As the country becomes more and more divided, at least according to polls, it seems as if there’s no real voice of reason in politics or the media to cut through the fog of partisan arguing, culture warring and political posturing. I find myself unable to really trust what I read in the news without knowing the author’s political leanings. I don’t want to hear from someone who is entrenched on either the left or the right. I want to hear news entrenched in objectivity and realism, and it just seems like those qualities are so lacking in every form of mainstream media. Of course, the Tea Partiers feel that every news outlet except Fox News is snowing them, dogged liberals feel like they can only trust MSNBC, and CNN is just a red-headed stepchild — neither hot nor cold, but still clinging to lukewarm sensationalism and faux-partisanship instead of taking up the oar and being the news network that is actually about facts and old-fashioned journalism. Independent media is an option, but ideological rigidity exists there, too, although it more often lines up with my ideals. I’ve taken to getting my news from The Daily Show, which is not actually news but is often a hell of a lot more informative than the current “news” offerings.
Due in no small part to this divided, subjective news reporting, the Tea Party continues to fight on and aggressive ignorance continues to reign supreme amongst their ranks. The recent gathering on the National Mall hosted by Glenn Beck to “reclaim the civil rights movement” purported to be non-political, but apparently some Tea Partiers didn’t get that message:
On the edges of the Mall, vendors sold “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, popular with tea party activists. Other activists distributed fliers urging voters “dump Obama.” The pamphlet included a picture of the president with a Hitler-style mustache.
Beck stated that the U.S. “has wandered in darkness”, which he is, ostensibly, prepared to lead us out of. If he truly wanted to lead the U.S. out of darkness he would encourage his followers to study a diverse selection of books and documentaries explaining how government works, what the civil rights movement was actually about, what MLK Jr.’s beliefs really were, and really anything that would impart basic knowledge about the difference between, say, socialism and fascism. Rather than reading his books, he could point them to some books that would enable them to identify the three branches of government, find out what the Civil War was actually fought over, explain what Nazism really was, introduce them to science, and teach them not to be afraid of the scientific method. Because it’s obvious that the majority of Tea Partiers, besides their leaders and the well-educated financial backers of the movement, are woefully undereducated when it comes to basic civics, social studies, U.S. and world history, and of course science. This is not to insult their collective intelligence, because being ignorant and being unintelligent are two different things. However, when you take a political position based solely on second hand information given to you by a talk show host who financially counts on you remaining ignorant, you’re not acting intelligent.
Not only are many Tea Partiers ignorant, they are aggressively, angrily ignorant. They don’t know the truth, and if you try to tell them the truth without donning some kind of anti-Obama t-shirt, they don’t want to hear it. In fact, a lot of non-Tea Party affiliated Americans are also in that boat. Newsweek recently listed “Dumb Things Americans Believe“, which sadly includes statistics like 1 in 5 Americans believing Obama is a Muslim, only 39 percent of Americans believing the theory of evolution and that in 1999 20 percent of Americans still believed the Sun revolves around the Earth. (Let’s hope that 11 years later those folks have taken an astronomy course or watched The Universe.) In the comments section, which of course on these big sites is usually full of the dregs of the web, someone angrily said they didn’t believe in evolution because the Bible is “proven to be the most historically accurate book ever”. Others, harnessing the full might of their poor grammar and spelling skills, took various anti-science or anti-Obama positions, stating that Newsweek was doing Obama’s bidding regarding the Muslim issue and various other statistics. Clearly it’s not simply politics and general civics and social studies facts that folks are angrily ignorant of.
I’m not really certain what the resolution to this problem would be. You can’t force adults to learn on their own and you can’t force them to retake high school or junior high classes. The news media clearly has no intent to become the beacon of objective knowledge that it should be any time soon, it’s bad for ratings. And even if they did, it’s unclear if the strong confirmation bias so much of the public displays would allow room for ideas that are contrary to their preconceived notions. It’s depressing to watch the country drowning in the vast sea of ignorance that has formed in the ever-widening chasm between red and blue. Unfortunately, I don’t see anyone with enough influence on the horizon preparing to throw the population a rope of rationality any time soon.