Carol Forsloff - Is the world flat? Is it less than 4000 years old? Television viewers not long ago heard these issues debated on The Views, a daytime television talk program featuring four women, who expound on a variety of topics in what is to pass for a combo of entertainment or news.
Airtime and expense is used to argue scientifically-established ideas, those that have long been accepted through evidence and reason. CNN hosts, on prime-time schedules, spend mega minutes discussing the mundane, then round things out with the type of small talk used as ice-breakers at parties that leave listeners bored and impatient. Furthermore what passes for “breaking news” is often a rehash of information given many times over with the same words and details, repeated in 15 minute cycles, and that is frequently neither news nor “breaking.”
That focus on the mundane comes from somewhere. The interaction of the media and the public and the reluctance of the former to take responsibility to educate and inform takes a toll on the national psyche. The war in Iraq goes on, and will likely continue to go on, despite the draining of the nation’s resources, despite the fact that there isn’t enough money to run a war and run a government at the same time, and despite the fact that repeated tours of duty have created mental health problems for myriads of our military men.
But the public continues blithely through its Wal-Mart days, and discussion of real issues is met with blank stares or hurried looks. The public doesn’t know or understand the real risks and dangers to its liberty and its survival because everything is open to debate, even known, observable, scientific facts. This gives government permission not to act on environmental problems and other critical issues, because the reason for doing so has become debateable, even when it’s not. Because in the present world there seems to be no facts at all, just differing opinions.
When Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton debated in the Pennsylvania primary, interviewers spent nearly an hour talking about the meaning and relevance of the word “bitter,” the controversial, media-hyped sermons given by Obama’s former minister, that Obama had already discussed as having content with which he disagreed, and the erring statement of Clinton about a Bosnia trip. All of this had been discussed on every television and radio talk show, as well as the Internet, for weeks. Thus the candidates had little time to talk about an impending recession, a continuing war, the costs of immigration, the oil crisis and medical care that doesn’t meet the needs of our citizens. This was a clear example of that focus on the mundane that perpetuates ignorance.
So who’s to blame for this? The media owners certainly. The Wall Street worriers as well. And some reporters who want neither controversy nor to research difficult issues. But the public must take its own share of responsibility because if there is no fact, no truth, no standard and no sense of direction, it will continue to receive pabulum as opposed to hardy stuff. Many of us will remain as blissful babies and ill equipped to handle the adult problems we have to face now.
There’s a better way through education. We all need to get involved in the process of educating ourselves and our children while there is still time to protect the future of this country and the rest of the world.