False belief in weapons of mass-destruction led the United States to a trillion-dollar war. And trust in rising home value as a truism as reliable as a sunrise was a major contributor to the catastrophic collapse of the economy. At its worst extreme, a culture of misinformation can produce something like Iran, which is led by a Holocaust denier.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
The Cost of Ignorance
Timothy Egan had a piece in yesterday's New York Times that addresses the epidemic of ignorance among Americans today. He cites the large number of republicans--and people in general--who believe Obama's a Muslim. He mentions how many think that Obama was responsible for the bank bailout. From climate change to Michelle's trip to Spain, he says, we are being fed misinformation; lies are promulgated.
While "it would be nice to dismiss the stupid things Americans believe as harmless, the price of large, messy democracy," Egan asserts that ignorance has a price:
It's enough to make me want to pull out my hair. How do you combat this? CNN, MSNBC, Fox News -- their primary responsibility is to their shareholders; not to us, not to the government, not to the truth. Their aim is to make money, not to make us smarter.
Maybe it's just another ugly August news cycle. Last year it was the town hall debacles. This year, the Mosques. And maybe, come September, the debate will be elevated.
(Actually, I'm pretty sure it won't be; I'll just have to find a better way to deal with my frustrations than pulling out my hair!)