It is becoming harder to see the fruits of our public education system expressed meaningfully in our media, which augers ill for our democracy. One of the pillars of our hope in the people is that the people are capable of focusing on serious issues and thinking them through if they have the information. But we see more and more the Last Days of the Empire reflected in the gladiator/bloodthirst/sex-is-violence/stupid-drunk-is-smart Cirque de Steupéd Celebrity Tabloid fare.
But isn't this how it always is? Popular culture is forever inane and glories in the absurd, the scatological, the infantile, and the Three Stooges-violence-and-pain-is-hilarious humor. Those who want us to be cognitive machines all the time will be disappointed all the time.
True, but we are on some sort of slide. The Congress is full of global warming deniers, now infesting the Republican presidential field with the lead Ostrich-On-Climate, Rick Santorum. We are a nation revisiting the Scopes Trial and rethinking it as we descend toward an image of God that is more bloody vengeance Old Testament and we declare that He created everything in seven days. Evolution is just a liberal theory to more and more Americans.
In the past, intellectuals could be relied upon for some corrective help. In a study of intellectuals featured on the cover of Time magazine, Stephen Bates has found that we are not interested in that sort of critically thought-through analyst any longer, if the cover of Time magazine is any indicator. Here is the count since the founding of Time magazine in 1923 (Bates, p. 41):
Totals by Decade
Yes, we are in a slow death spiral of mainstream media featuring public intellectuals, it would appear, with the refuges now in the alternative media, including blogs and social media. Where possible, it's still a great idea to try to break into mainstream media with a public peace intellectual message and some will continue to try, but more and more those intellectuals who are in play in the public discourse are reaching out in different ways. If all we see and hear and read is corporate media, we may believe there is nothing but celebrity news, Fox lies and hatemongering out there. So, like mice searching for the cheese, we continue to sniff out new paths through the media maze, even as we recheck the old ones too.
Bates, S. (2011). Public Intellectuals on Time’s Covers. Journalism History, 37(1), 39-50. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.