Tom Purcell, 4/30/2007 [Archive]

Uninformed Americans

Uninformed Americans

By Tom Purcell

'What do you mean Americans are uninformed?'

'According to a Pew Research Center survey, Americans are slightly less aware of world events than we were 18 years ago -- despite 24-hour cable news and the explosive growth of the Internet.'

'How so?'

'In 1989, 74 percent of Americans knew that Dan Quayle was vice president. Today, only 69 percent know who our vice president is.'

'Hubert Humphrey?'

'Americans aren't able to identify other world leaders, either. When asked to name the president of Russia, only 36 percent named Vladimir Putin.'

'Vladimir Putin? Isn't he one of the Keebler elves?'

'Celebrity is a factor. Ninety-three percent of Americans know Arnold Schwarzenegger is the governor of California. The same percentage knows who Hillary is. But only 49 percent know that Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the House.'

'Speaker of the House! I thought she was a lobbyist from Syria!'

'What's worse, only 15 percent of Americans are aware that Harry Reid -- who is playing a daring game of chicken with the president during a time of war -- is the Senate majority leader.'

'I thought he was an extra on 'The West Wing.''

'In a few areas, however, Americans are slightly better informed. For instance, 76 percent of Americans are aware that the Democrats are in control of Congress, compared with 68 percent in 1989.'

'Democrats are in control of Congress? I thought America's left fringe is in control of Congress!'

'Overall, Americans are no better informed now than they were 18 years ago. The least informed are between 18 and 29. And Americans with a high-school degree are likelier to be less informed than those who are college educated.'

'You'd be uninformed, too, if you had to work three jobs to make ends meet.'

'On the flip side, the most informed Americans get their news through traditional means -- newspapers, magazines and television. Americans over 65 are among the best informed.'

'I'd be among the best informed, too, if I could devote my days to keeping up with the news.'

'One surprise is that the highest scorers were people who watch fake news shows, such as 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' and 'The Colbert Report.' To enjoy such shows, one has to have awareness of world events.'

'Those are FAKE news shows''

'But what is most troubling about the Pew survey is this: Many Americans have no desire to keep informed. They prefer entertainment and celebrity news -- things that just don't matter.'

'Sanjaya's mom got busted for growing pot and that doesn't matter to you!'

'Thus, Americans are vulnerable to being misled by charlatans. They're vulnerable to being manipulated by misinformation and lies.'

'What kind of lies?'

'Take Social Security. We all know the program is unsustainable -- a ticking time bomb. To resolve the problem, President Bush offered innovative ideas to privatize the program.'

'I thought he wanted to destroy the program.'

'That's because Democrats who opposed his ideas chose not to debate them. They simply spread lies and misinformation.'

'But I thought courageous Democrats saved the program.'

'Partisan Democrats manipulated uninformed Americans to achieve their desired result. They clouded and confused the debate to scare people. Because many Americans were unable to discern lies from truth, the Social Security debate was swiftly brought to an end.'

'So long as I keep getting my check, who cares?'

'When you consider the daunting challenges America is facing, you realize how essential it is that Americans be informed. It is essential that voters be knowledgeable so that we elect people who will carry out the most sensible polices. Otherwise, the incredible blessings America enjoys could be lost.'

'Lost? What do you mean lost?'

'I mean that what happens on "American Idol" could become the least of your worries.'

Tom Purcell is a humor columnist nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons. Call (805) 969-2829 for more info. For comments to Tom, please email him at

RESTRICTIONS: 'Tom Purcell's column may not be reprinted in general circulation print media in Pennsylvania's Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, and Westmoreland Counties. It may appear only in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and its sister publications."

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