The Dumbing Down of America


Giving clear and vividly explicit details.
“a graphic account of the riots”
synonyms: vivid, explicit, expressive, detailed, uninhibited, striking, forceful, powerful, punchy;

I got gigged. One of the online news portals I write for rejected an image I subitted with a story. They said it was too ‘graphic’. I don’t think it was graphic enough.

Before I tell you why, let’s take a look at the image. Here it is.

Black Widows Sought in Olympic City
The accompanying article was about Russian security searching for four “Black Widows” — female suicide bombers — in and around Sochi where the Olympics are happening in a few weeks.

They’re called ‘Black Widows’ becuase they are the widows of Muslim extremists who blew themselves up in their own suicide bombings.

“Black Widows”. Understand now?

I really think the media has started to help dumb down the American public.

One hundrend and some years ago, Matthew Brady took his camera out to Civil War battlefields and started capturing images after the battle. Technology at the time couldn’t put photographs into newspapers, so the images from Brady’s film was carved into wood blocks which were then fed into the press. Woodcuts from Brady’s images, and artists that were on the scene, provided the only way people at home could see what happened.

Next came WWI. Some more photographers and now the images could be run in newspapers. For the first time in history, people sitting on the front porch in Wichita could see what was occuring on the Western Front — even if it were a couple weeks later. Again, the images were supplemented with drawings by war correspondents, yah, that’s the first time the term was popularized.

WWII came and along with it the ability to make moving images that were shown in theaters every Saturday before the main feature. Along with images in the hometown newspaper, now people could sit in theater seats with their neighbors and watch Kamikaze planes and pilots destroy themselves against the steel bulkheads of aircraft carriers.

And this is when images started to really change the American public and the way people thought. War wasn’t “honorable” anymore. It wasn’t as “glorious”. It’s hard to hang on to the thought of valor when you see a German squad get blown to bits on a 20 x 10 foot silverscreen.

The images did more. They motivated people to get out and support the war effort. Viewers of “MovieTone News” were disgusted by what they saw and were driven to “bring the boys home.”

Then Vietnam. For the first time in history, a family could sit at the dining room table and watch napalm kill little girls, dead soldiers lined up for the important body count and soldiers waistdeep in rice paddys firing at the enemy. The networks and newspapers at first brought us all this in black and white. Before the end of the 70s, we could see the blood, guts and tears in glorious color.

The images, moving and still, were so powerful that they motivated an entire generation to get behind the anti-war movment. Suddenly, death, destruction and man’s stupidity to man wasn’t something that only a few could see. It was something that was consumable by every human being. People watched. They got disgusted and they turned out to end the war.

We watched moving and still images when the World Trade Center came crashing down. We were transfixed by images of people. People covered in dust and blood. People hurtling down a building’s exterior because death by falling was better than death by fire. The images were powerful and they motivated a country to step up to the plate.

Life goes on and along comes George Bush and Iraq. George knew the power of images. He knew how images could turn public sentiment against the war. And he did what any powerful leader would do who was afraid of losing the momentum. He clamped down and refused to allow any more images of the bodies as they arrived at Dover AFB. Journalists were embedded with platoons and battalions, but ONLY when a reaonsble chance of images that showed “we” were winning.

Editors, publishers and news producers have become squeamish and have become the guardian of what’s ok for Americans to see. A bloody child killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq? Too gruesome, too graphic. A father holding the decimated body of his wife? Too gruesome, too graphic. It might upset some people. Yes, it might motivate some people to take to the streets and bring about a change.

So what do we do? We post images of Miley Cyrus, Justine Bieber and the Kardashian sisters. Editors, publishers and producers tell us that these images are ok, but others are too graphic, too gruesome.

And what is the result? Americans get dumbed down. A recent survey showed that 75% of the American public could not tell you where Falujah is. Of the 25% that did know the city which was the location of some of America’s fiercest fighting in the middle East, only one — JUST ONE — person could find it on a map. Compare that to the 94% that could tell you where the Mekong Delta was during Vietnam.

In other countries media censorship is practiced like it is in America. The results can be seen in any casual glance at the trending news on Google. I won’t spell out the results, be resourceful do it yourself. Let me know what you find out the trending issues are in Israel, Iraq, Libya, Kenya and elsewhere. Then take a look at the trending stories for America. I think you already know what you’ll find.

In a country where the media wants to choose what images and stories its people see, it is no wonder that almost anyone can tell you the names of the Kardashian girls and yet can’t name their own state representatives.

Look Fallujah up while you’re at it.

2 thoughts on “The Dumbing Down of America

  1. Vietnam signalled the end of any kind of real journalism when it comes to war. It ushered in the age of “embedded journalists” and government-edited, sanitized “news” for the masses. Americans wave their flags on cue, and thank the soldiers for “protecting our freedoms”. Quite Orwellian, really. Orwell and Huxley each saw a different future for the world. Both were right.

    The “dumbing-down” has been going on for a long time. Charlotte Iserbyt, a high-official with the Dept. of Education under Reagan, became a whistleblower and wrote a book called, The Deliberate Dumbing-Down of America. It can be downloaded by anyone for free online. John Taylor Catto…a teacher, has also written extensively on the role of government in the education of America’s children. Government has no use for people like Catto. Any number of videos are available on YouTube of both Iserbyt and Catto, for anyone interested.

    I find it interesting that most of us would probably use words like, “brainwashing” and “indoctrination” to describe the education of children in the Soviet Union or Nationalist Germany, but we have no problem marching our kids off to government-run schools in America. Somehow, it’s just different here. American exceptionalism is firmly entrenched in the minds of the citizenry. Our schools produce people just smart enough to graduate and take their place in the workforce (tax slaves), but lazy-minded and lacking in critical thinking skills.

    The media-government complex presents what amounts to theater productions. And they pull it off, because minds are taught from a very early age that this is what they should want. And so it goes.

  2. this is excellent recall and reflection of amerika media communications history …
    Now FREE the internet…even if we have to let some undesirable stuff show up, ie. graphic porno, racial, cultural, ethnic biases, just pure nastiness, fill in the blank, if it’s illegal, immoral, disgusting and horrifying ..we got to let…… LET IT BE…SPEAKING WORDS OF WISDOM LET IT BE. it’s so hard to hit the bird without hitting the tree it sits on? welcome opinions please and discussion.

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