The White Noise Effect….
As ‘scandalmania’ continues to dominate the cable news airwaves, pushed hard by one side and vehemently rejected by the other, I can’t help but notice that the vast majority of Americans have simply tuned it all out. Maybe it’s that we’ve been conditioned to expect a certain amount of scandal in politics, or maybe it just doesn’t interest the average multitasking, easily distracted, person-next-door. I mean, we’ve become a nation where more people can recognize, and name, Honey-Boo-Boo, than their own Congressman. Of course, in defense of my fellow countrymen, Honey-Boo-Boo would be a vast improvement over some of our current members of Congress….I’m just saying.
But, even with most of the country tuned out, scandalmania is still chugging along. I don’t think it’s that we don’t care about American politics or our role in the world, but at some point Washington….and our media…start to sound like the little boy who cried wolf. Seriously, how many times can we hear the word, “Benghazi” or “Obamacare” and be told the sky is falling? At some point, when we notice that our boss still expects us to show up at work every day, the rent is still due by the beginning of the month, and that civilization is still standing, well, no matter what those Sunday morning pundits say, we can’t help but realize that our sky is still right where it’s always been.
It’s kind of ironic that in this technology enhanced information age, with 24/7 news coverage and everything you could ever want to know only a click away, that we, as a people, seem to be paying less attention then ever to the “news”. More people in this country vote for American Idol then for the President of the United States. Yes, really.
And even for those who do follow the news, many of them wouldn’t qualify as ‘informed’. In a recent survey, (http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2013/05/voters-trust-clinton-over-gop-on-benghazi.html) people who said they were closely following and outraged about Benghazi claimed that they “think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history”. OK, hold up my Fox loving friends. You believe this is the biggest scandal in American history?? Bigger than, oh, Watergate? Or Iran-Contra? How about any of the sex scandals that rocked this nation, like Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings….or for those of you who never read a history book, how about Bill Clinton and Monica??
Well, I suppose a point could be made that choosing the biggest scandal requires some personal opinion, so I guess I could give some leeway here. But, when those same people in that survey….you know, the ones who were so outraged over the attack on our embassy in Benghazi….well, 40% of them had absolutely no idea where Benghazi even was. Sorry, my leeway loan is all tapped out now.
And by the way, these people who can’t find Benghazi on the map aren’t just the regular-Joe-Americans, who never watch the news. We can safely assume those guys have never heard of Benghazi. I’m talking about the group who DO follow, and who are so passionate about politics that they believe the attack on our embassy was followed by a massive government cover-up. Maybe I shouldn’t be so shocked at this when you think about the fact that 63% of American young people can’t even locate Iraq on a map. But, come on, when you take the time to actually choose your worst scandal ever, you probably should at least be able to point to where it took place people.
For me, as a true lover of politics, I have to say that I am more than a little disheartened by the lack of interest in our political system and place in the world. But, I also recognize that all of this extreme shouting by the media inevitably becomes just background noise. It is certainly not lost on me that as the media attempts to get us all riled up about the next scandal, our actual “news” has become Big Business driven by ratings….just like the rest of our favorite mind-numbing entertainment.
To my friends in the news biz, may I offer just a couple little suggestions here? First, let’s all agree that only Hitler is Hitler, and none of our American presidents, past or present, should be called such. Second, debate on policy and ideas is fantastic, but equating opinions that differ from your own as “evil” or tantamount to the destruction of society as we know it is beyond overkill and contributes directly to that white noise effect. And third, if you want Americans to start paying attention again, perhaps you should go back to just reporting the facts.
Maybe I’m an eternal optimist, but I think that maybe if the media stops telling us how to feel about everything, we can actually engage in a little brain activity and make up our own minds. And now, before you head back to your beloved reality tv show-du-jour, let me be of some assistance here for you as well. Benghazi is located in Libya.