Thursday, September 10, 2009

The politics of ignorance or why newspapers matter

Last week, I worked an event for the pro golf Tour’s Boston stop where most of my co-workers were gentlemen who were at least 50 years-old, what used to be a huge demographic of newspaper readers. Four guys told me they cancelled their subscriptions in the past year. And, almost unanimously, each of the guys said they don't read the paper online because they say it’s not the same.

Television has taken the place of reading, and we all know that’s not a positive input for intelligent discourse. Where I am going with this? Two places.

1) On the political scene, we are becoming more like Russia. The Russia political machine owns the television stations and only kill the print reporters when they create too much of a negative following. Here in the U.S., we haven't physically killed the print reporters but they are becoming irrelevant.

2) We are moving to a political scene that cares only for short, digestible slogans that don't have to be true. They only have to be repeated often enough to be believed. Hence the large number of Americans who believe that Al-Qaeda was in Iraq BEFORE we invaded, a charge that has been proven false many times, but a belief maintained by those who still want to justify invading Iraq.

This isn’t a surprise. In Daniel Gilbert’s excellent book Stumbling on Happiness, Gilbert notes that humans are exceptionally and subtly clever at disregarding information that doesn’t jibe with their belief system. Sort of like how Fox News ignored Obama’s health care speech this morning.

Just saying.

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