The Corner

Culture

Tune Out the News, and You’ll Get the Government You Deserve

The Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

A few readers are objecting to a portion of today’s Morning Jolt about the Iowa farmer who said he had never heard of Joe Biden. I can understand readers wishing they had never heard of Joe Biden, and my aim is not to mock this particular farmer. But the choice that farmer has made — to be so inattentive to news and current events that he doesn’t recognize the name of the immediately preceding vice president, a man who’s been in the news for about four decades — has consequences.

I get why people would rather not pay attention to news about government and the people who are in it. What government does can be boring, confusing, full of jargon, with lots of promises that never pan out, deliberate lies and clever obfuscations, flip-flops, gaslighting, and just endless amounts of negativity, finger-pointing, scapegoating, and anger. It’s easy to understand why so many Americans would prefer to watch, read about, and think about almost any other topic.

It’s a classic “tragedy of the commons” situation — each individual can choose to tune out the news and coverage of what government is doing, but once enough people make that choice, everyone gets hurt by politicians and officeholders who think the public will be fine with whatever choices they make.

We’re approaching a perfect storm to minimize public accountability of government’s actions. Journalism layoffs are at the highest level since the Great Recession. In Oregon, California, Connecticut and most other states, the number of reporters covering state government is dwindling. Social media generates all-too-perfect, shallow “you won’t believe what this customer wrote on her receipt to the waitress” stories all the time. Negative polarization stirs partisans to dismiss, downplay, or excuse scandals involving politicians on “their side.”

It’s a bit surprising that any elected official resigns anymore, because a lot of scandal-ridden pols have demonstrated that they can hunker down and ride out the storm. Their shamelessness can often outlast public outrage.

That farmer in the restaurant isn’t the biggest problem in modern America. But anyone who genuinely tunes out news to the point where they don’t even recognize the name “Joe Biden” isn’t really part of the solution, either.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Knives Out Takes On the Anti-Immigration Crowd

Since the beginning of the Obama era, the Left has broadcast two contradictory messages on the subjects of race and immigration. The first is that a so-called Coalition of the Ascendant will inevitably displace white Americans as the dominant force in the country’s politics and culture. The second is that ... Read More
Film & TV

Knives Out Takes On the Anti-Immigration Crowd

Since the beginning of the Obama era, the Left has broadcast two contradictory messages on the subjects of race and immigration. The first is that a so-called Coalition of the Ascendant will inevitably displace white Americans as the dominant force in the country’s politics and culture. The second is that ... Read More
From left: Harvard University's Noah Feldman, Stanford University's Pamela Karlan, University of North Carolina's Michael Gerhardt, and George Washington University's Jonathan Turley testify before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, December 4, 2019.

The Impeachment Eye Test

To put it mildly, the 1960s were not notorious for juridical modesty. They might compare favorably, though, to Wednesday’s episode of “The Lawyer Left Does Impeachment” at the House Judiciary Committee. Oh, I have no doubt that the three progressive constitutional scholars spotlighted by Democrats yearn in ... Read More
From left: Harvard University's Noah Feldman, Stanford University's Pamela Karlan, University of North Carolina's Michael Gerhardt, and George Washington University's Jonathan Turley testify before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, December 4, 2019.

The Impeachment Eye Test

To put it mildly, the 1960s were not notorious for juridical modesty. They might compare favorably, though, to Wednesday’s episode of “The Lawyer Left Does Impeachment” at the House Judiciary Committee. Oh, I have no doubt that the three progressive constitutional scholars spotlighted by Democrats yearn in ... Read More
Culture

The Absurd Crusade against the Salvation Army

We all know some individuals who are so obviously good and kind that we are certain if anyone were to dislike them, that's all we would need to know about the person. We would immediately assume he or she is a bad person. To hate the manifestly good is a sure sign of being bad. Such is the case regarding the ... Read More
Culture

The Absurd Crusade against the Salvation Army

We all know some individuals who are so obviously good and kind that we are certain if anyone were to dislike them, that's all we would need to know about the person. We would immediately assume he or she is a bad person. To hate the manifestly good is a sure sign of being bad. Such is the case regarding the ... Read More
Elections

It’s Not Because She’s a Woman

In early October, Elizabeth Warren hit her stride. Her stock in the Democratic primary had been climbing steadily since midsummer, and as Joe Biden continued to lag, the Massachusetts senator became the first presidential hopeful to overtake him as front-runner in the RealClearPolitics polling average. She’s ... Read More
Elections

It’s Not Because She’s a Woman

In early October, Elizabeth Warren hit her stride. Her stock in the Democratic primary had been climbing steadily since midsummer, and as Joe Biden continued to lag, the Massachusetts senator became the first presidential hopeful to overtake him as front-runner in the RealClearPolitics polling average. She’s ... Read More
Film & TV

Clint Eastwood’s Messy, Nuanced Triumph

After a pipe bomb exploded at a concert held to celebrate the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta’s Centennial Park, the FBI came to suspect that the security guard who discovered the device might have planted it to gain a reputation as a hero. The knotty story of that security guard, Richard Jewell, does not lend itself ... Read More
Film & TV

Clint Eastwood’s Messy, Nuanced Triumph

After a pipe bomb exploded at a concert held to celebrate the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta’s Centennial Park, the FBI came to suspect that the security guard who discovered the device might have planted it to gain a reputation as a hero. The knotty story of that security guard, Richard Jewell, does not lend itself ... Read More
Elections

More Bad News for Medicare for All

The hits keep coming for Medicare for All. Gallup’s annual health-care survey of adults found that Americans back a system based on private insurance rather than government provision by 54 percent to 42 percent. “This could create a challenge in a general election campaign for a Democratic presidential ... Read More
Elections

More Bad News for Medicare for All

The hits keep coming for Medicare for All. Gallup’s annual health-care survey of adults found that Americans back a system based on private insurance rather than government provision by 54 percent to 42 percent. “This could create a challenge in a general election campaign for a Democratic presidential ... Read More