I don’t even know where to begin anymore, so I’ll just come right out with it now: We live in a nation of idiots. That’s right, I said it. We’re stupid. In fact, I’ll go even further and declare that the American public is so infatuated with our own supposed greatness that we have become the largest collections of ignoramuses ever assembled in the modern era.
At our disposal, we have the most extensive and versatile collection of news media in the world, a conglomerate of information with vantage points from the extreme left to the radical right and everything in between. This is invaluable when placed within the context of today’s world, where all policies made on the national and international level both directly and indirectly affect the world. We simultaneously promote and combat slavery, sex trafficking, war, racism, homophobia and terrorism.
Unfortunately, in addition to our news media, we also have an inordinate entertainment media that provides glitz and glamour that blinds us to the real world. Consequently, we’d rather press for the details concerning Kobe Bryant’s trial than for the shady facts that continue to plague the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Paris Hilton’s top is far more interesting than the primaries that will decide who will run for President this November on the Democratic ticket.
Simply put, we are a nation that can afford to not care, so we don’t. The structure of our society promotes an environment of apathy. Our society is saturated with a populace who does not think past soccer practice and their TV dinners. After all, who wants to hear about the current record number of homeless people in the United States when they could watch a Friends rerun?
Nothing better exemplifies this reprehensible mindset than the debacle that was the Super Bowl last weekend. The national event’s commercial appeal is so great that companies will pay more than $2 million for a 30 second advertisement slot. In the week leading up to Super Sunday, MoveOn.org, the influential liberal Web site that helped propel Howard Dean’s presidential candidacy, was offering to pony up $1.6 million to have an advertisement run. The ad opposed President Bush’s $1 trillion national deficit. The commercial that resulted of it was classy, devoid of harsh attacks, controversial statements and harrowing images.
Yet, despite the commercial’s mature manner and demeanor, CBS refused to air it, along with a commercial from PETA. CBS deemed both advertisements “controversial” and citing a policy “of not allowing advocacy ads so that deep pockets cannot control one side of a public policy debate, be it conservative or liberal.”
First of all, CBS’s stance as a neutral party would be slightly more believable if not for its current image as a corporation under the thumb of the GOP. This image initially arose when it cut the controversial mini-series, The Reagans, from its programming. Some Republicans claimed that the movie contained inaccuracies and offered an unfair portrayal of the ailing ex-President, applied intense pressure on the network to curtail it. Then, in recent weeks, President Bush granted CBS a favor to expand its networking, allowing an increased share in local markets. By all accounts, CBS appears to be a network that has a few backs to scratch.
Secondly, why must we continue to perpetuate a mainstream society already bereft of any credible thought? This isn’t a liberal issue, mind you; this is a democratic one. I understand that there may be the feeling that politics has no place within the national forum of the Super Bowl. Perhaps on the surface that may be a fair assessment, but I can’t help but be embarrassed as an American. We’re OK with sitting for hours to watch silly commercials for erectile dysfunction medicine, beer and cars but we’re unwilling to expand our thinking just a little bit to issues that affect our everyday lives. There’s no room to inform the American public on viewpoints concerning our national leader, from both conservative and liberal angles. But more importantly, there’s no room for our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech.
This isn’t just the real world, people; it’s our world. Eventually we’ll need to open our eyes and realize, as a united populace, that every decision made in it affects us. At some point, we’ll need to take action so that the small group of people running everything don’t have free reign with nary a second glance from us. So when are we going to wake up and start to think for ourselves again?
Noah Potvin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.