Last week, in between worrying about two looming 20-page papers, I was watching the Daily Show because sometimes even cynical me needs a little sugar to help the medicine go down. As much as I love watching Jon Stewart sometimes his level of awareness makes me sad. Yes, he’s doing comedic routines on the news, and he’s a TV persona like so many others, but it seems like he’s sometimes a little put off by reality.
In the episode I watched, he brought attention to the email hacking and attempted debunking that surrounded the topic of global climate change at Climategate in 2009. At the time, it caused a lot of skepticism around the topic and suggested that scientists had been manipulating the data to show climate change; this caused a nearly 20% drop in the acknowledgement of climate change.
While networks had a “field day” during this time, no one bothered to mention that a study intended to disprove climate change, funded by Tea Party oil tycoons, the Koch brothers, actually reaffirmed the science behind it.
What, you may ask, was distracting the broadcast news groups to the point that they missed this gem of information? McDonald’s reintroduced the McRib sandwich. I’ll just give you a minute to let that soak in. Yes, today’s news is more focused on annual fast food specials than something that could very well bring us all to our demise (Although, I guess you could argue that McDonald’s could also bring us all to our demise).
So where does the title of this quaint Editor’s Corner come in? Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business is a book by educator Neil Postman written in 1985. In his book, Postman relies on the fictitious futuristic dystopias given to us by the great Orwell and Huxley. These books, however, are becoming more of a reality. The author leans more towards the world of Huxley’s Brave New World, in which the people medicate themselves into bliss and voluntarily give up their rights. Postman argues that news has become an entertainment source, and another form of distraction.
As scary as it is, we all need a serious wake up call – to global climate change, to what’s important, to what is detrimental to the sustenance of life as we know it. Without an importance placed on serious issues, the masses will just fade into the mindless babble of social networking, commercials, and reality TV. We very well may end up amusing ourselves to death… if the McRib doesn’t kill us first.