I’m dead serious with this one. You might be able to tell from the amount of times I will use the word ‘asshat’.
Ok, so global warming is a thing. It’s happening. I don’t care what you call it or where you think it came from – it is happening, it is a thing.
I’m not an expert but even I understand this. In very broad strokes it means that the global temperature is rising, which leads to ice melting in places where it hasn’t melted before in human history. That leads to global ocean levels rising which spells trouble for all the coastal cities out there (where the majority of humanity lives.) It leads to warmer oceans which is troubling for all the coral reefs out there, where the majority of marine life start their food chains. Warmer weather means more droughts which leads to desertification of land. Less lakes and trees and plants. Bad news for humans. Mass-extinction of species is also happening, which humans eventually could be one of the unlucky ones. Very bad news all around.
But this is all kind of happening slowly, so it kind of falls outside our definition of ‘news’. News in 2014 is something that happens very fast, with lots of developments and plot twists, and something that is usually over in a couple of days. The only way to make global warming news is to ask what people think, because opinions are news too, dontyouknow. Luckily for news stations everywhere people seem have a lot of opinions in 2014! And, boy, are they encouraged to voice them.
I first started to take notice because of Yelp. Don’t get me wrong, I rely on Yelp as much as the next person when finding a competent doctor or just the phone number to a particular restaurant but once you are on Yelp you can’t help but read the reviews. Some are funny, some are unfair, some are helpful but mostly they tend to be very long. Like seven paragraphs long. About buying frozen yogurt. I mean, dude, it took you five times longer to bitch about your yogurt-buying experience than it did to eat the damn yogurt. So I thought, maybe this is a sign that deep inside every person is a writer that is just dying to spring forth and release literary genius on unsuspecting window shoppers online. Because people put a lot of effort into these reviews – how they were greeted, who they were with, what they ate complete with pictures, and whether or not they got free birthday desert. Clearly stuff of vital importance to no one. And then it hit me, this is not about writing – if they liked writing they would get a blog – this is about having opinions.
And then I started noticing it everywhere. This excessive plea for uneducated opinions. I like to watch crime shows like 48 Hours (they have them on YouTube) and after each 45 minutes episode laying out evidence of murder that usually ends with conviction, the show will end in a dramatic voice over: “Do you think s/he is guilty? What would you have voted if you were on the jury? Chat now with Twiddlebum on Twitter and Facebook!” And without fail I get angry. Because for once, in a shut-and-done murder case, it is perfectly okay to not have an opinion. All I know of this case is what the TV show showed me, I don’t have access to the evidence and I haven’t spend months or years reading up on it, so I’m pretty sure my opinion is completely invalid right now and for all foreseeable future. And that’s ok! It is totally ok not to have an opinion on every little thing.
But, oh no, the media can’t have that. They want to know what you think of celebrities dresses on the red carpet, they want to know what you think of politics, of wars, of movies, and of science. Millions of people actually spend money to vote on reality shows like American Idol and the countless imitators that came after. We have been conditioned to have so many fucking opinions on unimportant shit that now we seem to think we can ‘opinionize’ our way out of global warming by simply choosing to ‘not believe’ in it.
I don’t need to show you the reports by actual scientists who spend their days, years, and decades studying the actual conditions of planet Earth. Most of them are saying we are past the point of no return and even if we stop polluting today, there will still be repercussions felt by future generations. Plastic, toxic and acidic are the legacies we leave behind. And it’s cool not to want to change our behavior. That’s valid choice. But at least we should own up to that choice and stop hiding like cowards behind all these opinions.
P.S. Turns out ‘asshat’ isn’t such a big part of my vocabulary as I thought when I started this. But that’s ok. Go on Yelp. You’ll find them. In fact, you can’t miss them.
If you’re as fed up with the ridiculous mainstream media as I am, check out my guide to finding real news on YouTube. Breaking the Set’s Abby Martin remains my spirit animal. After all, we are both 30 year old angry white women with a lot of opinions ;)
Beautiful writing–another shared article. Will follow :)
Loved that Asimov quote – was hugely influenced by him when i was growing up in small town UK. I’ve never been to the US, but I suspect he was right, and still is. Nice article.
Thanks. I’ve come across the quote twice now and I thought it fit in with the content I was going for. Always building on the shoulders of giants :)
Oh my gosh yes, THIS. Everyone has to have an opinion about everything and it doesn’t matter if they’re educated about it or if they’ve researched it or what, their opinion matters just as much as someone who has done these things. I’m all for freedom of speech, but there’s a point at which it becomes ridiculous. And maybe even a little dangerous… and by that I mean that we have all these people who apparently believe that climate change is made up, or that Obama is the worst president ever and want to impeach him, or that guns should be totally unregulated because “people kill people, guns don’t kill people,” or what have you… and some of it is just plain ignorant and wrong but it starts be be believed because so many people believe it. And that’s scary.
End rant. Great post. :)
You hit on a lot of good points in this post. The ‘cult of ignorance’ you mention is a powerful thing. Maybe it relates to people’s perception of the U.S. being such an influential ‘superpower’, there is the idea that if you are powerful enough then you can afford to be ignorant of many things as long as you can maintain your power. I am a psychology major and there are a lot of really interesting studies on the influence of power on an individual level (think boss and employee) , and people who have a lot of power often become less aware of others needs and feelings, while those with less power can become really fixated on the feelings of those with power. It is very strange because so often we depend on people with power to become more aware, but often the reverse may happen (stepping into an over generalization perhaps apply this to some people in powerful countries not realizing, or being ignorant of, their power to change things).
Absolutely! Oh man, I can’t stand that tag line “You’re worth it”. Worth what exactly? Bunnies bleeding their eyes out so I can look good in mascara? That’s why I think de-programming from advertisement has to be one of the very first steps to sustainability, and why I make fun of it so often :)
Brilliant post. I’m sure this is the flip side of “You’re worth it.” It’s as if we’re conditioning people to become flaming narcissists. They keep everyone divided and inward-looking because it makes us easier to control.
The cult of ignorance isn’t isolated to the USA. I notice it in my English students in Spain who are afraid to seem like they’re trying too hard. I noticed the same thing in my school experience: it’s just sooo uncool to be seen as wanting knowledge or liking school. That never stopped me personally but there are many people who aren’t nearly as strong willed as me (us?) and I fear this whole post is horribly spot on.
Thanks for your comment. Yes, I agree it’s pretty much global by now. I’m not saying my home country Norway is any better – we have become horribly materialistic and almost Scrounge-like greedy – but I haven’t encountered this gleeful and willful ignorance until I moved to the States. And the media just makes it worse every year by giving these people attention. If you have enough money you can even buy TV stations, call it ‘news’ and fill the 24/7 cycle with nothing but opinions.
My main struggle is trying to figure out whether we got here by accident or if it was all by design. But in the end, I guess it doesn’t really matter.