The generally balanced and refreshingly honest online news agency, The Raw Story, has just published a statistics-laden article1 bemoaning, in somewhat self-flagellatory terms, the delusional, prudish, and Bible-thumping tendencies of its fellow Americans. This, presumably, is relative to the rest of the urbane and cultured planetary population, who are fashionably apatheistic, sport enviable body mass indices, and don’t get gunned down on their way to frappuccinos and carrot cake.
The article can perhaps be seen in the context of several introspective posts seen on social media recently (for example that of “Millennial Journalist” Alexis Bloomer, albeit on a personal/generational level, rather than on a national one),2 that may be indicative of the type of deepening, coming-of-age self-awareness that is contingent on the honest acknowledgement and consideration of the views of others, hard to swallow though those views may be.
In defence of our neighbours across the pond, I tend to think the media need to take their share of responsibility for the fairly unfavourable perception of America, internationally. News outlets want our clicks and our ratings, which translate into revenue for them, so there is little incentive to carry moderate run-of-the-mill stories, and huge incentive to focus on the sensational, the shocking, and the lurid. That’s the image the mainstream broadcasters project to the world (the world with a TV set or Wifi, at any rate), but of course it isn’t representative of America as a whole.
Social media, too, should take its share of the blame, as never in the history of humanity have so many people had so much of a voice, but with so little to say.3 The Internet being dominated by English-speakers, and those English-speakers being predominantly Americans, the inevitable impression online is one of general ignorance. Again, not representative, but the medium has a way of zooming in on the dross, while everything else remains in soft focus, if not invisible.
That said, if there’s one indisputable thing that needs doing, it’s getting elected officials to concentrate on improving scientific, secular education for all, instead of legislating against people’s genitalia and pushing morals that are two millennia past their sell-by date, in the scaremongering name of a magical externalisation of their own bigotries.