No, the real problem is dumb news:
Media is a product. Firms that provide this product are servicing a need, and we’d only be kidding ourselves to claim news consumers desire only to be informed. This isn’t a matter of simple bias confirmation. News outlets have begun to cater not just to partisans but the minimally informed for whom fleeting and shareable controversies provide a sense of feeling informed. What media consumers reward outlets for are rarely deeply reported stories on matters related to consequential items of public policy. What takes off are emotionally stimulating stories that don’t require of their readers any background knowledge to fully understand them and to opine on them.
This kind of entry-level politics is not a new phenomenon, and its victims are bipartisan. Colin Kaepernick, the Black Lives Matter movement, college-age adults devolving into their childlike selves, or pretentious celebrities politicizing otherwise apolitical events; for the right, these and other similar stories masquerade as and suffice for intellectual stimulation and political engagement. The left is similarly plagued by mock controversies. The faces printed on American currency notes, minority representation in film adaptations of comic books, and astrophysicists insensitive enough to announce feats of human engineering while wearing shirts with cartoon depictions of scantily clad women on them. This isn’t politics but, for many, it’s close enough.
These are emotionally gratifying confirmations of tribal moiety. They provide readers a chance to affirm and demonstrate clannish loyalty. They are attractive to media organizations because they allow them to forgo the five sentences of exposition that are required to understand any subject of objective policy relevance—sentences that, in some cases, news outlets literally cannot afford.
This is a continuing product of our failed public-education system and academia. But then, perhaps it’s not a failure — it might be exactly what people running those institutions have been trying to achieve.