Alyssa Milano Just Taught us a Valuable Lesson
Last Sunday, left-leaning actress Alyssa Milano sent out a tweet with an article from CNN. The article’s headline read, “Republicans move to nix primaries in show of support for Trump.” Outraged at this attempt to deny Republican voters a chance to voice their opinions in the primaries, Milano tweeted, “Trump has primary challengers, but his party is canceling primaries to deprive their voters a chance of unseating him. Republicans are so into suppressing voters they don’t want REPUBLICANS voting”. The article notes that “party leaders in South Carolina, Nevada and Arizona have all expressed support for nixing their presidential primaries and are expected to make it official over the coming weeks.” At first glance, Alyssa Milano seems to be condemning the Republican Party’s unethical attempt to take away peoples’ right to vote. Who would not be outraged if any party took away the chance for their voters to exercise their right to vote?
There is just one problem. The same article that Milano tweeted out mentions that the nixing of primaries for an incumbent president is standard practice for both parties. The article notes, “it is not unprecedented for state Republicans or Democrats to decide not to hold a presidential primary when an incumbent is running essentially uncontested. In South Carolina, a key early primary state, Republicans decided to nix their presidential primaries in 1984 and 2004, when Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were up for their second terms; while state Democrats skipped their contests in 1996 and 2012, with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama running for reelection, respectively.” It is clear that Milano either did not read the article at all, or she only read the beginning without finishing it.
Reading only the headline or the part of an article that confirms a bias is sadly common among many people. Back in 2014, the Washington Post ran an article about a study conducted by the Media Insight Project, an initiative of the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute, which showed that “overall, 41 percent of Americans report that they watched, read, or heard any in-depth news stories, beyond the headlines in the last week.” That means that almost six in every ten Americans do not read past the headlines. Evidently, Milano is not an outlier at all.
It is easy in these divided political times to make the same mistake that she did. A Pew Research survey from 2017 demonstrates just how bad the division has become. The survey showed that 47% of liberal Democrats said that if a friend supported President Trump, this would “put a strain” on their friendship, while 13% of conservatives said the same. The same survey found that 68% of Democrats said it was stressful and frustrating to talk with people who have differing views on President Trump, and 52% of Republicans agreed. In a time with such immense divisions, it is too easy to read a headline or one part of an article that confirms our outrage or bias without examining the details further.
Alyssa Milano is not the first person to make this mistake, and she certainly will not be the last. Hopefully, Milano, and for that matter, all of us, will learn from her mistake and read past the headline of every story we encounter. Hopefully, we will read every detail of the story, not just the details that confirm our biases. Doing this will not heal the political divide overnight, but it will be a great first step to restoring the unity that America needs to be a beacon of liberty and justice for all.
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