The Dumbing Down Of Americans

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - September 26, 2007
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O.J. Simpson, America’s favorite double-murderer-whogot-away-with-it, is in the news once again. Witnesses say, and the audio tapes appear to confirm, that Simpson was involved in what appeared to be a clumsily thuggish armed robbery. I must confess I had a little “duh!” moment upon hearing it, and a reflexive twinge of satisfaction at the prospect of justice finally served.

Despite the opportunity to gloat, however, it all became too much, too fast. First the accusations, then the endless replaying of the tape in which Simpson is yelling about “my s***! I want my s***!!” Then the arrest, and then the bail. Every station is saturated with juice on The Juice - facts, speculation, interviews, blah, blah, blah, blah and blah!

Only the frenzy surrounding Paris Hilton going to jail (remember that?) comes close. Although, now that I think about it, the Britney flameout on the MTV show got more than its share of repetitive, mindless play. I don’t know what it says about us, except that we must love all this “stuff.” Why else would we put up with it?

I think I know why. I think folks need a little break from the really depressing things they feel helpless to do anything about. It’s a lot easier to rant about O.J. than it is to change the course of global warming. It’s more fun to cluck about Britney’s body than it is to figure out what to do about the horror in Iraq.

(And what’s up with that, anyway? Britney may have bombed onstage, but hey, the girl’s not fat. She is absolutely guilty of extremely poor taste in costumes. But fat? Only by our sick and twisted standards. But I digress.)

There is a temptation to turn away from the things that make us sad and uncomfortable. It’s human nature and not at all a terrible thing. We need respite from troubles; otherwise we’d be grumpy and humorless all the time. Who wants to be around people like that?

The thing is, though, I’m afraid we’re dumbing down our lives a bit too much. Celebrity gossip may be fun, but when it masquerades as serious news and is treated as such by major news organizations, that’s dumb.

Those Internet and TV call-in “polls” asking your opinion about major and not-so-major news stories? Dumb.

And have you read some of those e-mail comments at the end of some of those celebrity “news” articles? Trashy. And dumb.

We should recognize the fact that it takes a bit of work to cut through the “duh-ness” of much of what we see today. A lot of it is out there because of the endless amount of airspace and cyberspace that needs filling. It’s just a fact of modern life that we have to learn to control, like video games.

Speaking of which, did you see the latest study written up in USA Today? The National Bureau of Economics did the research. One of its conclusions was that college students who have video games in their dorm rooms studied 40 minutes less each day on average and received lower grades.

All I can say about that is - duh.

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