Knowing Nothing About Anything

In light of all that is happening around the Middle East, and Egypt more specifically, I can assuredly say I am not cognizant of the world around me. It seems to me that I only gain knowledge of the International community when tragedy strikes: an incredibly scary revelation. But do I blame this lack of knowledge on myself or on those whose job it is to bring the news to the forefront of everyday living? If you had asked me who Hosny Mubarak is two weeks ago, I would have provided you with the blankest of stares. These thoughts became apparent to me after reading an opinion in the New York Times in which the author clearly disapproved of the lack of everyday coverage of important worldwide events. As this author correctly pointed out, even after we are made aware of such events, the conversation still focuses on how those events will impact our lives in the United States. Are Americans concerned that citizens of Egypt will be able to return to a democratic form of government, or are they more concerned with how the chaos in Egypt will affect oil prices?
How do we educate ourselves on the real issues at stake in the international community? The news is a viable source, but often times the knowledge we receive via media is skewed or is presented to us at a time where the issues have already been resolved and are no longer relevant or important. I do not know if there is a real answer, but I do know that in a world where all countries are connected at the hip through the internet, we can find some solution to bring true news to our smartphones, IPads and laptops. Perhaps we can utilize social media sites to get first hand accounts of what is going on all over the world. With today’s technology, the possibilities are endless. It is rather a matter of desire to want to know the truth and to utilize the resources available to make ourselves as educated as we wish to be.

8 comments

  1. I agree with the sentiment of the post. The fact that the American public knows more about the outfit Lindsay Lohan wore to her recent court appearance than the history of democracy in Egypt certainly feels wrong.

    But I think there are encouraging signs regarding America’s awareness of current events. I would argue that Americans are on a path to becoming more informed. A lot of the discussion in the news this week has revolved around Facebook and Twitter’s role in the Middle East protests. It seems that the gap in news coverage that has been left by traditional news outlets is now being filled.

    Authors/bloggers/citizens have much greater access to the public than before. No longer does news need to come through a filter to reach the public. Unlike in the past, the news that Troy speaks about is easily accessible to everyone.

  2. I absolutely agree with the authors above. While each country is (rightfully, I propose) most concerned with the action in their own country, there could be a better effort among the media to overview the major topics around the world. The best place I have found for international news is BBC world (though obviously they have their own filter) but the news tends to be more comprehensive and focused on each region, and so the only place it is accessible.

    I think there is a great need for some sort of international aggregate reporting website. Perhaps if each country to could post its major news there (and the website translatable to multiple languages) the whole world could have a first-hand idea of each country’s experience. This brings up so many other issues (like who can post articles, what ‘slant’ they would have, etc.) but in the end, I think it would be a show of international cooperation to complete.

  3. My mother a news paper editor always said, “if it bleeds, it leads.” And if it is a kitten in your own backyard, you are going to be more interested and care more about that cat than an oil plant that blows up five hundred miles away injuring two people. The sad fact of our current news world is that there is no single source. In fact, we insulate ourselves to channels and blogs that serve our own fancies. It is no wonder in this self selected news model that we don’t care, or have knowledge of something so removed form our own backyard.

  4. I would agree with Nick’s stance on this issue. One could make the argument that social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook may be some of the best sources from which to receive unfiltered international news. One problem with many media outlets is that they serve as a filter: The media can report the issue and present it in a way that reflects a certain ideology thus not presenting a truly objective view on the story, it can sensationalize a story through the use of colorful language and images, it can chose to not report the story, etc. One could say that in order to get a clear picture of global affairs, one would need to look at as many different news sources as possible. However, as Jennifer points out, even very objective platforms like BBC world still have their own filters. With Twitter and Facebook, individuals are able to consume news not only as it happens in real time, but from those that are experiencing it “on the ground” so to speak. As a result, individuals consume the story in its most raw and unfiltered form. Additionally, Twitter and Facebook can provide valuable insight into the minds of those affecting change in other nations. For instance, from tweets or Facebook posts and pages from protestors in Syria and Egypt, people in the United States and Europe can truly understand the motivations behind these protests and why citizens in the Middle East feel change needs to be initiated.

