Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Democracy in the Age of Ignorance

You may have come across this rather appalling polling data from the Pew Research Center. It turns out that only 26% of U.S. adults know that 60 votes are required to end a filibuster in the Senate, and only 32% know that there were no Republican votes for the health care reform bill. Twenty-five percent think it takes only a simple majority, 51 votes, to end a filibuster. In other words, more than 2/3 of the people do not know that the reason the bill has not passed is because the Republicans have united to block it. They presumably think that the Democrats have simply failed to pass their own bill.

Does this mean that most people are idiots? No, it means that the corporate media are failing to clearly explain to them what is going on. Fox News -- according to another poll, the most trusted news source in America (really!) -- is deliberately deceiving them, and I suspect the other news networks have similar intentions but they're just a bit more subtle about it.

There are plenty of other important civic facts about which Americans are massively ignorant. This poses a very difficult problem of political philosophy. The republican form of government is supposed to insure accountability to the people, but obviously it does not if the people have no clue how government works or what their elected officials are actually doing.

I just heard our incoming Senator Scott Brown, apparently the most powerful and popular politician in America, telling an NPR reporter that he intends to insure that the health care bill doesn't pass because here in Massachusetts, we have a successful free market in health care that allows people to choose from many different private plans; and we don't need a government takeover of health care that forces people to buy government-run insurance. The reporter, of course, didn't bat an eye and didn't say a word. They just played the tape, presumably leaving listeners with the impression that Brown had just said something that was true and made sense. As I assume you know, if you read this blog, the senate bill essentially replicates the Massachusetts system, which Brown publicly supports and for which he voted as a state senator.

So we have the diagnosis - a corporate media that is varying combinations of corrupt, lazy, incompetent, and dishonest. However, I do not know what the treatment might be. For so long as this state of affairs persists, we are doomed.


C. Corax said...

I'm not particularly knowledgeable about politics or political procedures, but the referenced facts were pretty hard to miss if you were reading any political blogs.For all that corporate media whines about blogs being parasites, there's an awful lot on blogs that you cannot find in the their offerings.

As for the reporter not doing his/her job, why don't you shoot off an email to the NPR ombudswoman? I find it very relaxing to tell NPR what I think of its reporters.

Did you catch the dissing of Howard Zinn on NPR? Yes, only NPR would kick a dead man. Can't let a progressive be praised without offering "equal time" to the haters. FAIR sent an action alert about it, pointing out that not a negative word was said about WF Buckley when he died.

Cervantes said...

And when Anal Roberts died, the only person they brought in to comment on his wretched, thieving, atavistic life was Pat Robbingsome.

See, the problem is that reality has a liberal bias, so in order to be fair and balanced they have to affirmatively rig the scale.