“Stupid is as stupid does.” – why so many Americans are ignorant about politics

Watch the Republican debate last night? Learn much about economic issues, the supposed focus of the debate? Didn’t think so.

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The substance of the debate was equivalent to this Onion news item: “Eerie: These Two Strangers, Thousands Of Miles Apart, Have Almost The Exact Same Initials”

The inanity and vacuousness of so much political news coverage today is frightening and candidates are part of the problem.

Consider these shallow, uninformative stories that ran recently in major media:

“Mike Tyson wants to see Trump in the White House”

“Supergirl” star responds to Jeb Bush calling her hot”

“GOP is like ‘Grumpycat’, Obama says”

Then we have politicians of all stripes all the way up to the president presenting their views on incredibly complex issues with 140 character tweets and Americans making voting decisions based on those misleading, one-sided tidbits.

Add to this noise the editorials and news stories about non-issues or that are so one-sided and without context that they are a waste of time to read.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, for example, just ran an editorial calling on Senator Rubio to resign because he has missed a lot of Senate votes during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. The Washington Post ran a follow-up article on what it called the “ferocious” editorial. Nightly network news highlighted the issue last night, too, but none of them bothered to provide any context for the reader or noted that voting record accusations are a common campaign tactic of little relevance.

Had any of the media bothered to do any research, they would have found that Senator Barack Obama missed votes TWICE as often during the 2008 campaign’s early going, and Hillary Clinton ended up doing even worse!

In the final quarter of 2007, leading up to the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary, Obama missed 89.4 per cent of his opportunities to vote, while Clinton, in hot pursuit for the Democratic presidential nomination, missed 83.5 per cent.

Then there’s the issue of whether anybody really cares about missed Senate votes.

As Politico reported today, “Going after Rubio that way was just a mistake,” said one of Bush’s donors. “No one cares about missed f–king votes in the Senate. Washington cares about that. The media cares about that. And losing candidates care about that. Jeb sounded like he was losing. And Marco made him pay.”

And, of course, there are the endless horse-race stories showing this candidate up or that candidate down in the polls and offering nothing more of substance.

In the early months of the 2008 presidential campaign, for example, a study released by the Pew Research Center found that the media offered Americans relatively little information about the candidates’ records or what they would do if elected, with 63% of the campaign stories focused on political and tactical aspects compared to just 17% that focused on the personal backgrounds of the candidates, 15% that focused on the candidates’ ideas and policy proposals and just 1% of stories that examined the candidates’ records or past public performance. It has likely gotten even worse since then.

And of course there’s a mind-numbing amount of “gaffe” coverage, particularly online. When a candidate says something that could be portrayed as a gaffe, critics of all stripes jump on it, trying to magnify its importance and reach and generate public alarm about it.

And even if you try to take politics seriously, the media and the candidates often treat it all as mere entertainment, more like the contest on The Voice or the Great Race.

For the media, and too many politicians, it’s all theater, all razzle-dazzle, as Billy Flynn, the silver-tongued lawyer in “Chicago”, so aptly put it.

“It’s all a circus, kid,” Flynn said. “A three ring circus…the whole world – all showbusiness.”

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With the news diet that’s fed to them, it’s no wonder Americans are so ill-informed about politics. The result? We get the politicians the 1 percent pay for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warning – miscreant ahead: the Bill Cosby imbroglio

In a variation of the au courant “trigger warnings” spreading on college campuses, the National Museum of African Art, is warning people about Bill Cosby. The Museum, which is displaying art from the collection of Camille and Bill Cosby, said recently it would remove a sign crediting the Cosbys for the exhibit. Instead, the sign will be be replaced with one saying, “Warning- some of the art you are about to see was loaned by Bill Cosby, who has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women.”

In this photo taken Nov. 6, 2014, entertainer Bill Cosby pauses during an interview about the upcoming exhibit, Conversations: African and African-American Artworks in Dialogue, at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington. The Smithsonian Institution is mounting a major showcase of African-American art and African art together in a new exhibit featuring the extensive art collection of Bill and Camille Cosby. More than 60 rarely seen African-American artworks from the Cosby collection will join 100 pieces of African art at the National Museum of African Art. The exhibit “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue,” opens Sunday and will be on view through early 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Not really. The new sign will actually say the exhibition is “fundamentally about the artworks and the artists who created them, not Mr. Cosby.” But the intent is the same.

Are we entering a period when it is obligatory to warn audiences about moral transgressions committed by famous people?

Should the display of Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis” at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum include a sign saying, “Mr. Lindbergh, while a great aviator, was a serial adulterer who had multiple wives and children”?

Should showings of Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist be preceded by a warning, “Roman Polanski, the director of this film, raped a 13-year-old girl in 1977 and is currently a fugitive from justice”?

Should any event or show involving Mike Tyson include a warning, “Mike Tyson was convicted in Indiana of raping an 18-year-old college student and beauty pageant contestant.”

How about Woody Allen?

woody-allen-Soon-yi

Should all his movies, including his newest, “Irrational Man”, begin with a bold statement, “In 1992, it was learned that Mr. Allen was in a relationship with 21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, his girlfriend of over 10 years. Ms. Farrow discovered the relationship when she found nude photos of Previn taken in Allen’s Manhattan duplex. Mr. Allen married Soon-yi in 1997 (ewww!)”

For that matter, should a sign go up everywhere former President Bill Clinton appears in public saying, “Mr. Clinton has been credibly accused of both rape and repeated sexual assaults, paid a former Arkansas state worker, Paula Jones, $850,000 in connection with an assault that occurred when he was governor of Arkansas, and had a sexual relationship with an intern while he was President?”

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

Well, maybe the last one is worth considering.