The Dumbing Down of America

Published in the Delaware County Daily Times     January 6, 2019

By Joseph Batory

Two young people on a romantic date in a restaurant are busily texting on their cell phones and ignoring each other … Stopped at a red light, everyone in their cars around me is typing on their smart phones … Pedestrians are no longer able to walk without holding a cell phone 12 inches from their face. Good grief … what is happening to us?

Americans are being “dumbed down” more than ever these days. The attention span of many has been reduced to that of a flea.

Too many people are opting for instant gratification via smart phone interactions. Analysis of complex topics through reading is disappearing. Intellectual laziness is prevailing with people just absorbing whatever occurs in short digital bursts on social media and by perpetually sharing trivia with others. The smart phone has become an addiction; it must now be viewed at every waking moment!

Worst of all, what matters is being minimized. The smart phone’s informational messaging is often superficial and spoon feeds us “the minimal” while shortchanging our thinking. Reporting of the news on the internet and television is increasingly becoming a form of entertainment, hyperbole and sound bursts, instead of connecting citizens to the society in which we live.

In contrast, journalistic reporting begins and ends with editors and writers gathering and verifying facts and detailing all of this into written and lengthy stated formats. Evidence and documentation are presented. And “getting it right” is the traditional and current foundation of journalism.

But such quality journalism reports must be read and/or listened to. Unfortunately, to a very large extent, this is not happening at present. Americans need to put their smart phones away for at least part of each day. There is a crucial need for people to read more journalistic articles and pay attention to any in-depth electronic communications that involve: Detailed explanations of things that happen … local investigative pieces with documented facts … pointed interviews with key players on both sides of an issue … follow-up analysis of news stories … and editorials and position papers. These things are the basis of a free society and can build much more intelligent viewpoints and perspectives from an objective basis.

In contrast, the powerful and power seekers among us are continuing to manipulate social media to create and dictate questionable “truth” to the people while discrediting the free press. This propaganda is often accomplished via short sound bites or by planting inaccurate information.

It is interesting to note that Hitler in his rise to power in Germany targeted German newspapers that attempted to investigate and expose him. Hitler’s Nazis popularized Lügenpresse (“the lying press”) in condemning all opposition to his regime. The most unfriendly paper to Hitler was ransacked by Nazis and eventually closed as the German state took over the press nationwide. Many journalists were arrested and sent to camps.

Sounds familiar today. It has been recently stated hundreds of times on social media that The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, ABC and NBC News and similar publications are the enemies of the American People. Ironically, much the opposite is true. These free press organizations are really the protectors of the American people!

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, explained the Nazi formula for controlling the public: If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it … the public is much more primitive (stupid) than we imagine. Propaganda must be simple and repetitious.

Another ring of familiarity here in 2019. Documented lies without any basis in reality are flying onto the internet regularly and being absorbed by the naive populace in our nation!

Misinformation is prioritized by those with political purposes. Nazi Hermann Göring, in Nuremberg Prison after the WW II, described how easy it was to control the naïve public: To get the people in line, just tell them they are being attacked by some contrived enemies whose lack of patriotism is exposing the country to danger.

So Hitler conned the German pubic by demonizing “the threats to Germany’s Aryan race” as Gypsies, Slavs and as his final solution, Jews. Hitler’s stooges then reiterated and acted on his vitriol in a hundred different ways. The Nazis also fabricated the threat of a Communist uprising in Germany to create even more fear among the general public.

In that context, one has to wonder about the current political demonization of immigrants as rapists and criminals. This rhetoric is designed to mobilize the hatred of bigots and racists who cannot accept anyone not white or who might be different culturally or ethnically. But such thinking is the antithesis of the long tradition of our nation, which has always welcomed people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, creeds and religions to our shores.

Today, we are told on tweets that armies of immigrant invaders are marching in force to take over the USA? What an absurdity. And what a perversion of American values this is! We are in fact a nation of immigrants. And our Statue of Liberty’s welcoming message summarizes American principles: Give me your tired, your poor; Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free; The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.”

Throughout history, powerful public figures have regularly chosen lies over truths, rejected science, and selected hate over decency. In that regard, not much has changed over the years. But now, we live in an era of social media regularly being used to support and consistently reinforce political propaganda to a non-discerning public.

In summary, the need for intense and independent journalistic reporting has never been greater. Americans need to once again begin reading in-depth and stop relying on Internet apps and tweets and smart phone tidbits of supposed information as primary sources of truth.

Social media has unfortunately become a method of creating reality rather than reporting on it.


Joseph Batory  the author of three books and numerous published articles on politics and education.



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