  5. It is fairly apparent that the cause of our limited international news exposure is twofold: Our domestic media does not care to inform us of political frictions across the globe (at least not until they escalate to more “media friendly” extreme forms such as violence) and we, as individuals, do not care to know. As pointed out by the comments before me, we chose to limit our news selection to forums and subjects of our choosing. We should keep in mind that the media is a business, and it seeks to inform us of issues that concern us, the ones who facilitate that business. Naturally, we are more concerned with domestic affairs. In order to educate ourselves about world news we need to have some level of interest in world news. There are plenty of media to which we can avail ourselves but we lack the interest to pursue those media. Is this lack of interest due to a lack of exposure in our media? Perhaps, but it seems like the chicken before the egg argument. Lastly, as we become more interested (or IF we become more interested) it is imperative we become more educated as to the filters and biases of our respective news sources. Different countries, with different dynamics, and political structures will require heightened awareness of these factors when pursuing information on events abroad.

  6. While social media serves as a great resource for information regarding international issues and news updates, filters do rear their ugly heads in a variety of forms. Like Jennifer says, objective platforms have their own set of filters, which can infiltrate to social media, thereby censoring what the public may see. Governments also have their own set of filters and laws about censoring, which affects what information the public receives. Luckily, since there are many forms of social media and many outlets from which to receive news, censorship and filters are becoming less of an issue. We are transitioning into a new age that will soon give us raw information, reporting, and news updates.

  7. It is not that all Americans do not know what is going on outside of the U.S borders, but many Americans do fall within this stereotype. But, who is to blame? It is true that many Americans refrain from watching television news broadcasts that cover news outside of their local area. Many people look to their local news channels like News 12 for their daily news. Do Americans do it because they do not care what is going on internationally? Or are they watching News 12 as their news source because they do not want to be arrogant to what is going on in their “backyard”? In order to stay well informed, Americans must then watch several television broadcasts to get a well-rounded sense of what is going on in the world. Therefore, an American would have to tune into a local news channel, a world news channel, their state’s news channel, and of coarse surf the web for even more news.
    Are we to blame for the fact that a news channel does not air local, state, national and international news all within one 5:00 news special? We cannot expect each news channel to cover all of these stores in one special. So, it leaves the individual to do their “homework” which would include flipping through several channels, surfing the web and reading several newspapers every day. Maybe one convenient source for all of the news is the solution, but in reality this would never be possible. Yet, even if such a solution existed, the news source for efficiency would still have to filter many important local, national, state and international stories in order to produce only the top news.

  8. “The power of the press in America is a primordial one. It sets the agenda of public discussion; and this sweeping political power is unrestrained by any law. It determines what people will talk and think about — an authority that in other nations is reserved for tyrants, priests, parties and mandarins.” (Theodore White)

    Consider the most apparent realization you can derive from the understanding that the hundreds of media outlets across the United States are quite literally receiving their content from
    one or two sources. To make matters worse, those hundreds of outlets are actually owned by just three different corporations. Don’t want to read the paper, you say? Then turn on the television. But wait, that news channel is owned by the same corporations that own the newspaper that you don’t want to read. So, while it may seem that we have more sources, we actually have less variety than thirty years ago.

    I realize that this argument seems to be equating corporations with lack of reliability, and privately funded outlets with reliability. It’s true, many fringe- kook media outlets are private, but Time Warner, Clear Channel, and Fox are really no different. Society picks out zealots and extremists because they fall at the poles of the spectrum, but the average moderate who thinks well of themselves because they are not a member of either extreme, are just as predisposed to seeing the world through the rose colored glass of their ideology. So, Troy, I don’t have an answer for you. First hand accounts are still shaped by the mold of the perceiver, just as historical, social, and cultural factors continue to shape journalism.

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