Seeing as how so few Americans are fairly represented in the public eye, it isn’t exactly safe to conclude how foolish we are as a collective whole. The most widely heard among us tend to be the most outspoken. And those so outspoken generally fall into two categories. On the one hand, you have your obnoxious Ashton Kutcher meets Billy Mays types, whose yelling and idiot-grins make anything they say sound like mindless drivel, even if they’re quoting Stephen Hawking. On the other, you have the bitter and the angry, Rush Limbaugh meets Bill O’Reilly (pardon the fact that both are Republicans, nothing is meant to be implied by that) types, whose screaming rage often stems from or suggests a lack of understanding.
Still, it seems like this first group is the one that gets the most attention. A Youtube video of a man in a bikini quacking like a duck while he chases the cat around the house is going to get more views than a discussion on quantum physics or even a by-the-numbers analysis of our economy. In fact, it could even end up among the front page news videos on Yahoo, somehow. This seems to have stemmed from our alleged collective love – though I’ve met very few people who are part of this collective – of reality television.
At some point, producers stopped looking for realistic people and instead sprang for the biggest clown-faced caricatures they could find. Little tip, those sort of characters are funny on the Simpsons because of the scripting and decent voice acting. Rectally-extracted scripts and hack-job newbie actors, if they can be called that, aren’t going to produce the same results. Anyway, now we have people going on national television making complete fools of themselves for their fifteen minutes of shame. And somehow, somewhere, millions of Americans are apparently gobbling it up with a spoon.
If this is what the rest of the world sees of us, I can’t blame them for thinking we’re dumb. Keeping that sort of thing popular only serves to support the Stupid American stigma, just like having a McDonald’s every five blocks builds up the Fat American stigma.
Beyond that, we have the ignorance of the state of the union or even our own cities. This generally stems from a lack of reporting, as the headlines are generally overrun with one of two types of articles. On slow news days, we have the special interest banalities. “Man Saves Dog from Truck” is a nice thing to hear, but there are far more important things going on, I’m sure. The rest of the time, we have incomplete bias-riddled establishment-bashing. It doesn’t matter who is in charge, it’s popular to hate them, and reporters bank on that. So, not only do we end up spouting off about how horrible the administration is, but the rest of the world either hears us whining without the whole truth or also gets an incomplete perception of our administration.
Furthermore, domestic reporters make minimal effort to spread news from the outside world within our borders. Look, even if most of us won’t be going over there any time soon, it would be nice to get an update on Germany without having to dig up videos of their news reports and look up translations every three seconds. After all, for those who were paying attention, President Obama did speak there during his campaign to let them know that we may be calling on them for an anti-Taliban alliance. And that’s just one of many examples.
But, I wouldn’t exactly say we’re dumb per se, atleast not for the typical reasons. Our biggest faux pas lies in who we allow to dictate the circulation of information as well as who we put in the limelight. We fawn over idiots whose only talent is singing other people’s songs, often quite poorly. We let angry J. Jonah Jamesons decide what’s news and even what’s truth. And that’s not to mention the limited and ethnocentric accounts of world history presented to our children in public school, along with the half-efforts in other subjects, further limited by the No Child Left Behind Act.
But there are plenty of those among us who hate reality television and realize we’re not getting the full story. We’re the ones who question what CNN and Fox News aren’t telling us when they praise and belittle President Obama, respectively. We’re the ones who wonder why Michelle Obama’s lack of sleeves is so danged newsworthy. We’re the ones who, having heard one side of the story, will open discussions with the other side to try to reach a middle ground. We’re the ones who question common knowledge as common misconceptions and do our own research to gain a better understanding of the truth. We’re the ones who don’t have popular videos on Youtube, won’t be on the news for our efforts and certainly aren’t going to be invited on any television shows. We’re regular people, not stupid enough to be in the spotlight, not famous enough for the limelight. And though we make up the bulk of population, we’re overshadowed by the idiots and the television producers, news outlets and school boards that feed them.
The real trouble is that we let our collective guard down and let these buffoons lock us in the dark, and there are so many of us scrambling around that we can’t find the switch.