American public craves shallow news

David Soler

We are advancing toward a creepy age: the age of easy and quick answers.

Among other things, the July 30 issue of Time magazine talks – excuse me, tries to talk – about the Iraq War.

Yes, again.

Why? Because the public needs it. The public is craving answers nobody has – and quickly, if possible. The only solution is entertainment and fantasy with the appearance of factuality.

To show you what I am talking about, let me quote a passage from the article, titled “How to Leave Iraq.”

“After a majority of U.S. troops depart, a military presence of some size will still be needed – not so much to referee a civil war, as U.S. forces are doing now, but to try to keep it from expanding.”

Do you notice the contradiction? The authors are entertaining you with the notion that something uncontrollable is possible to control and – here comes the cherry on top – with even fewer troops.

The fantasy side is that you could do that with countries you fully dominated, a.k.a. Germany or Japan, but not with the ones that are dispatching jungle ambushes or breakfasting IEDs – a.k.a. Vietnam and Iraq, respectively.

As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, this Iraq War subject has become so volatile and intractable that more time and a Ph.D. thesis would be needed just to start to understand it or even to (ho, ho, ho!) try to find a solution. Instead, the Time magazine team’s getaway is to entertain you with fancy propositions and ridiculous speculations. What? Do you want better proof than five and a half pages of text filled with seven images, two of which occupy two full pages?

But wait. That article sparked a chain reaction, opening my eyes that day. This trend is virtually everywhere. Take time to read Smart Money August 2007 issue, for example. Warren Buffet is quoted on page seven as saying, “If I had less money, it would be easy to make money right now.”

“Hmm!” the average reader might think. “How? Let’s find out what Buffet advises us on page 57!” But then page 57 delivers a page with only Buffet’s sartorial picture, followed by half a page filled with text and containing nothing but a useless litany about Buffet’s amazing past. Very informative indeed!

What’s amusing is that the public seems to be adept to this kind of shallow news. We love it because its vacuity has the ability to leave us feeling OK. Moreover, who has enough time to compare different points of view, opinions, and sources and then to follow up a particular complex subject . for free? People are only interested in zipping around the Web sites of CNN, ABC and NBC and skimming first-page journals a la The New York Times.

The Internet, by extension, would make a good case study for what’s going on with the media in this country. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, once said we shouldn’t blame the Internet for containing so many lies. He said the Web is like a mirror: If we don’t like what we see, we should change the image, not what makes it reflect it. Looks like Berners-Lee’s words exactly epitomize the present news hullabaloo, with the media delivering us something we rationally dislike but at the same time can’t avoid asking for.

David Soler is a biomedical sciences graduate and a columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].