One of the dominant features of our time is that more and more people define themselves by what they hate. For many partisans, what motivates them the most isn’t support for their side’s policies but their hatred of the other party. Most Republicans didn’t vote for Donald Trump; they voted against Hillary Clinton. Most Democrats didn’t vote for Clinton; they voted against Trump.
This dynamic doesn’t just apply to presidential candidates. It saturates both parties and both sides of the culture war, and it even distorts how we process basic facts. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences just came out with a report on how people will misinterpret objective data — in this case on climate change — if there’s any hint that the data came from a Republican or Democratic source. The moment Democrats saw a Republican logo, the ability to interpret a chart went out the window for many of them, and vice-versa.
In a media climate where every news outlet is essentially a niche product, appealing to a relatively small slice of the market, one of the best ways to get attention and support is to be attacked by the other side.