Pop culture is overshadowing knowledge of political, global issues


“2014 Oscars Red Carpet Trends: Who Wore It Best?,” “The best and worst dressed stars at the 2014 Oscars,” “’12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Gravity’ win big at the Oscars,” “Putin: military force would be ‘last resort’ in Ukraine,” “Ukraine crisis: Why it matters to the world economy.”

All of these were real headlines this past Sunday night into Monday. Some may say there is a problem with the order of them, but that was how the media presented the stories’ importance when they were surfacing. The attention of what celebrities wore and won at the Oscars became more significant in the news than the global impacts of the crisis developing between Ukraine and Russia.

American society has become more focused on the need and desire to know about people who have built careers around appearing in television shows and films than the global political crises that could have detrimental effects internationally. Being wrapped up in Hollywood is underutilizing the wealth of knowledge about pertinent global issues available on the Internet to the U.S. Yet, we aren’t the informed society we should be.

According to an article by Bret Schulte titled, “The Ignorant American Voter,” from U.S. News and World Report on June 3, 2008, “only 2 of 5 voters can name the three branches of the federal government. And 49 percent of Americans think the president has the authority to suspend the Constitution.”

If you tripped up over either of those statements, please visit a civics or political science class.

But therein lies the problem: putting in the effort to be informed. Citizens would rather believe what has circulated down the proverbial grapevine than know and understand the correct answers. Politics don’t seem to be a priority in this generation’s lives. Instead, pop culture takes the cake for what is deemed priority.

Even though pop culture may be used as an escape from the actual realities of our political sphere, it’s not an excuse to be uninformed about current political issues and events. Rather than being informed about both, people seem to be choosing one over the other.

According to a Sept. 2, 1998 report by the Constitution Center, 81.2 percent of respondents knew how many members are in the musical group “Hanson,” while only 35.5 percent of respondents knew the first three words of the Constitution. While 92.8 percent of participants knew that Spice Girls celebrates “girl power,” only 41.2 percent of people knew the three branches of the federal government.

This is the problem. People are believing that “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are credible news sources, even though the programs were created to poke fun of the actual credible news. If people watch shows like “South Park,” or listen to Lady Gaga while not understanding the political satire both often evoke in their productions, we should question what information is being received and absorbed.

If you cared about the Oscars, that’s fine. However, to be an informed member of the U.S., you should have also been following the problems unfolding in the Ukraine.

This column is not arguing whether the U.S. should or should not intervene, invade, impose sanctions or react in any way to the evolving crisis. What this column is advocating for is people becoming more aware of the political sphere and the issues within it. With the safety, security and comfort of living that people experience in the U.S. potentially being at risk, it is necessary to be an informed citizen and pay attention to the information that is presented and easily accessible.

While the news may be sad or at times difficult to understand, people shouldn’t live ignorant of the world they live in. If you don’t know about something, read up on it. Figure out what is happening and how it could affect people. Don’t just focus on the trivial events of those who have been deemed “famous.” Rather, focus on political events that have an impact on our local, national and global society. There is a lot happening in this world; be an informed citizen and become more aware of the world we all share.

Jakki Thompson is a junior in journalism and American ethnic studies. Please send all comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.