, Salem, MA


September 26, 2012

Uninformed voters? At least, do no harm


I know some of us learned in high school civics that it’s our duty to vote, but the assumption was that before we did, we were going to follow the issues, get to know the candidates, watch debates. My civics teacher knew I had studied some American history in grade school and was about to learn more before I graduated. Do we know this about all the students that came after me?

Maybe I’m overreacting to those “people on the street” interviews done by Jay Leno, John Stossel and print-news reporters who ask questions about the U.S. government structure and get clueless responses. Maybe they just publicize the worst answers to get a laugh.

Do we envy the blissfully uninformed? No. Ignorance is pathetic, not blissful, but with so much information available, we are overwhelmed and therefore uninformed about a lot of important things.

In past elections, candidates and ballot question proponents had a few reliable ways to reach the voters, who had limited distractions; where do they get their information today? I used to participate in two-hour debates on ballot questions on the David Brudnoy radio show; today’s hosts often need to recognize the modern listener’s brief attention span.

Local television also offered weekly in-depth interview shows: Things said on these shows were picked up by print media, which also did in-depth analysis of ballot questions. Our local media is doing its best to cover the election, but many people get their news from the Internet, along with fantastic lies, theories and silly notions, with no editor in charge. Much of the national mainstream media since 2008 has been as much an advocate for Barack Obama as an objective purveyor of information.

On my way to vote in 2010, I was surprised to see a plane towing a banner with my congressional candidate’s name on it; seemed a waste of money to me until I thought about those citizens who go to vote having paid no attention to the election. They might very well choose a candidate whose name they just saw in the sky, for no other reason. Better they should stay home with their heads buried in the sand of apathy, where they at least do no harm.

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