I’ve been on a U.S. media sabbatical for six months. I don’t miss it. And my perspective is slowly changing about my country.
Before I left Boston this year, I was a pretty voracious consumer of news media. I spent 30-45 minutes reading the Boston Globe cover to cover every day. I watched the morning newscast before work. I read my Yahoo! portal page.
Was I a media junkie? I didn’t consider myself one, if only because I didn’t watch political commentators on Fox News, CNN or MSNBC. I guess on reflection I was pretty close though.
Today, I don’t have cable or satellite television service (yet). As I wrote earlier, there’s so much content on the internet that my television functions mostly as a giant monitor for watching iTunes, or streaming TV shows from websites, or watching DVD’s. The amount of news content I consume has dwindled to a daily skim through the Yahoo! portal and occasional visits to Boston.com.
Having disengaged for a while, it now seems like U.S. media is a tempest in a teapot. For example, there is a hysteria by which journalists and commentators focus on even the most minute differences between parties on issues. It’s divisive.
It’s also unfortunate because it serves to distract the citizenry from the real issues. The big issues. Such as?
For one, that the U.S. is a huge net debtor to China, given its addiction to inexpensive Chinese goods (note I didn’t say cheap, or shoddy). China will surely use its vast holdings of U.S. currency to exercise its interests, and at the expense of the U.S.’
Or, that the cost of health care is materially affected by the degree to which patients receive preventative care. Waiting until you need to go to the emergency room because you couldn’t afford medical coverage is the best way to ensure costly care of what would then be an acute or chronic condition. On principle, why can’t the government incent preventative care as a form of industrial policy? After all, every country has an industrial policy with incentives designed to influence private sector behavior. This is not the orientation of the current healthcare debate.
Or, the fact that small businesses employ most of the workforce, are the source of most job creation, and are the primary means to grow out of a recession. But can you find a powerful small business lobby in Washington?
I could go on.
Americans are perplexed why other countries see America differently than it sees itself. No doubt cultural and societal differences account for part of it. But could the reason also lay with Americans’ media habits?