Skull Candy

In Pres. Obama’s speech on Wednesday at Knox College in Illinois, he pronounced “…we have cut the deficit by nearly half as a share of the economy since I took office….”

This assertion supports two points we’ve been making.

First, Americans live largely in a world of unreality. Not only can we find no way of squaring Pres. Obama’s statement with our current economic realities, but much worse, reality resides a long way in the opposite direction.

But to make matters worse, the thinking capability of many Americans has been incapacitated to the level that they believe such obvious misrepresentations. Clips of this speech reveal an audience of college students, who should be our best and brightest, applauding vigorously for such fabrications. The Washington Post article that records this quote cited above allows it to stand. Though the author, Rachel Weiner, must know better, she apparently feels that she can let this massive misrepresentation of reality slide without losing credibility, and it appears that she can.

It comes as no surprise that so many Americans buy into this rhetoric of make believe when we consider that major elements of our culture undermine the thinking process and its development.

Perhaps the greatest adversary of serious thinking and its development resides in the huge chunks of time Americans abdicate their mental capacities to entertainment media, especially television, movies, and music. Two qualities that render these resources enemies of the intellect are found in their attraction and their lack of intellectual content.

Anyone who doubts the magnetic pull of these media needs only try to talk with children who are watching television. The only tool that enables communication in this scenario is the “off” button. But adults also find their attention arrested by these media. Many skilled professionals employ a wide variety of techniques to achieve that end, and they do so effectively.

And what are we drawn to? The son of Philo Farnsworth, inventor of the television, was asked about his father’s perspective on the content of television programming. He responded, “I suppose you could say that he felt he had created kind of a monster, a way for people to waste a lot of their lives. Throughout my childhood his reaction to television was, ‘There’s nothing on it worthwhile, and we’re not going to watch it in this household, and I don’t want it in your intellectual diet.’ ” Imagine what his reaction would be in 2013. Rather than connect people with reality, most television programming distorts the observer’s view of the world.

The same can be said for music. I know teenagers who not only keep their earbuds inserted every waking hour when possible but also throughout the night. The content of this media if anything represents a serious step down from that provided in television programming. I find it telling that one of the leading brands of earbuds bears the name Skullcandy, revealing that the lyrical content of popular music provides all of the intellectual nutrition possessed by refined sugar.

My purpose in citing these concerns is not to rehearse the woes of our society (enough people are already covering that territory) but to highlight the connection between these societal trends and the susceptibility of our society to embrace fairytales presented as reality. If the primary defense against cultural unreality resides in our minds, most Americans are essentially defenseless.

Isn’t it great that the American deficit has been cut nearly in half across the past five years? And here I was worried about the economy. I’m glad I need not give that further thought. What’s on TV tonight? Sorry, I can’t hear you. I’m listening to my iPod.

Monday I plan to discuss an even greater threat to the American mind—a capability of the entertainment and news media that provides them with the power to bend our perspective on reality without our realizing it.

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