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

Education

Destroy the ‘Public’ Education System

‘Public” schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. This certainly isn’t an original assertion, but as we watch thousands of authoritarian brats tearing down the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it’s more apparent than ever. State-run schools have undercut two fundamental ... Read More
Education

Destroy the ‘Public’ Education System

‘Public” schools have been a catastrophe for the United States. This certainly isn’t an original assertion, but as we watch thousands of authoritarian brats tearing down the legacies of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, it’s more apparent than ever. State-run schools have undercut two fundamental ... Read More
Culture

A Triumph at Mount Rushmore

If nothing else, President Donald Trump’s July Fourth speech at Mount Rushmore clarified the battle lines of our culture war. The New York Times called the speech “dark and divisive,” while an Associated Press headline declared, “Trump pushes racial division.” A Washington Post story said the speech ... Read More
Culture

A Triumph at Mount Rushmore

If nothing else, President Donald Trump’s July Fourth speech at Mount Rushmore clarified the battle lines of our culture war. The New York Times called the speech “dark and divisive,” while an Associated Press headline declared, “Trump pushes racial division.” A Washington Post story said the speech ... Read More
Culture

Why Progressives Wage War on History

Princeton University’s decision to remove the name “Woodrow Wilson” from its School of Public and International Affairs is a big win for progressive activists, and the implications will extend far beyond the campus. It hardly surprises me, in today’s polarizing environment, that my alma mater caved to ... Read More
Culture

Why Progressives Wage War on History

Princeton University’s decision to remove the name “Woodrow Wilson” from its School of Public and International Affairs is a big win for progressive activists, and the implications will extend far beyond the campus. It hardly surprises me, in today’s polarizing environment, that my alma mater caved to ... Read More
U.S.

Bad News about the Virus

On the menu today: an important update about indications that the coronavirus is now more contagious than it used to be, with far-reaching ramifications for how we fight this pandemic; a point on the recent complaints about the Paycheck Protection Program; and a new book for everyone closely following the debate ... Read More
U.S.

Bad News about the Virus

On the menu today: an important update about indications that the coronavirus is now more contagious than it used to be, with far-reaching ramifications for how we fight this pandemic; a point on the recent complaints about the Paycheck Protection Program; and a new book for everyone closely following the debate ... Read More
World

Putin’s Empire Strikes Back

In 1648, at the negotiating tables of Münster and Osnabrück, a panoply of European diplomats signed a document that would lay down the foundations of the modern world order: the Treaty of Westphalia. Naturally, the signatories did not realize the impact of their contribution to history. Far from a pack of ... Read More
World

Putin’s Empire Strikes Back

In 1648, at the negotiating tables of Münster and Osnabrück, a panoply of European diplomats signed a document that would lay down the foundations of the modern world order: the Treaty of Westphalia. Naturally, the signatories did not realize the impact of their contribution to history. Far from a pack of ... Read More