I see this as part of a very disturbing, as well as depressing trend, toward "dumbing down" mainstream media discourse, and a further closing of the American mind to knowledge about and interaction with the rest of the world. Strangely, this is occurring at the same time as issues such as international terrorism, the energy crisis and global warming make international cooperation and coordination more important than ever. Increasingly, the only aspects of the world outside that Americans learn about are war-zones where American troops are stationed. Not surprisingly, I find many of my students coming to class with an attitude of disrespect, fear and/or insecurity toward the other nations and peoples of the world. Thankfully, human curiosity does sometimes win out, and I find many students do become interested in knowing about other regions of the world when given some encouragement. I do fear however for the future of the United States if our people are to become increasingly ignorant and narrow-minded toward the rest of the world, because the media has encouraged and reinforced such narrowness.
Here is an excerpt from a January 12, 2007 speech made by the journalist Bill Moyers in Memphis, Tennessee which touches on these and related issues. The full text is available at
"By no stretch of the imagination can we say the dominant institutions of today's media are guardians of democracy. Despite the profusion of new information "platforms" on cable, on the Internet, on radio, blogs, podcasts, YouTube and MySpace, among others, the resources for solid original journalistic work, both investigative and interpretive, are contracting rather than expanding. I'm old fashioned in this, a hangover from my days as a cub reporter and later a publisher. I agree with Michael Schudson, one of our leading scholars of communication, who writes in the current Columbia Journalism Review that "while all media matter, some matter more than others, and for the sake of democracy, print still counts most, especially print that devotes resources to gathering news. Network TV matters, cable TV matters, but when it comes to original investigation and reporting, newspapers are overwhelmingly the most important media." But newspapers are purposely dumbing down, driven down - says Schudson - by "Wall Street, whose collective devotion to an informed citizenry is nil, and seems determined to eviscerate newspapers." Meanwhile, despite some initial promise following the shock of 9/11, television has returned to its tabloid ways, chasing celebrity and murders - preferably both at the same time - while wallowing in triviality, banality and a self-referential view."
"Worrying about the loss of real news is not a romantic cliché of journalism. It has been verified by history: from the days of royal absolutism to the present, the control of information and knowledge has been the first line of defense for failed regimes facing democratic unrest."
Sobering words, well worth pondering. Maelstrom.