I went to the dentist's the other day only to be confronted with light-hearted anti-American rhetoric. Apparently the technician's sister had gotten "dumber" since moving down to the States with her husband. The complaint was that Americans know nothing about the world around them.
As an American myself, I am particularly sensitive and skeptical about such accusations.
Then I watch CNN.
CNN is talking elections. CNN is always talking elections. Panels of the best political team on television predict what the polls will say. The poll numbers come out and panelists analyze what the numbers may or may not mean. Then state caucuses begin. Panelists predict the results. Results start to come in and we the viewers get to watch as the numbers change. Panelists discuss as the numbers change. A state caucus closes and the panelists predict what effect, if any, results will have on the next one.
Ditto the endless debates, interviews, and speeches given by candidates. Predict what will happen, discuss what needs to happen, discuss ideal scenario, discuss worst-case scenario, advise. Televise event. Rehash, re-quote, analyze, criticize, poll, advise.
To be clear, the elections that are to take place in the U.S. in 11 months are significant. Although differences in rhetoric between the two parties are far vaster than actual practice, I am by no means indifferent.
To cover American elections on an American news network goes without saying. To start covering the run-up to said elections nearly two years before they take place is expected. To devote so much time to every minute detail of each candidate's campaign, speech, and poll before and after things happen is overkill, and to do so on a 24-hour news network to the exclusion of any significant coverage of important events happening around the world is irresponsible.
To call any of it "breaking news," incidentally, is ludicrous.
So America -- the free, the rich, the brave, the policeman -- is exposed to very little of who or what they are policing. They are exposed to little outside American politics unless election news is interrupted by American tornadoes or American scandals. Fox News is even worse. World news is only presented to show how much the rest of the world sucks.
As a realist I understand the constraints of advertising and audience, but as a former journalist, I believe the media has a responsibility to educate, enlighten, and investigate. What's increasingly salient instead on CNN is gimmicks, fear, and entertainment.
There are a lot of important things happening in the world right now.
What are they?
I couldn't tell you; I watch CNN.