Friday, February 15, 2008

Is this the age of American unreason?

Susan Jacoby has written a timely new book entitled The Age of American Unreason. The NY Times reports:
. . . she first got the idea for this book back in 2001, on 9/11.

Walking home to her Upper East Side apartment, she said, overwhelmed and confused, she stopped at a bar. As she sipped her bloody mary, she quietly listened to two men, neatly dressed in suits. For a second she thought they were going to compare that day’s horrifying attack to the Japanese bombing in 1941 that blew America into World War II:

“This is just like Pearl Harbor,” one of the men said.

The other asked, “What is Pearl Harbor?”

“That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War," the first man replied.

At that moment, Ms. Jacoby said, “I decided to write this book.”

The book presents various frightening statistics. For instance, three years after the start of the Iraq war, only 23% of Americans "with some college education" could find Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel on a map. Another example: half of college-aged Americans surveyed do not think it's important to know where countries featured in the news are located on a map.

Personally, I hold the US news media largely responsible for this state of affairs. That's why the Fox News Awards are a regular feature at Jotman.

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