A while ago, I noticed that many Americans don’t grasp solid information about international politics. Oddly enough, many Americans are ignorant towards local or national politics.
When I first read the question “Are People Better Informed in the Information Society”, I thought that I know the answer, not really. While reading, I came across two opposite views, Wade Roush affirms that the society is informed due to the existence of technology; more technologies equal better services.
The other view is adopted by Mathew Robinson who disagrees with Roush’s claim. Robinson addresses questions as, Are we really politically informed despite the fact of the amount of information and technologies surround us? Is the information society brings to better world or we already lost what we have?
Definition of Information
Before taking those two views into consideration, defining “information” and what it is meant by “being informed” is very important to add to the effectiveness of this argument. The internet is a tool to store, read and spread news either by using different web 2.0 technologies or by utilizing the internet as a whole. It is obvious that people, especially internet users, are widely exposed to many online news contents; people now may know general political news/ information by browsing web pages, reading headlines and being engaged in forums, blogs and other political communities. Also, they can get information by subscribing to RSS feed, browsing Youtube videos or getting viral messages from friends or colleagues (i.e. emails, Facebook or Twitter). In addition to having access to news, they can create news “journalists” and spread them worldwide. But, the question here is, is this sufficient information to be politically informed? Is this information the whole truth? Who is the provider of news, friends, random people or official websites? Are they reliable? What do people really need to know and why?
Information Abundance vs. Factual Knowledge of Politics
Living in the information society doesn’t mean that people know everything nor they are politically informed. In fact, some know insufficient information in politics or lack some important facts. For example, “29 percent think the Constitution guarantees a job and 75 percent think it guarantees a high school education”, (Robinson, 2002). Also, “66 percent of Americans could correctly name Regis Philbin” the host of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, while “only 6 percent could correctly name Dennis Hastert”, the speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington, according to a January 2000 Gallup poll. Many Americans could name Pete Rose who was accused of gambling than could name any of the five U.S. senators in the late 1980’s of unethical savings and loan scandal, according to Robinson. Limited knowledge in politics is not enough; actually ignorance of basic civics could be dangerous. They must to protect themselves with knowledge. People must acknowledge the impact of ultimate knowledge on their societies and political decisions.
Why We Need to know?
Citizens in the American society appear no more or less informed today than half a century ago, according to “Carpini” in “What Americans Know about Politics and Why It Matters.” I believe that people’s knowledge nowadays is getting weaker since they have the privilege “access to information” that they didn’t have long time ago. Knowing about national politics is a must; people want to defend/ protect themselves, their families and societies. Moreover, they want to make the right decisions whether in voting for a presidential candidate or a local governor. They want to be able to build a better future. Also, while being politically informed is important, ignorance will enable news media to power; it is important to find ways to affect what candidates can do or what decisions they make, lack of knowledge will affect how candidates speak about everything.
People can acquire political information from many sources such as TV stations (TV news media), newspapers, schools or the internet. I believe that utilizing one medium only is not enough to get the accurate and sufficient political information; people need to learn about different views from different media. Not only that, school education plays a crucial role in knowledge enhancement. Many people differ in the way they acquire knowledge about certain issues, they also differ in their interests, beliefs, educational and cultural backgrounds. But after all, people learn when they want/need to learn.
The Role of Media
News media is king and it has a big influence on people. It is very promising to see news media is getting their independence from governments and shaping another political power, but the question here is, is the news media reliable /equipped enough to make political decisions? Traditional channels of news are bias in nature either towards politics, structures or situations, and the fact that journalists are not politicians is a must to be considered, “the news media are drawn to particular kinds of stories, with particular values, more than to others”, (Cook, 1998). Cook proves that Media are collective institution rather than distinct organizations. That’s why people have to have other sources of information to cover all sides of knowledge; utilizing the most democratic medium (the internet) would be a great source of information to the public, “I believe in democracy above everything. I believe that the best government is one in which the people are allowed to govern themselves. I believe, as Thomas Jefferson did, that Americans must participate fully in democracy for it to work. And I believe the internet is the best tool we’ve ever created to help achieve that”, (Trippi, 2004, p. 226)