The Dumbing Down of America

The other day I overheard a guy in the grocery store say, “I just can’t understand why Obama won’t tell people when and where he was born or that he is a Muslim.”  Huh?  This guy was buying some expensive wine and I happened to follow him out to the parking lot where he got into a brand new BMW.  So he seems to have money, but it goes to show that having money doesn’t necessarily mean people are well informed.

You should read Timothy Egan’s column in the New York Times titled “Building a Nation of Know-Nothings.” In it, Egan describes how many of us are victims of a lot of rhetoric based on half-truths and innuendo.  For example,  Rush Gasbag is an expert at questioning when and where Obama was born, and what his religion is. The Gasbag is always “questioning,” never asserting as fact.  So he can never be accused of prevaricating or making things up.  He is just “asking the question.”  Of course, his millions of listeners don’t go any further.  If Rush is questioning, then it must be so.

Come on, people.  Have you actually taken the time to find the facts yourself?  Just because somebody like the Gasbag has a radio show does not make him factual.  There are places you can go like www.factcheck.org to find out the facts about virtually everything being said by politicians from both sides of the aisle.  Do that.

It is troubling that the news media have walked away from objectivity.   It used to be that news was fact-based information.  More and more it has become a lot of talking heads giving their opinions about the news.   The networks and the cable folks have tons of “experts” and “consultants” and “analysts” who quack away with their opinions in self-important ways that would have us believe this is fact.  Viewers come away parroting the “expert consultant” as if the comments were fact.  It is not. (By the way, why is a person who comments called a commentator?  Shouldn’t it be commenter?  It’s sort  of like orientated versus oriented.  But I digress.)

There is such competition for eyeballs across the gazillions of blogs, websites and channels that viewership goes to the loudest, most polarizing, most sensational and sleaziest.   The word “good” is never in front of the word “news.”  It’s interesting that compared to the mid-20th century there are tons more places to get “news.”  But there is not more news.  Thus we get the Olbermanns and Becks trying to outshout each other with their polarizing rhetoric.

And what about those of us who view all this crap?   The “news”  takes louder and more extreme points of view to get somebody’s attention.  We have become a country of passive know-nothings who would rather watch reality shows than get the facts about the economy, political views or a presidential birthplace.  It is amazing that people believe Obama is a communist, a fascist, a socialist, a Muslim and a non-citizen.  Really folks?

I think we need a reality check.  And I don’t mean watching more reality television shows.  It’s a sad commentary  that a piece of garbage like Jersey Shore is getting amazing ratings.  And that one of its “stars” will earn close to $5 million for uh, demonstrating the joy of an uncluttered mind.   So, reality television thrives and the “news”  is hijacked by more and more gasbags.

It’s still  a wonderful country but getting dumber.

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