Attitudes seem to be changing around immigration reform at an alarming pace. John McCain (R) and Meg Whitman (R) might lose their primaries because they’re not anti-immigrant enough. The reason certain demographics are rushing to throw all the people who talk funny out is because we have a worldliness deficit. Less than a quarter of Americans own a passport, and only a fraction of those bother to leave North America. People who don’t travel fear foreigners.
The broader crisis (which allows so many people to make stupid decisions) is the mislabeling of “news sources” as information in our society. Some citizens get a daily digest of exactly the wrong kind of information a person needs in order to make an informed decision; consuming some media actually makes you dumber.
The six o’clock news is mostly about emotionally charged events that don’t directly affect your life. A daily diet of fires, crimes, and dead bodies balanced by feel-good stories children selling lemonade only add up to a warped world view. After a time people accept this external reference frame and use it to make judgments. Anyone who’s lived in Africa will know the continent is a much more complex, interesting, and frankly gratifying place to live than anyone who sees it through the nightly news would suggest. And watching Oprah and Survivor doesn’t cancel out your warped world view – it’s just makes it a more bizarre tapestry of imaginary realities.
Instead, reading the Economist or listening to NPR, BBC, and (dare I say it?) even Al Jazeera tend to focus on the issues in their context along with a bit of history. These bits of information are what a citizen can use to make an informed decision. It’s a combination of one’s personal experience and the context of the issue that matters. Tele-living leads to shocking conclusions. Perhaps that’s why so many people get bored with these types of news. It’s work to think, and we’re generally out of practice by the time we finish receiving our 20 years of education. (Yes, there’s something missing from our education, but that’s a story for another day)