We have more news, but are collectively less informed
Get the Point!
The historian in me often wonders whether America, no make that the Western world, is better or worse off since Watergate in the early 1970's?
If you're wondering, "where are you going with this one, Hobbs," keep reading...
So, I was a little over two years old when President Richard Nixon resigned back in 1974, and while I have no personal memories whatsoever of that event, I do recall learning in middle school all about the 37th President's lust for power that was so strong, that it led him to take the criminally low road to raid Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in hopes of gaining a leg up in his reelection efforts against the Democrats and their presidential standard bearer, Sen. George McGovern (D-S.D.).
President Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon waving goodbye for the very last time from the White House lawn on August 9, 1974
When considering that Nixon was already projected to beat the brakes off of McGovern in the '72 general election, I imagine that it struck most ordinary adult Americans at the time as bizarre that their president would stoop so low to secure an all but won election?
As god awful as the Watergate scandal was, few could have predicted that President Nixon’s criminal acts would ever be surpassed like they were on January 6, 2021, when followers of soon to be former President Donald Trump, at his general behest, attacked the Capitol Complex in an effort to stop the peaceful transfer of power to then President-elect Joe Biden…
But Nixon did, and with the revelation of his dastardly deeds in 1974, two things were crystal clear from that point to today: 1. The illusion of all presidents having relatively high moral character was forever shattered; 2. The hammer that shattered said illusion was wielded by a powerful, inquisitive, fearless, and free press!
A little over five years after Nixon's resignation, the emergence of cable news in the form of CNN became a game changer that ushered in the so-called “24/7 news cycle” that remains with us to this very moment. Since then, whatever the event, from impropriety in the presidency or other critical domestic matters, to wars and rumors of war abroad, the 24/7 news cycle has been there to keep those so interested generally informed up to the minute.
For current events and history buffs like yours truly, that news cycle, only made even more accessible with the advent of the internet in the late 90's, arguably has been God's greatest gift to mankind over the past 43 years! But I often can't shake the inexorable feeling that this gift is also a curse, particularly when considering the growing presence of false facts being conveyed by "news sites" that have become trusted sources for the masses, many of whom show little desire to seek truths that are but a mere Google search away!
To this last point, I often remind my fellow news loving teenage daughter that when I was a tad bit older than she is right now, back during my freshman year at Morehouse College, that if I wanted to read multiple newspapers or news magazines, that I had to get up, shower, eat in the cafeteria, and then walk a half mile to Woodruff Library—or nearly two miles to West End News—to ascertain the latest events. On the contrary, Young Miss Hobbs's generation, and the rest of the industrialized world to be honest, have the luxury of merely rolling over and clicking on our smartphones to get our daily news fixes!
Rain, sleet, snow, or hail, the librarians on the first floor of the Woodruff Library—where the news periodicals were stashed—knew my name during my four years at Dear Ol’ Morehouse…
Yet, despite such conveniences, I am often amazed by what real news gets posted on social media sites, and what goes unmentioned or unread on daily basis. And as Artificial Intelligence grows from phantom to a real menace, I truly fear that fake news, the kind that looks and sounds great even in its falsity, will only further bamboozle the masses!
Just yesterday, I gathered some anecdotal evidence when I made two posts on my Facebook page; the first post was the one that I created below which expresses my lingering desire for a cease fire in Gaza amid my fervent hopes for the creation of a New Palestine, and the development of lasting peace between that potential state and Israel.
The second was one that I posted from the Rivals sports networks calling for Texas A&M University to hire Colorado Coach Deion Sanders to replace its recently fired football coach, Jimbo Fisher.
Curiously, the Israel/Gaza post had very little interaction among my followers, with 29 “likes” and a mere seven comments. But the college football post has 102 comments—and counting!
Truly, I am fortunate to have a rather large following on Facebook comprised of highly intelligent people who often respond to any number of serious news stories on any given day. But in the decades since I joined the "Book of Faces," the posts that have garnered hundreds of interactions or comments, as well as those that have gone "viral" by garnering thousands of interactions/comments, have been posts that focused on sports or entertainment.
Now, one of the interesting aspects of having a blog or writing columns in mainstream newspapers is that some highly intelligent folks will send direct messages, text messages, emails, or straight up step to you in public and tell you how they feel about this, that, or the third. Sometimes, the interactions are respectful, humorous, and enlightening, while other times, they can be weird or downright menacing. But it never is lost upon me that those who privately engage are VERY aware of the news events not relating to sports and entertainment, but they hesitate to respond publicly for myriad personal reasons, more often than not due to their jobs, or their simple desire to keep their opinions away from the masses—particularly those who shun arguing the point to attack the person making the point.
But what truly perplexes me is when I see other highly intelligent people on social media who will argue, fuss, cuss, and even challenge to fisticuffs over which entertainer is laying up with some other entertainer, or, whether Coach Prime should stay at Colorado, go to Texas A&M if offered, or go back to an HBCU; or, they post all sorts of ribaldry via Tik-Tok and memes, but they won't bring that same passion to posts dealing with race, racism, sexism, abortion, the economy, or potential wars in foreign lands. Wars, as I often remind, that could lead to the end of ALL human life if the nuclear missiles get to flying between between Russia, China, and the U.S.
Indeed, as the popular saying goes these days, "make it make sense!"
Perhaps the late Prince Rogers Nelson summed our present times up best four decades ago: “…everybody’s got a bomb, we could all die any day, but before I let that happen, I'll dance my life away…” Lyrics from “1999”
But what does make sense, at least to me, is that social media means different things to different people! And while I may not understand why or what social and traditional media may mean to the next person, I respect their rights to engage on whichever news posts that they wish to engage.
But still, I do have concerns, major concerns, that the present younger demographics in Western cultures, from Generation X to Generation Z, are in many ways less informed than our Baby Boom and World War II era parents and grandparents were when they were our same ages. This, again, despite our generations having FAR more access to information! And I fear, seriously fear, that such indifference to the ready access of information not only will continue to allow dumb dilettantes to obtain high public offices, but that if the nuclear sirens sound off for the first time since the old test drills from my youth, that if they are triggered because real nukes are incoming, that some will die mid Tik-Tok (or meme post) without even knowing "why" the industrial world has gone to war…