CULTIVATING LIBERALISM
FOR ALL CLIMATES
SINCE 1759
 
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United States of Ignorance
What Information Revolution?

Even he looks smart now

Since the 1980s we’ve had an explosion of information: 24-hour TV news, the “Internets”—news sites, blogs, direct and immediate access to primary sources from CIA briefings to the lint content of presidential briefs—and access to every newspaper or radio or alternative news site on the planet. We’ve had an explosion in distance education and the technological equivalent of universal word of mouth: cell phones. We should be better informed. We should be collectively smarter. If staying in place is effectively a synonym of retreat, we are, in fact, dumber, less knowledgeable, less critical. From the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:

In 1989, for example, 74% could come up with Dan Quayle’s name when asked who the vice president is. Today, somewhat fewer (69%) are able to recall Dick Cheney. However, more Americans now know that the chief justice of the Supreme Court is generally considered a conservative and that Democrats control Congress than knew these things in 1989. Some of the largest knowledge differences between the two time periods may reflect differences in the amount of press coverage of a particular issue or public figure at the time the surveys were taken. But taken as a whole the findings suggest little change in overall levels of public knowledge. The survey provides further evidence that changing news formats are not having a great deal of impact on how much the public knows about national and international affairs.

Yes, but just 37 percent of those surveyed could say that the Chief Justice is a conservative. In 1989, 30 percent could. Both figures are pitiful. The most knowledgeable audiences? Those who watch the Daily Show. That doesn’t mean the Daily Show is their source of substantial news. It means they have the most critical minds that happen to include the Daily Show in their news diet.

Some of thye findings:

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