As I was wandering through my Wired feeds, the titillating title 'Infoporn' caught my attention; the story, Info porn: Despite the Web, Americans Remain Woefully Ill-Informed, describes a short survey of the change in Americans' knowledge of politics since the Internet became prevalent. The results are not encouraging - Americans are "less able to correctly answer questions about current events than they were in 1989." This sad story is a timely one for me, as I have been embroiled in a discussion of the current state of the country with a very conservative but even-so, good friend of mine (I know, I know - but I hope to turn another conservative soul away from the dark side). My brilliant yet misguided friend, Ricky Bobby,* has gone past discontent and has reached outrage at the current state of affairs, and like so many Americans, wants the government to just leave us all alone. But Ricky Bobby also laments that our fellow Americans are not rising up in their disgust, and that we are all becoming single-minded, uneducated and unaware of what is really going on around us. As a librarian, I am naturally inclined to pounce on a discussion of the state of information dissemination and knowledge, and further with a political philosopher for a brother, must pounce yet again on any discussion of the nature of the State.
Here! Here! Ricky Bobby! We have found our common ground. I too see that we have become polarized and extremists. Neither side wants listen to the other, never mind engage in debate of the issues. Sharing knowledge, listening to the different points and debating the issues is an essential element of a democratic state, is it not? In fact, don't the citizens have an obligation to be knowledgeable and involved? So - what happened? Why are the mud-slinging extremists taken as prophets of truth? How is it that in a time of war, only 21% of Americans can name the secretary of defense, 68% know if we have a trade deficit, and 66% know the name of their governor (all figures are from the Wired article linked above). Why have we fallen so far? And how - in the Age of Information, can we know so little?
Update on deprogramming: after many hours, it seems as though Ricky Bobby - aside from hankering for the days of the Monroe doctrine - is actually quite a little modern liberal on most issues, including the need for the state to provide significant living infrastructure. However, he still listens to Michael Savage. (This is going to take a while).
*Names have been changed to protect those undergoing mainstream middle America Republican deprogramming.