Apathy Is America’s Greatest Enemy and McCain’s Greatest Ally

My wife Sandra and I watched transfixed as Hillary Clinton (photo below, right) gave a speech for the ages at the Democratic Party convention in Denver last night. MSNBC and CNN both televised the speech in its entirety, as they had done the previous night with Michelle Obama’s magnificent performance. I imagine Fox News did the same. I wouldn’t know. I don’t watch Fox News. My stomach can’t take it.

hillary clintonSenator Clinton’s speech was pivotal to America’s destiny. As she said, nothing less than the future of the United States and the fate of America’s children hung in the balance. She could have said the lives of America’s children because if John McCain is elected and brings back the draft, many of those children will be sacrificed on the altar of his war gods. And if she had not come out eloquently and passionately in support of Barack Obama, McCain would have been a shoo-in and America’s future would have been toast.

But when I switched to the networks, it was business as usual. Another hurricane was forming in the Caribbean, another clue had emerged in the case of a missing kid in Orlando, some local team had won (or lost) a ball game. It seemed that only cable (and satellite) television cares about the Democratic Party convention. Mainstream TV has other priorities.

FOX-TV (Channel 13 here in the Tampa Bay area) easily won the night on Tuesday, according to the Nielsen pollsters.  An hour and a half of American Idol was rounded out with a series-high 12.33 million viewers for Back to You.  NBC came in second, CBS in third and ABC in next to last, followed by the CW (whatever that is). Nielsen reported:

The Biggest Loser and a rerun of NCIS tried hard to find viewers, and given they ran against AI, probably did a great job. Both Big Brother and Jericho improved vs. last week.  BB rose to 6.74 million vs. last week’s 5.42, but last week AI ran all the way until 10 p.m., and this week it ended at 9:30 p.m.. Jericho improved from 5.94 million viewers to 6.9 million in the overnights.  A pick up of almost a million viewers.  But Jericho was bumping heads with the debut of Quarterlife instead of a rerun of Law & Order:SVU.  The L&O rerun pulled in 9.3 million viewers last week, Quarterlife only found 3.86 million viewers, so one might argue Jericho should’ve done even better.  Both Jericho and Quarterlife lost to the ABC news magazine themed Primetime: What Would You Do Now?

I’m sure that means more to you than it does to me. I don’t watch any of those shows.

But mainstream America gets its information from network TV, not from 24-hour news channels. It’s a big night for CNN when it attracts 350,000 viewers (compare that with the millions who watch network shows). According to a recent study, 46 percent of Americans get their information about life from regular television.

Many younger Americans rely on the Internet for information. But they make up only 13 percent of the public, according to the study. And the research showed an overall decline in the percentage of people who said they read a newspaper the day before, to 34 percent from 40 percent two years ago. That statistic reflects a shift in the industry that has seen newspaper circulation plummet in recent years.

When I picked up the local newspaper, which (to survive) has become a right-wing pamphlet, Hillary Clinton’s speech had a two-column headline. A school board election merited an inch-deep banner across the top of Page One.

I wonder how many Americans really care about America’s presidential election?  I would bet that there is more passion in Jamaica – or Bora Bora -about this historic contest than there is in Lakeland, Florida.

An old saying came to mind, something from Greek literature class: “Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.”

Or “apathetic.” First the anesthetic; then the lethal injection.