The average American read 16 minutes per day from 2003 – 2018, but spent 2 hours and 50 minutes per day watching TV. (source)
Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Americans aged 15 – 44 spent 10 minutes a day reading in 2019. A 6 minute decrease from the previous 15 years. (source)
In 2020, the average time American’s spent on social media was 2+ hours, a 60%+ increase from 2012. (source)
The average American reading level is equivalent to a 7th / 8th grader. (source)
It’s safe to say with confidence that American’s primary source of information is channeled through television and social media; not history books or scholarly articles.
To drive ratings, American media has abandoned unbiased reporting in favor of tribal interests that create more narrow advertising niches.
Big media companies win while the average American’s mind gets coopted by a revenue driven information model.
Our division is profitable and until that model changes or Americans start to do their own research, we are in big trouble.
When looked at from this point of view, there’s no wonder we as a nation are divided. Our minds are plugged into a conduit of opposing spin doctors carefully prescribing content that triggers our limbic systems.
Each trigger produces a dopamine spike in our brain that becomes an addiction. Just like any addict, our standards devolve as long as the drug keeps coming.
Without the counterweight of autonomous research through reading and analysis; American’s are at the mercy of what experts, pundits and random talking heads have to say on any and all matters.
All we can do is helplessly agree, disagree or remain confused as issues impacting us daily are distilled and spun for maximum revenue generation. Since we have minimal historical and factual context, we can’t truly decipher fact from fiction.
Like followers of a bozo cult, our feelings drive our beliefs and those feelings we hold dear are sails guided by the winds of spin doctors who see our attention spans as products for advertisers or political interests.
The popularity of the messenger supersedes their qualifications to opine on a matter of national significance.
Within each American state are bozo tribes of dopamine addicted cult followers disguised as an informed citizenry.
Slogans, group think and confirmation bias tend to override objective, fact based analysis. Any attempt to introduce facts into a discussion is swiftly met with arguments supporting the broader, tribal narrative; despite the facts.
Members of each tribe are scattered throughout cities, counties and even families. What one person believes over the other is based on their level of conviction and trust in their spin doctor of choice.
States are divided because communities are divided. Communities are divided because families are divided. This division leaves America in a precarious place.
The clearest examples of our division rest in our two presidential candidates. Depending on which side of the cult you’re on, you’d think the other is an enemy of the state culpable of high crimes.
Per the right, Joe Biden is a mindless communist operative put forth due to his pliability and conformity to the far left’s agenda.
Per the left, President Trump is an agent of chaos, ensuring the lines between he and his non-supporters remain clear and are in no way marred by a centrist, altruistic view of America.
Each of the two represent a divided ideology that will not unite America any further regardless of who is elected.
American’s Collectively Lose
What does this lose-lose scenario look like for everyday Americans?
The far left paints President Trump as the cause of police brutality against Black Americans; statistically speaking more White Americans were killed by police since 2015. (Black Americans 1,318 vs White Americans 2,527) (source)
As a proportion of their respective populations, more Black Americans are killed per capita.
Depending on which set of data you look at, you can be right. But despite the national rhetoric on the issue, nothing has changed for the average American. We’re all still getting killed with no end in sight.
On the other side of that argument; ambushing of police officers is once again on the rise after its peak in the early 90’s. Police are more likely to die in an ambush. (source)
The more police become paranoid of being ambushed or shot at, the more defensive and hostile they become towards perceived threats.
Who is right and who is wrong?
As the old saying goes, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall…” sadly America is in a free fall and until an adult enters the room; we are headed straight for the doldrums.
Media in Action
Per the data on police brutality above, the left leaning media focuses on the rate of police brutality against Black America, while right leaning media will counteract it with the volume of White American deaths related to police brutality.
This has become a racial issue, not an American one.
Both fit a narrative that’s strong enough to mobilize their base, but neither is speaking the same language as they are using two sets of data.
Because the majority of American’s probably don’t even have or remember this data, it’s impossible for them to calibrate their thinking to say, “this is an American problem, not a Black or White” problem.
Divide and Conquer
How long this dark ages of the American intellect will continue is unknown to me. Our education system is so outdated it creates more student debt than gainful employment.
The average literacy rate in America decreased from 2014 to 2017. (source)
The average American reading level is that of a 7th / 8th grader. Therefore it could be argued the 10 minutes of reading American’s do per day, has a low comprehension rate. (source)
This could explain why the unqualified analysis of complex social issues by celebrities is held in higher regard than scholars trained and studied in the topic in which they discuss.
A poorly educated population compounded by a divided citizenry equally burdened by debt is not a formula for national success.
As long as this remains the status quo, we have many more years ahead as the Divided States of Spin.