Dig This: Why Are We Sooooo Dumb?

I recently attended the National Conference for Media Reform in Denver, Colorado. The four-day affair was exhilarating and valuable in many ways.  The single most remarkable thing about the conference was the intelligence, generosity and passion of the presenters and participants.  We live in a time when most Americans seem to have a “get it while the getting is good” attitude, or for those that are lucky enough to be among the “haves,” an “I’ve got mine” attitude.  So, to be in contact with a large group of people dedicated to truth and diversity in journalism and democracy in media was different and refreshing.

Media Reform?  What’s wrong with American media?  Well, the most obvious problem is that it doesn’t inform or educate us. The world’s reaction to our ignorance, as Americans, was expressed in the headlines of Daily Mirror in 2004, “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”  There are many questions that come to mind in response to such provocative headlines; like—Are Americans less-well educated or genetically inferior?   Or is “class and privilege” a greater factor in “what we know,” or is it more dependent on the flavor of Kool-Aid we choose to drink?

Most likely it is some combination of these influences and other factors that determine our individual level of education and world view, but what about the information we receive every day, the information we need to make good, informed decisions?   That question defined what the Media Reform Conference was all about.

How do you get your information?  What institutions or segments of our society determine the content and “framing”  of our national dialog?   Who decides what stories we are allowed to see and hear in the everyday world?

The fact is that the majority of American voters still get their news from corporate-owned, commercially-oriented television networks.  Though for several years, the Internet has become the alternative source of news, especially among younger voters.  Also trust in network news has declined to all-time lows as shown in recent polls.  No matter where you get your news, sources of information have dwindled dramatically over the last couple of decades due to media consolidation and a decrease in real investigative reporting.  News has become more polarized, propagandized and homogenized as a result.  So, while we live in a world where information abounds and Internet access is provided at our fingertips 24/7, we find ourselves wandering in a “news desert.”

Literally, a handful of multinational corporations determine what “news” Americans will see and hear each day; and as our news has become more infotainment than fact, journalistic ethics have been abandoned to special interests and monetary gain.  These changes have happened over a number of years, and many people in the U.S. have not paid attention to the problem or the results.  A very serious result of this development is that Americans have become more polarized, less trusting and incapable of working together for the common good of our nation and the world.  I place the responsibility on corporate media consolidation and corporate influence for this sad state of affairs.

While most of us have been oblivious to the deterioration of the media, the more aware, like the people at FreePress.net, the sponsors of the National Conference for Media Reform, have been waving the large orange caution-flag for years.  Others, in an attempt to counteract the corruption of the media, like aNewsCafe.com, have moved onto the World Wide Web to practice independent, ethical journalism and serve their communities better.  Some of us have chosen to support local Community Radio stations like KKRN that provide a diversity of voices in a democracy sorely lacking in tolerance and understanding.  Many support programming on PBS television stations like KIXE in an attempt to fill the void created by corporate media.

Americans are inherently no dumber or smarter than any other nation or peoples, but we are starved for good information in the Age of Information.  This is hurting us economically, socially and morally.   What can you do?  Educate yourself; use and support local independent media that cares about you.  You’ll be glad you did.

Doug Bennett is local talk show host on KKRN, 88.5 FM; community organizer; and retired general contractor.

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13 Responses

  1. Avatar rmv says:

    How True!

    Thank You Doug. 🙂

    God bless AMERICA and her Children.

  2. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    HEAR, HERE . . .

  3. Power is power because many obey the few and do their bidding. The "few" in this country are all about exploiting people commercially. "GIMME YAR MONEY !" is the end game and all that commercial media is concerned about is pushing people to buy what they don't need and spend the money they don't even have. The enemy of big, unethical commerce is wisdom. If you have a clear mind and think twice before buying crap you don't need, you are the beast to destroy. So it is a pretty straight forward mission for the whole "Carpet-Bagger Circus": making sure that citizens are transformed into the dumbest, most conformist possible consumers.

  4. Avatar Randy says:

    With the power of mass communication at our fingertips, there is a powerful temptation to create our own story, using our own facts the way it suits us best or might serve our personal agenda even at the expense of the truth and our own personal integrity. The great potential to gain power and influence through capturing the attention of others often makes the means quite easily justified to reach the goals. Truth seems to not have as much value as personal ambition.

  5. Avatar Vik says:

    Excellent article Doug! There is one other thing though; accountability. It used to be that if a person falsely reported "news" they were held accountable for that action. In a world of, "the only crime is in getting caught" information becomes the enemy and only the powerful are allowed to have the knowledge that empowers. It is unfortunate that our nation has come to this depth of unethical misunderstanding for true human rights and needs. Thank you for being a voice of reason and intellect!

