Saturday, July 02, 2005

A Balanced Diet
Haloscan's comment software is messed up this afternoon--so to keep you from missing Tom Herbst's take on yesterday's post, I'm promoting it to the front page.
Your points and Kamiya’s are good and can’t be made often enough. We are a culture proudly defensive of its own vapidity, and the dumber we become, the more beligerent we become at the fact that it took us so long to achieve this level of dumbness in the first place.

The trick in dealing with the ever-increasing torent of trivia is to make the choice to avoid as much of the idiocy as possible. That means no Survivor and no American Idol, for starters, or at the very least don’t obsess over them. Ditto for sports; no one needs 168 hours of baseball each week and a like amount of ESPNews and twice that much Fantasy Baseball.

We’re so addicted to self-distraction that we willingly reject CSPAN’s coverage of the Bolton debate in favor of CNN’s seventh rebroadcast of their Jessica Simpson retrospective. We aren’t born stupid; we’re trained to it, like orangutans trained to think that a tire on a concrete floor is a lush rainforest.

To drink from the firehose, we must retrain ourselves to isolate the important part of the stream; the rest is useless spray.

One upon a time The Discovery Channel was consistently worth watching, and it offered truly educational and generally entertaining programs. Their slogan was “Explore Your World,” challenging the viewer to investigate what lies beyond the living room. Now, thanks to William Campbell, the slogan has become “Entertain Your Brain,” an exhortation to ignore anything that doesn’t amuse or distract. Even The Learning Channel has become TLC, an abbreviation less associated with learning than with Tender Loving Care or Left-Eye Lopez. These channels (and their ilk) are responsible for and symptomatic of the dumbing-down of society.

Just as you can talk to your friend in a cacophonous stadium, you can discern your future in a the din of for-profit media saturation. It isn’t easy to avoid the firehose’s spray, but it can be done.

Drink responsibly.
Tom's right about this. It's not necessary to watch C-SPAN all the time. Neither is it necessary never to watch E or VH1, or even American Idol or Survivor. But you need to balance your media diet enough so that you remain smart enough to be able to watch C-SPAN--and to understand what you're seeing--when necessary. (Like when the battle royal over the Supreme Court starts--which is another blog post entirely.) Although that means making choices about what to watch, it also means pushing back from the trough when you know you've had enough.

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