Did you know that the protests and revolutions extend beyond just Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia into Bahrain, Jordan, Yemen, and other middle-eastern countries? Did you know that the Koch brothers, the main patrons of the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party movement were indicted for polluting the water supply near one of their paper mills in early march? Did you even know who the Koch brothers were? No? You’re not alone.
You probably do, however, remember the huge fuss over Charlie Sheen’s alcoholism and drug addictions over the past month or so, up until he finally lost his job. Sheen’s plight was the top story on every news source from the tabloids to the LA Times to late-night comedy. All the while, Libyan rebels were fighting a violent revolution, being killed off by the thousands by their off-the-hinge dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, establishing their own democratic, oligarchical government in their stronghold, Benghazi, which is so far along, it even sent an envoy to Europe. I pride myself on being well-informed, I watch the nightly news, read the blog circuit, and even get breaking news updates sent to my phone, but I didn’t even know that the rebel government was already organized until, in a barren waiting room with nothing but a few magazines on a table, I was forced to pick up a copy of Time Magazine (which also had a Charlie Sheen editorial in the back, no less).
Why is it that we’re missing world news stories, politics, and economics, but are inundated by celebrity gossip? Why is it that in the July of 2009, CNN dropped its coverage of the revolution in Iran for a 24-hour cycle of “OMG! MICHAEL JACKSON IS DEAD!” Why is celebrity Lindsey Lohan more compelling than Senator Lindsey Graham? Paris Hilton more than Parisian labor strikes? Natalie Portman more than the security of our nation’s ports? In current American culture, entertainment is valued over information. We live in the time of twilight and sitcoms, when the content is irrelevant compared to the emotion it evokes. We live in a time when third graders sing along to Ke$ha songs about sex and underage drinking on the radio, without even registering the meaning of the words. In this culture, Entertainment Tonight and Cosmopolitan may seem more appealing than 60 Minutes and The New York Times. But in a world and an era as interconnected and fast-paced as ours being well informed about the top stories from more places than just Hollywood is more important than ever.
What’s happening in Brazil today may be happening in New York City Tomorrow, and seemingly dry and uninteresting bills being debated on the Senate floor may soon affect your way of life, from the amount you pay for groceries to the security of the nation. While to an ordinary citizen the types of stories covered by Brian Williams, Katie Couric, and Diane Sawyer may seem irrelevant, everything going on in the world affects you somehow. Unrest in the middle east drives makes it more costly to fill up your car’s tank, Debt crises in Europe may bring down the cost of your next business trip, and the outsourcing of jobs to India and China may mean that the products you use every day aren’t as carefully inspected for safety.
While we live in an entertainment-driven society, we also live in a global society, and that means that everything that happens in the world matters. Finding a way to get the news that preempts the filter and distortion of waiting for it to trickle through the “grape vine” is crucial, maybe, I daresay, more crucial than hearing about the latest celebrity gossip. The world revolves around the sun, despite what the larger-than-life figures and bright lights of Hollywood may leas you to believe.