American people can be so stupid. Despite facts deploring the state of education in this country, we continue to believe we are indeed educated & well-informed, especially when it comes to politics. This is in large part due to the intimate relation we have with the press media, this “24-hour news” era we have today. However, study after study shows how most of us know very little about what is going on in this country. How can that be? Ockham’s Razor would suggest there is something wholly wrong with the media, the very instrument trusted to make sense of the world around us.
So what is wrong? Quite simply, their interest and ours are not in line. We want facts and commentary and “they” want ratings to satisfy their corporate bosses and pad the bottom line. To me, ratings serve the same purpose as homeroom roll call, where you are present in body but not necessarily in mind. Nevertheless, media outlets use these numbers as justification for their work. By doing so, they wag the proverbial dog, enticing us with “breaking news” stories they think will interest us because they appeal to our basal human tendencies.
One need only to watch cable news channels and see the copious amount of attention to stories of banality; for example, sexual misconduct, missing children and celebrity gossip. While they should evoke some measure of human compassion, the blatant truth is they ultimately serve no long-lasting influence in our lives. Go back 3 years and review what passed as news to see they have no relevance today whatsoever. Furthermore, I argue that such issues are not in the purvey of “real news.”
The only politics we understand is scandal, whether it exists in reality or merely implied. Important issues pertaining to the economy and world affairs are given lip service and the obligatory 5 minute piece that frankly are too shallow. Meanwhile, extremely important issues pertaining to the congressional budget are addressed lackadaisically, often abandoned with hands thrown akimbo when faced with partisan impasses. American people know little about how our tax dollars are used. Wide disparities exist with how much is spent on defense, infrastructure, education, environmental protection & foreign aid. These are the things that need to be relayed to us by our harbingers of information – the news media, and sadly, they are failing us and we sit as an apathetic and misinformed electorate who are letting this happen.