stories certainly take on a different flavor. Opinions are added instantly, and the Kool-Aid that’s presented functions as a set of talking points stored in the back of your mind when you eventually formulate your own opinions on the matter.

Furthermore, social media, or new media as some prefer to call it, exploded in the second half of the previous decade. The trend affected the world of politics like everything else. Facebook notes, status updates and twitter feeds seem ideally equipped to satisfy the feeding frenzy of the talking heads. In the end, the buzz of the echo chamber is numbing, and dare one say – dumbing?

Ironically, though fittingly – Who Gets What is a product of the opinionated decade. Like everybody else, we have something on our mind, but we hope to bring something new to the table. If creating nothing else than our own echo chamber, Who Gets What functions as an online journal in which we can discuss, analyze and organize our thoughts. As we see it, thinking is often done best while writing.

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