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Dr. Cheryl Pappas Headshot

Educating the Peeps: Political Information, Please!

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I am wondering about the emotional fallout from Monday night's split-screen appearances by President Obama and Speaker John Boehner. It is tempting to liken this presentation to a reality contest. Something perhaps called, "Who is the most believable?"

It's easy to trivialize politics today. This frivolous response is brought to us by politicians themselves, for not being believable, and by the media, for whom politics is a horse race. The media treats politics as if it were brought to us by the National Enquirer. That is, lots of innuendo, gossip, imaginary reality is "reported".

Sample: The reporter asks the so-called Washington insider, who is usually standing right outside the White House, "What do you think the President is thinking right now?" Honestly, is this news or is this "professional" speculation in lieu of news even worthy of air time?

Whether it's Chris Matthews outright asking sports analogous questions about where candidates are in the "race", or any one of the news shows featuring countdowns to the political contest, a sport and a contest it has become.

In spite of this competitive media tournament, for every presidential speech or political news event, there is a psychological impact on the people in this country.

Very few people are politically astute enough to measure the president's words, yet there is an unconscious emotional reaction to the tenor and the visual of his presentation, as well as to speaker Boehner's.

Mostly, it seems to be fear and anger. Fear, because of the veiled and obvious threats in the words; anger, because it is overwhelming that no one is solving these very issues that, indeed, the American public cannot themselves address.

Fear and anger, the right combo to stir up the blood and mute the intellect. Advertising people understand this triggering of the public's sleeping mind, and use it to pad their clients' bottom lines.
How are we politically being used?

In America, serious televised politics are digested mainly emotionally, without regard for content, since content absorption relies on knowledge of the subject, which most of us don't have!

The president very ably and deliberately gave a speech suitable for young children regarding the basics of spending money that you do not have. But, wait a minute, Boehner made the same point.
Each of them accused the other of not playing well together.

On the surface, it looked like the American public was a child given a choice by two warring parents as to which one to live with. Do we go with the disappointing Obama, who pitched himself as the "hope and change" President, but who is really a centrist Republican?

Or, conversely, how in the world do we believe Boehner, known for expressing a notably labile --unstable display of emotion -- style and behavior?

Of course, the budget and deficit are significant matters, but how many of us understand it? No 15-minute presidential lecture on the stand-off is sufficient to relay the reality of these political in-fights.

We are asked not just to understand. We must take a side. Meanwhile, America, the child, is crying because he is hungry.

"The American People", as they are politically tagged, are exhausted and want the people in charge to do the jobs they were hired to do. I suspect that throughout the life of America, average citizens were consigned to, and perhaps have enjoyed, the child role in the governmental family, and today, it is ever true and not pretty.

Since the public is normally left out of big political decisions and discussions, it makes sense that there is numbness and despair when they are asked to run interference on topics that, frankly, they know nothing about. Who has the answers, they wonder.

This further points out how undereducated we are. We desperately need to beef up education, not delete it. On these national topics, the audience is several grades behind on world affairs and national economics. How can we decide the feasibility of a political direction without true information?

One suggestion I have is that the media become involved in being a solution to the public's ignorance. Lacking knowledge as we are, perhaps instead of superficial fights on nightly news shows between representatives from both camps, there could be real education offered.

In other words, rather than reporting on today's nasty slurs between persons A and B, or producing shows that feature advanced discussions on intricate economic policy by communication-challenged professors, how about some bite-sized, digestible education?

Right now the audience is choosing between dozing off while pretending to understand graduate-level references from esteemed academics on Charlie Rose or tuning out to panels of pretend celebrities on Joy Behar.

Political information, please!

I don't believe it's too late for America to smarten up. We could use some support from the media ASAP to inject some education into the public. I'm not talking about PBS. I'm talking about all major news programs. It doesn't have to be effete or boring. It's about everyone's personal life. That's the truth and the pitch: It's personal.

As it stands, it is easy to pick an emotional side on a subject, whether it's the economy or any other issue, based on no clear understanding or information.