Has misinformation in the media made us stupid or are we stupid for believing the information?
Just how stupid are we? When it comes to American stupidity, it appears the sky is the limit. Just look at some recent headlines in the news: “Poll: Some Don’t Know Obamacare, Affordable Care Act are the Same Thing;” “A Third of Americans Can’t Name Any First Amendment Rights;” and “Ms. America Can’t Name Her Own State’s Capital.” Americans are definitely suffering from a scholarship problem.
Obamacare and ACA: A Distinction without a Difference
Not too long ago, a nighttime talk show host hit the streets and asked random people which health care plan they preferred: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare. More people preferred the ACA over Obamacare. Why? Because the ACA sounded better to them. Not one of the people seemed to realize they were being exploited for their ignorance. They were the perfect pawns in a spoof on America’s lack of knowledge about policy and politics. Are we really so stupid that we don’t know that Obamacare and the ACA are one in the same?
Obamacare/ACA has been in the news for years and Republican members of Congress have tried to repeal it over 50 times. In fact, Republicans have based their entire campaigns on repealing Obamacare. Every American is required to sign up for health care or face yearly fines. How can there be one person left in America that doesn’t know about the signature health care law? Yet this show managed to find several clueless people right outside the show’s entrance.
First Amendment: I Think I’ve Heard of It
The First Amendment contains five very important rights. Yet only one in four Americans can name more than one right guaranteed in the Amendment. But ask the average American about the cartoon family “the Simpsons” and over half of them can name at least two or more. McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum conducted a study and found 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, but just 1 in a 1000 people could name all five First Amendment freedoms.
When did a TV show become more important than the freedoms we claim to hold so dear? How far will knowledge of fictional characters get us in life? For the record, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion, speech, assembly, press and petition for redress of grievances.
How much blame can be laid at the feet of the average everyday American? For 12 years, Fox News has been the number one cable news source. However, despite the fact Fox labels their channel “news,” politifact.com found that statements made on Fox were only true 8% of the time.
Still, one of the key characteristics of stupidity is negligence. Negligence, for this purpose, is defined as a lack of willingness or desire to seek reliable sources of information about important news events. All too often most people accept what is fed through popular media as the “gospel.” What ever happened to “trust but verify?”
The Consequence of American Stupidity
Does having the majority of Americans willfully ignorant really matter in the long run? After all it could be said that the cost of stupidity is difficult if not impossible to measure. But is it really? One only has to look as far as Congress to see the consequence of an uninformed electorate.
We are stuck with one of the most dysfunctional Congressional bodies in history. We have suffered through a government shutdown that cost taxpayers $300 million per day. Congress to date has passed only 99 bills of substantive law and 126 bills overall. Instead Congressional Republicans are focusing their efforts on attacking the President by finding ways to sue him or looking for any behavior that could justify impeachment.
Congressional Republicans have found that this type of “reality t.v.” behavior earns them votes in their districts. Because shouting on Fox News that our first black President is a law-breaking Muslim is an attention grabber, while working to pass a bipartisan jobs bill would not even be covered by the networks. They know that Americans show a greater interest in who did what to whom. In the end it becomes a self-propelled ecosystem: Republicans know their electorate and have fed that electorate what it craves. Republicans are rewarded with reelection in return.
“Stupidity has a knack of getting its way” – Albert Camus