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Ignorance in the Information Age

Now, more than ever before, the U.S. is enthralled in its politics:  To impeach or not to impeach.  To run or not to run.  Everyone’s got an opinion.  But at least they’re informed.  Sort of.

Growing up, I tried to learn about the world by watching the six o’clock news.  But listening to the news anchors was like joining a movie mid-way through the plot.  I didn’t understand the players or the backstory behind their current actions.

During the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, I was mystified by the idea of 52 people being held for over a year.  Where would they keep them?  I’d seen bank heist movies and figured it involved a lot of pizza deliveries.  But I couldn’t fathom the logistics of keeping everyone in a single room with the authorities outside on a megaphone negotiating for 444 days.  And the “Shaw” of Iran?  I’d been to the grocery store. I thought he was a baker.

Of course, such confusion was understandable given my tender age, limited life experiences and the lack of current information.  Today, that could never happen.  We’ve got the internet, social media and television twenty-four-seven.

And yet, late-night pundits interviewing the general public continue to find mostly ill-informed sheep.  During a recent episode of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, people on the street offered a lot of opinions they’d heard from their friends about politics.  Then they were asked to name some of the over twenty Democratic candidates running for the presidential nomination.  Few could name more than one.  Other didn’t recognize the candidates’ names.  Some didn’t even realize that Trump was Republican.

Given the magnitude of information available at our fingertips through every possible type of media, how is it that people are just as ill-informed – perhaps more – than ever before?

They should be absorbing information exponentially.  Everyone certainly seems to be glued to their phones while they walk, drive, even ride their bikes.  They pull them out the moment they have to wait quietly for a few seconds for fear they’ll be forced to take in their surroundings.  Or worse yet, talk to someone in real life.

But apparently, instead of using that moment to seek information on the world in which they live, they’re simply keeping up with the Kardashians, playing games or checking out a new vegetable emoji.

Now, we could easily mock Americans for their ignorance.  After all, they are an easy target.

But do you know about the SNC-Lavalin affair or why Trudeau’s Liberals are abandoning him like rats jumping ship?  Do you understand why Canada is caught in the middle of a fight between the U.S. and China with the detainment of a Huawei telecommunications executive?  And how that connects to the arrest of two Canadians in Beijing and Canada’s crippled canola exports?

We proudly claim to live in the Information Age.  It’s certainly everywhere.  But if we don’t start paying attention to more than the latest cat video, it might as well be the Age of the Ignorant.