OHATCHEE, Ala. June 17, 2013 — “What have you been doing for the past few months?” O’Reilly Factor producer Dan Bank asked the man on the street who had not heard of the September 11, 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack until that moment. “School. Working, man,” was the reply.
In a following clip, a couple of college students at the University of California, Berkeley, could not name the U.S. vice president, nor recall who was U.S. secretary of state during the Benghazi incident. They, also, were too occupied with the banalities of conventional academics and daily life to pay attention to their government and fellow citizens abroad.
Bill O’Reilly promptly concluded that “We the People” have become “distracted,” especially by the gadgets of our new media age.
Political oblivion in general is not a new phenomenon, of course. Historian Russell Kirk once observed in his book The American Cause that even during World War II American soldiers landing in North Africa seemed politically naïve to their French counterparts. Why? America has been blessed with such a well-founded government that “[w]e have not been revolutionaries since 1776 because we have felt that we have enjoyed as good a society as any people can reasonably hope for.”
But 21st century Americans still manage to find time to pay attention to some things. “The dissolution of the natural social order,” writes economist Wilhelm Rӧpke in his book A Humane Economy: The Social Framework of the Free Market, “the inner emptiness of mechanized and quantified work, and the general loosening of the roots of life drive people all the more to fill their time with so-called pleasures and amusements.”
As the comical street interviews featured by Howard Stern remind us, American citizens can become culturally conditioned to respond to political names and topics in an essentially Pavlovian fashion, failing to bother with critical thinking. They have time for the amusements of television and music and style, and this artwork often serves not just as a diversion, but as a subtle campaign vehicle for worldviews and agendas. Their worldviews and interests are shaped along with their tastes.
This problem is clear to young people who write political commentary. While political commentary is important, it seems to mostly earn us accolades from our elders, while our own generation drifts by with a political attention span suited to little more than the White House’s Vine app videos.
Who wants to read hundreds of words of academic commentary or investigative journalism?
Because of this, Not Your Average Read will investigate cultural, historical, and political issues with multimedia as well as the written word. A passion for the power of narrative can be fed not just by writing, but also by filmmaking. That will likely influence the material you find here as well. We want to find ways to awaken the consciences of people who would otherwise never pay attention to their government.
So tell me: What captures your attention?
Amanda Read is a columnist for the Communities at The Washington Times. Trained as a historian, skilled as a writer, and aspiring to be a filmmaker, Amanda investigates the ideas behind contemporary culture and politics. A professional writer and researcher, she is also a Christian homeschool graduate, unconventional college graduate, military daughter, and eldest of the nine Read children at Fair Hills Farm. Find more of her work at www.amandaread.com.
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