Thursday, June 11, 2009

# Posted 5:40 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

IGNORANCE IS BLISS: In my eight lackadaisical days on St. Kitts, I didn't pick up a single newspaper. I saw a handful of headlines while checking my e-mail, but didn't read any full stories. Once in a while, CNN would be turned in one of the bars where I was having a drink.

In short, I simulated the diminished state of news-awareness experienced every day by tens of millions of Americans, who need to focus on keeping their jobs, taking their kids to school, etc. I know a lot of educated people who look down on the average American as pathetically ignorant. And the truth is, the average American knows very few facts about politics. Yet somehow, democracy works quite well regardless.

I think the really interesting question is what facts and opinions sink in even when someone absorbs information in a haphazard or accidental manner. The entire debate about media bias would change if we actually understood a little more about how media are consumed.

In St. Kitts, the only story that was (re)played enough to grab my attention was about North Korea's latest nuclear test. All I really picked up was that North Korea did something bad and a lot of countries are angry. That's very little information, but it reinforces a very specific narrative in which North Korea wears the black hat and is opposed by the global community, as opposed to just the United States. Is that the same narrative that I would've picked up if I lived in Europe or South Korea? I don't know. But I could imagine how this is the level of understanding at which the media have the greatest impact.

Anyhow, so much for ignorance. Now back to the world of blogging and news junkies.

Cross-posted at Conventional Folly
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