As social media accelerate the velocity of political news, fact-free stereotypes and reductionist shorthand are increasingly substituted for accuracy and nuance.
Coastal blue states are now typically presented in the national press as one giant Berkeley campus, while heartland red states are portrayed as a confederacy of Dukes of Hazzard sets.
In this cartoonish mythology, liberals are all Birkenstock-clad socialists, conservatives are all Boss Hoggs and politics is a perpetual conflict between these two warring tribes.
The trouble, of course, is that the folklore has a diminishing connection to reality. Case in point is the narrative that now defines the Washington debate over gun control.
This week, in a piece summarizing that narrative, Time magazines White House correspondent Michael Scherer asserted that television ads pressuring lawmakers to support background check legislation will harm Democratic politicians who represent Republican- leaning states.
About the ads, Scherer asked:
Is it better to teach wavering Democrats that there is a cost to voting against gun control, even if it jeopardizes Democratic control of the Senate, which is needed to enact gun control?
In this case, the fact-free mythology promotes the stereotype that claims all conservatives are gun extremists.
From that stereotype came Times assumption that most conservative voters automatically oppose mandated background checks for gun purchases, and that therefore those voters will punish Democratic senators who support background checks.