If ignorance is truly bliss, then many American news media outlets are helping to ensure we have one big, happy country.
The long-running joke has been how Fox News is a dumbed-down source of information, yet many other outlets have been consistently following suit.
The Fox joke, by the way, has a basis in reality. A PublicMind Poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University found that folks who watch Fox are more ignorant than those who don’t watch any news at all.
That’s pretty scary. What’s also scary is that Fox is the most-watched 24-hour cable news network.
If you really want to be terrified, however, you can just take a gander at the results of all this dumbing-down. A Gallup Poll noted nearly 20 percent of Americans believe the sun revolves around the Earth. A Zogby Poll said 75 percent of Americans can name the Three Stooges while only 40 percent can name the three branches of government.
Just like reality TV is not fully to blame for turning American intelligence into an oxymoron, we cannot put the full onus on the shoulders of the media. But it can take a major chunk.
With newspapers as a dying breed, the internet and TV have become the main sources of information. A total of 61 percent of Americans said they use the internet for a source of news and 78 percent tune in to the idiot box, according to a Pew Internet and American Life survey.
Typical headlines from online sources on any given day may include things like “Things to Buy after the Holidays,” “See What’s in Store for Capricorns this Month,” and “What You Missed on Dancing with the Stars.”
Links to mindless videos are also hot, with standard fare including 5-year-olds rapping, an elephant crapping and cats playing Mozart on piano.
Television “news” shows may feature two anchors telling really bad jokes to each other or, in at least one instance, actually sitting there reading a newspaper out loud. When guests do come around, they are likely to be reality TV stars or celebrities who throw a TV set through the studio window if they don’t like the questions.
Hard-hitting questions in general are a thing of the past, as shows are too fearful of offending their guests. Then no one would want to appear on their show. Besides, if they don’t have a fluffy interview lined up they might have to do something drastic – like go out and find some news.
For the 50 percent of Americans who do still get some news from that dinosaur called a newspaper, the situation is not always much better. Tucson is a case in point, with only one daily paper serving a metro-area population of more than 1 million.
Daily news pickings are slim and greatly supplemented by wire service stories. While this is not necessarily a dumbing-down, it is a factor forcing people to seek their information elsewhere.
When Americans do turn elsewhere, not much respite from the dumbing-down is found. Even big “news” magazines such as Time have fallen into the dumbing-down trap. Consider the Dec. 5 issue.
Time magazine covers released in Europe, Asia and the South Pacific featured an Egyptian man in a gasmask under the headline “Revolution Redux.” That same issue released in the U.S. featured the headline “Why Anxiety is Good for You” with a cute little cartoon.
Lisa Bloom, author of Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, sums it up nicely in a Forbes article. “[The media] delivers crap to us; the crap mesmerizes us (i.e. it generates high ratings); the media gives us more, and – oops – we’ve all become dazzled and distracted and unfocused.”
Both theories hold water, as does the thought that many outlets have become scared stiff of doing anything politically incorrect, offensive or that goes against the grain.
Alternative news sources have become one of the few places left to find anything near “All the news that’s fit to print,” rather than “only news that’s meant to amuse.”