It's official. Scientists have declared that the American people may be "too dumb to pick the right person to lead us."
I admit that I had had my suspicions for a while, but this exhaustive study confirms it. We're simply not informed enough to pick wisely among our candidates. Then again, that brings up another point: People aren't too dumb for democracy, they're too ignorant for it.
It's not our fault, really. It's a delicate blend of being too busy to pay attention to anything and totally immersing ourselves in a multimedia entertainment frenzy when we're not busy.
Consequently, most forms of "news" to which we are exposed don't just under-inform, they misinform. We've just become more demanding for relieving entertainment than thought-provoking truths.
Newstainment has been covered before, I know. But it's had one strange effect:
It has almost made democracy obsolete.
Due to the cartoonish representations of issues, the chasm between political beliefs is so wide that we've been forced into two distinct camps. It's imperative to vote this coming November, because it's a lump-sum war.
See, I might only agree with two Democratic values, but I have no other choice. It's one or the other. And any variation in ideology is quickly locked into the right rails by the omnipresence of homogenized information via mass media.
In fact, partisanship has reached such awe-inspiring depths(or should I say widths, to keep up with my 'chasm' analogy?) that we could hold the election tomorrow and, well, how different would the results be from November? As the chasm between the two parties continues to widen, representatives are increasingly unable to even see each other, let alone reach out to make a compromise.
I would like to argue that any country where the voting can be carefully plotted and harvested through gerrymandering, where members of Congress are literally above the law, and the voters themselves are pre-programmed by media to cast a certain ballot, really isn't much of a functioning democracy at all.
We can't even talk about real political issues without an ideological opponent getting upset.
The 'liberal' media owned by sprawling corporations led by communists like Rupert Murdoch, or Steven Burke (who heads MSNBC because he heads hippie bastions NBC and Comcast), have nurtured the Republican Victim Complex. What this means is that, in person, you can actually lose a friend – or a relative - if you bring politics up.
Case in point: During the healthcare reform debate, my grandmother complained about what a mess it was and how Obama was ruining the country.
“What are the Republican ideas?” I asked mildly. “Have they offered any alternative cost-control solutions to make up for the fact that Medicare is the biggest problem we have with our deficit that doesn't involve privatizing the whole system?”
“Stop it,” she said, her eyes darting left and right. “Stop it.”
Bad example? I was at a party a few weeks ago with a guy around my age who professed to be a member of the Tea Party. Anytime politics came up, everyone else in the room (all liberal, as I've hyperbolically asserted before) had to tiptoe around this gentleman's views, because he was so vehement for his hatred of the “corrupt” Obama administration.
He said that he would vote for anyone but Obama, an attitude that I'm guessing is fairly prevalent among most Republicans, since most are all suffering from some chronic condition that, tragically, causes them to blame Obama for stepping into office during a recession.
And “corrupt?” If a completely ignorant loan is your worst “scandal” as president, you've done pretty well for yourself.
But when those points were made, this gentleman explained that they were irrelevant and launched into a full-scale dissertation about why Obama was a socialist.
When he denounced liberals for lingering on Bush, I pointed out that this was because Bush was the worst president in history. He became grumpy and resentful, thoroughly victimized, so we had to drink beer together, instead.
The shivering sensitivity around political topics has had the effect of watering down everyday debates to a soupy mix of talking points, handshakes, and obvious facts, with the occasional insight sometimes bubbling to the surface, only to sink back down beneath the lukewarm small talk slop we call political dialogue.
During a time when everyone should be interested in politics – and it's easier than ever to foster that interest – there's a fear to bring it up, because so many people almost immediately erupt into some kind of foot-stamping frenzy about it.
Help, There's Capitalism in My Democracy!
I don't even want to bother talking about Super PACs. These things are like recipe books for a corporation's ideal candidate. Every ingredient is a donation from a special interest. You put that glob of values into the electoral oven and, some months later, see what indigestible mystery meat you've cooked up.
But let's think about mass media, which has actually closed down avenues of thought instead of opening them up. Instead of thoughtful discussions on local networks, we have the slop I talked about, but on a national scale. Corporate executives keep pundits on a tight regimen and the idea you could lose viewers has trumped any kind of interesting debate.
I know what you're thinking. You've seen a few pundits say some interesting things. About what? The hot topic of the day. They add their voice to a hurricane of mass-thought as it tears through homes across the country. With so much accessible information piling at their feet, Americans don't bother digging, they just look at the stuff on the top.
Capitalism and globalism killed the journalist star. Now, a mainstream “liberal” outlet is The Huffington Post, which actually punches you in the face with reactionary headlines, before diving into an SEO orgy that is useless for anything but online ad revenue.
Journalism has become “This happened.” The “Why” part has dropped off, because there's no time to explain before the next story comes through.
Meanwhile, previously respectable publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are raggedly exhaling similar headlines to drive web traffic, while clinging to their credibility like someone with a towel whose clothes got stolen. But I've got news – the internet stole those clothes and exchanged them for a clown outfit.
Half of the articles are just dignified press releases, anyway. I saw the title “Why French Parents Are Superior” in the WSJ a few weeks ago and my first thought was: “What book is this person selling?”
Why the Death of Journalism Means Democracy is Obsolete
Journalism is free speech. Our free speech, like our elections, are now corporately sponsored. Corporations care about profit.
As a bonus, the internet becomes less and less anonymous, ideas become less and less radical.
When I say that the result is everyday political smalltalk slop, that slop is actually propaganda. We have the most insidious form of propaganda in the world. We watch commercials for products before watching people who tell us what to think.
The purpose of journalism used to be to make a person think, and expose people to new points of view. Now, we can just find the exact channel that already represents our biases.
Consequently, we're heavily streamlined into the two viable political categories and squabble about meaningless issues, thinking that the squawking matters. We actually watch people argue about propaganda points.
The two parties have come to symbolize either big government or big business, when both are bad and both need to be fixed.
I'm even scared to criticize Obama, just because he's an angel compared to what's on the so-called “right.”
Our democratic government is like a college grad's first apartment. There's crap everywhere, no one picks anything up, and there's a slow-motion decay of apathy, carelessness, and confusion.
American democracy is a computer that still runs but has all sorts of bugs of corruption and pop-up ads for capitalism, and a terribly outdated processor that relies on two antiquated parties to make things go smoothly. And, just like that computer, it's obsolete.
Somehow, we need to upgrade - and I think the first step is to change the conversation from slop to dignified political dialogue.
If we can all talk rationally and calmly about the state of our country, someday, just maybe, we won't be too dumb for democracy. And then it won't be obsolete.