By Talia Soglin
Much has been said in the post-election aftermath about the dangers of echo chambers. In think piece after think piece, a well-meaning columnist tells us how failing to listen to diverse perspectives has divided the nation. And they’re right. But 2016 itself was an echo chamber — an exhausting, depressing echo chamber that we all shared in together, regardless of political affiliation.
We’ve spent the year examining and reexamining the same events, but we’ve often failed to look at them from different angles and have ignored incredibly pressing issues in favor of sensationalized news and overblown scandals.
That’s not to say that the media coverage of the major news events of 2016 was undeserved or even superficial. To use the elephant in the room as an example, we need to be writing think pieces about Trump’s election and impending presidency. We need to be thinking about it and generating discussion.
But Americans too often fail to consider a Trump presidency within a global context. What does it say about our world when nationalism like his is succeeding not just in our country, but across Europe? What are the similarities and differences between the strains of populism that led to his election, the Brexit vote, and the rise of Marine Le Pen in France?
Climate change was almost entirely ignored during the U.S. election cycle. One could, of course, make the case that most policy issues were neglected in favor of sensationalized news and overblown scandals, but the absence of discussion about the environment was particularly conspicuous.
Many scientists consider climate change to be the most pressing issue of our time, but it was hardly mentioned at all during the three presidential debates, and was not featured prominently in either candidates’ platform — all at a time when millions of people worldwide are set to become environmental refugees due to contaminated drinking water and failing crops, and the Pentagon itself has said that climate change is a national security risk in the U.S.
And where is the anger, now, about the Senate’s continued refusal to confirm Merrick Garland as a Supreme Court justice? Even ride-or-die Democrats seem to have lost their outrage on this one, and it’s a shame that Senate Republicans are being allowed to quietly obstruct due process in this way.
Worldwide, the plight of Myanmar Rohingyas received precious little coverage in 2016. The Myanmar government has continued to refuse to recognize the Rohingya people, who are considered “stateless entities” in their country. They face institutionalized discrimination and systemic violence, but for some reason their story isn’t compelling to the mainstream media.
And while Aleppo received an increasing amount of coverage towards the end of the year, the media response was, arguably, not at all proportional to the situation on the ground. What if Aleppo were in France or Belgium or the U.S?
Not all of the news we ignored last year was even bad — child mortality and crime are both down worldwide. Incredible strides were made in Alzheimer’s research, and we discovered the gene that causes ALS. An experimental Ebola vaccine has proven to be 100% effective. President Obama banned solitary confinement for juveniles in federal prisons and Colombia’s Congress signed a peace deal with the FARC, the rebel group they had been fighting for 52 years.
More happened in 2016 than Trump’s election and David Bowie’s death, and we should remember it that way. We should also make it our job this year to fight the big echo chamber along with the little ones.