This election year has made fools of us all, not because of whom the candidates are, but because of how the media portrays them and their supporters. While it is impossible to be completely neutral, there is a difference between reporting facts versus opinions masquerading as facts. The “mainstream” media—mainstream because it dominates the information communication structure in our country—created and feeds these ugly, untrue analogies; the return fire from the non-mainstream has not been much better. At the very least, the discerning realize it takes the two working in combination to create a fuller picture of what is true.

Plenty of fodder comes from witnessing how the Republican Party has been hoisted by its own petard. Relying on evangelical Christians to be its in the bag voting bloc has slowly but surely isolated anyone who is not one of the chosen believers. Strangely, a party based upon getting government out of our lives has become obsessed with using government to limit and control our behavior—even as those behaviors cause no harm—in the name of what? An antipathy to government intervention that nobly—albeit still punitively—tries to create protections for the sometimes marginalized by race, gender or class? The Republican Party’s alliance plus the conservative rational antipathy to such policies has been translated in the media as conservative equals racist. So where do all the folks who just want less government intrusion in their lives go? Where do conservatives who understand the negatives of government-provided social protections go? Where do those people who have needs or faith of a different kind or temperament go?

The media agonizes over why? How? Well, the bogeyman must be white men. Because if there is one type of person it is okay to hate and say so out loud at the moment, it is white men. “Hoo boy, what fun it is to see them get their comeuppance,” say media-types overwhelmingly dominated by white men. As if there are not plenty of conservatives saying, “Why? How did we get here?” too; to whom I say, see the first paragraph. Ironically, in this one instance, educated white women get a pass on racism—an odd bit of progress given that they most often are criticized for supporting some form of man-hating feminism.

Our country is headed toward ruin! Remember Nixon? A paranoid president tends to do things that damage the powers of office of the presidency. A reliance on restrictive political litmus tests leaves little room for those not part of that courted voting bloc, even as they too are leery of what has been wrought.

Media apologists abound. Journalists who have never held a security clearance absolve Clinton of her crimes because they do not understand what she did, so she must not have done anything of consequence. Conspiracy theorists equally paranoid in their own way traffic in “when you hear hooves, think zebras not horses” ideas. Republicans with some power and fame vow to vote for Clinton. (Will they really? Or is this a public statement to avoid being tainted by the media as a racist, sexist or bigot, and to preserve their future electability and influence?).

Trump and taxes. Trump is either a shirker or a genius. Somehow it is not okay that he did what all very wealthy people do, use the tax laws to their advantage. And yet, why is no one acknowledging that our tax laws encourage anyone without a W2-income to focus on deductions? That the so-called establishment of both sides have supported this tax structure for years? That not having a W2-income does not automatically mean insane wealth because included in this category are the self-employed? Or that income taxes aside, businesses pay employee taxes, corporate taxes, taxes on inventory, supplies, building materials, etc. How is this not contributing something to our nation?

Clinton and cheating. After one debate, the media jumped to prove that Clinton did not use an earpiece. It was a great chance for the big dogs to go after non-mainstream media (who did not buy into the canard) and lump them in with conspiracy theorists. Oddly, only Gizmodo pointed out the bump seen on Clinton’s back was a mic pack. That is, an interesting opportunity to explain how these systems work, for a glimpse into the behind the scenes work to make such events happen that could tamp down on alarmism, was missed.

How about the media helping stoke the outrage instead of explaining the entire picture? What do you do if not wanting to reward people for not following the law somehow makes you a racist? What do you do when it is obvious that our journalists are shirking their duties, and are pushing an agenda of black and white thinking. A law enforcement officer is involved in a shooting? Then to them, it follows that all law enforcement officers are prejudiced and violent.

Our dominant media culture has let us down. Civic engagement has become nasty comments on Facebook and blogs thanks to a parsimonious rationing of truth. Opinion masquerading as fact tricks us into misplacing blame. The crime rate in Albuquerque? New Mexican news outlets blame a police department and a mayor without acknowledging the true catalyst, the pervasiveness of drug trafficking; how Albuquerque is major transportation hub of shuttling drugs throughout the country and cash profits back into Mexico.

Aren’t we all tired of being attacked just for having a political preference? The path to salvation? Recognize when opinions are masquerading as facts. Hypothetically ask yourself, if this story is not true, then what else could it be? Don’t judge a book by its cover; look behind the curtain. Read widely and copiously and apply critical thinking skills. Accept that there are reasonable news outlets that fairly point out fault lines in the received wisdom of the dominant media culture and paying attention to both is worthwhile. Our country may struggle with sticky, unpleasant issues but it does not follow that one side has the moral high ground. We all would be wise to question the dominant media conversation. And if you read this and felt attacked? Then read it again, as there is much nuance here too.