Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Americans don't care about politics ... or anything else

Gawker.com just blogged on a story from Rising Hegemon about Newsweek's recent decision to go with Ann Leibovitz's "Life in Pictures" for the cover rather than the war in Afghanistan:
"In her new book, Annie Leibovitz, our most famous photographer, places celebs side by side with surprisingly personal images of love and loss. An exclusive."
This probably says as much about Newsweek as it does about the marketability of hard news in this country. What's really depressing, of course, is that the Newsweek editors apparently felt that Latin America, Asia, and Europe were ready for the realities of world politics and could deal with the Afghanistan cover for their local editions of Newsweek.

The U.S. public, on the other hand, apparently needs a bit more pampering, and stories about celebrities, love and loss fit their interests better than news about wars, politics and other things that matter.

Of course, this also has immense implications for some of the scientific policy debates we will be facing in the near future. Why worry about a factual understanding of stem cell research, for instance, if we’re being fed talking points by intellectual and moral leaders like Michael J. Fox, Brad Pitt, Mel Gibson, and Jerry Falwell? After all, these are the people we put on the covers of our major news magazines.

This whole phenomenon, of course, is neither new nor surprising, and there is no point in continually lamenting the lack of public involvement in politics or science. But it important for those of us concerned with science literacy and outreach to realize that Brad Pitt has done more for California’s Proposition 71, a bond measure that will provide $3 billion over 10 years to stem cell research, than most scientific outreach programs and informational campaigns. The Newsweek cover story has once again highlighted the rules of the game. Whoever wants to play needs to follow these rules.


Anonymous said...

whos to say politics matter, maybe to you