  6. Avatar Ann Webber says:

    Thank you Doug for helping to keep us informed! We are fortunate to have you as a reporter of truths!

  7. Avatar Tom says:

    Great article Doug! I'm so happy I was able to share this experience with you. What you say is so true and I'm happy to be a part of the "new movement" to helping our country be better informed.

  8. Avatar Anotherplayaguy says:

    It's not only the corporate media — it is all the institutions that enable it. Most damaging and most given a free ride — organized religion whose only purpose any more is to keep the masses in line. And a subset of organized religion — the evangelicals — who actively work to keep people ignorant.

    And the deep South.

  9. Avatar admittedcynic says:


    Nice reporting as usual! Well, our mainstream media is an "if US bleed we (the people) will read." If it doesn't, well we can find a good TV show our movie to get our blood fix. So, our culture of God, Guts, and Guns is the Kool Aid most Americans love to drink; besides Coors and Coke that is… Look at Newtown (gun sales shot up like a rocket in a 4th of July parade after that incident…) and Boston, the fine and lovely city it is, hit with an unquestionable tragedy… The media is keeping Tamerlan, Dzokhar and Newtown in the front of the hourly news cycle, providing us with our daily GGG fix. Yes, I concur that people with mental health disorders should have any guns and that 3 dead and 250 injured in Boston is a tragedy and by now half of the right wing party are ready to deport anyone that looks like they might be a Muslim…But, I don't know, I'm just wondering if Fox News (or any mainstream media for that mater) has reported on our 200 Pakistan drone strikes that have killed about 800 innocent civilians, over 100 of them small children? Oh, I forgot, we are at war with Pakistan, so hey, where's my assault rifle… Hey, did you see the Koch Brothers at the Denver conference? Looks like there concerned about what we read enough to think about buying 8 newspapers…. Hmmm, seems like there's a local paper that might be a good fit for the brothers… Well, it's Zero Dark Thirty, so time to get back to my Kool Aid…. Cheers.

    • Avatar Doug Bennett says:

      Your "daily GGG fix" observation is well taken. Much like the Roman Empire, if you can keep "the mob" transfixed on some adrenalin (or testosterone) pumping spectacle, then they are less likely to pay attention to the "man behind the curtain." Or, as Pogo once said, " I have met the enemy, and he is us."

      The unfortunate truth is we, as Americans, are ultimately responsible for our own demise. AND yes, it can and probably will happen here.

  10. Avatar Joanne Snyder says:

    This is a brilliant article. Thank you. There are three things I am concerned about. The first is that certain types of stories are intentionally pushed onto, or withheld in the news. The Second is that the "NEWS" is an all day "fill-up-all-that-time" business which has become a form of entertainment driven by ratings, and the third is that the word "news" has morphed in the last 20 years. News was the gathering of, and giving people information and was guided by journalistic ethics that delt with the types of words used, a guideline to permissible graphics or pictures, and most importantly an adherence to the truth. News, in my little town didn't include analysing or interpreting the facts. I feel as though I am old enough and skeptical enough and have a pretty decent filter to wade through what I hear and see everyday, but I worry about young people like my students who don't have the skills to evaluate what they are hearing or seeing.

    • Avatar Doug Bennett says:

      I share your worries about our youth. Then again, I talked to a young man today (customer service in North Carolina). He was intelligent, kind, respectful and aware, as I expect many other young people are. Research shows youth lack certain tools to make judgments until their mid-twenties. We also know they have a great capacity to surprise us with their ingenuity, inherent morality and courage. As a teacher, I'm sure you have seen that promise in many students. As I get older, I realize it will fall on them to solve the huge problems my generation has helped create or allowed with our affluence. In the huge mass of kids with their noses stuck in their smart phones, are the great leaders the future will depend on. I hope I will be around to support them when they need it.

  11. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Doug, while I enjoyed your assessment of the state of news organizations, I thought it a little pessimistic. We have more news outlets than at any other time in history. The Redding Record Searchlight,The searching Redlight, is a fine well rounded rag, even if they did drop the TV schedule and made the Monday paper a tissue and fired a number of talent like anewscafe founder Doni Chamberlain.

    I trust KQMS, KRCR-TV and KHSL TV News as well as ABC, NBC and CBS. HBO Has Real Time with Bill Maher, a political talk show, perfect for us lefties. I watch CNN but not the Teapublican network, Fox also called Faux. Rush Lamebo and Mike Savage are a waste of time spewing hate, heresay and lies .

    You're right that one must fiilter the news to soon become a well rounded reader and listener. delete news orgs that cause harm like the Inquirer, Fox , The Examiner and Glen Beck, Savage and Limbaugh. They should come with a warning. This program may cause brain damage and extreme bias.

    Here's to well rounded news in America. We want to know whats going on.