Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
Negative political ads work. A majority of Americans form political opinions from ads in their entertainment programming. 51% of the adult population of the United States is barely functionally literate. 94% have varying degrees of difficulty “synthesizing” complicated concepts.
We are devolving rapidly into America, the Ignorant.
How does Democracy thrive in a nation of 344 million Americans when only 2 in 10 of us read a newspaper, electronic news, or watch television news?
Another 2 in 10 listen to Right Wing Talk as their primary news source.
The remainder? They’re at the mercy of every special interest from Americans for Prosperity to the DCCC.
In a nation with a 99% literacy rate, voting-age American adults have been conditioned over the last thirty-five years to tune out information vital to their making informed choices that protect their rights, health and welfare.
Consider the effects:
Even with a 99% literacy rate in America, the kind of “literacy” we have is staggeringly poor. The National Center for Education Statistics conducted a comprehensive survey of Adult literacy. It found that:
So only 2 in 10 Americans is truly literate enough to read and understand the nuances of political journalism. 51% of Americans have difficulty synthesizing the complex information that comes out of political news well enough to digest it. The majority of Americans, 8 in 10 though, don’t really even seek out political news, taking most of their information from TV, or conversations with friends and co-workers.
The Founding Fathers were always aware of putting power into the hands of a populace with little or no literacy. We have a Senate because they wanted more calm, educated, deliberative minds to control the passions of the body politic.
They had no concept of a mass media that can hold powerful sway over voters who are so low functioning, or of a Senate that has been brought to the level of the House, whose rules have been changed to lessen its power as a gateway.
What is more troubling, though, is that those who are well educated are becoming increasingly more ignorant, ignoring their civic life in favor of solely profitable or pleasurable pursuits.
About 19% of voters narrow-bands their interest in public life to a single issue like abortion, gun rights, LGBT rights to the point that they do not engage in broader public issues, according to ABC News.
Many, particularly young adults, that do read news, lack the attention span to even read through an article of any length.
The USA TODAY syndrome of “dumbing down” the news to appeal to readers with nano-second attention spans has further catered to our political and social devolution.
America’s poor reading habits belie its passion for entertainment and self-gratification, with no care for civics or how the world around them is being reshaped.
It isn’t surprising, then that Americans have a staggeringly low understanding of civics, and how our government, which actually is US, not the enemy, works. A National Civic Literacy study by Xavier University found:
Democracy was not built to survive a nation of reality TV watchers who have listened to 35 years of propaganda that “both sides” are to blame and have tuned out. Our television news, which could counter that and educate the American body politic, has been reduced to infotainment, and faces a shrinking viewership.
Democracy can’t function without an educated populace that understands its role in civic life. Civics are taught in less than a third of American public schools, but they have a big impact, according to a Harvard University study.
“[S]tudents who complete a year of coursework in American Government/Civics are 3-6 percentage points more likely to vote in an election following high school than those without exposure to civic education. Further, this eect is magnied among students whose parents are not highly politicized. Among students who report not discussing politics with their parents, additional coursework is associated with a 7-11 percentage point increase in the probability of voting. This result suggests that civic education compensates for a relative lack of political socialization at home, and thereby enhances participatory equality.”
The slide into a corporatocracy, controlled through easily digestible propaganda, is all but guaranteed. Progressives are armed with the pop-guns of optimism and grass-roots communication against a behemoth of hundreds of millions of dollars, and decades of systemic changes to the fabric of this country from its educational system to its mass media.
I fear for this nation. You should too.
My shiny two.