Busy people are getting the highlights, but missing historical context.
Did you hear what happened with the candidates? Was it spontaneous or part of a carefully orchestrated plan? How is it going to affect the race? Is the timing significant? Will the momentum shift?
As I listen to myriad panels of television and radio pundits commenting on the twists and turns of the presidential campaign, racing to split every speech and position paper into smaller and smaller bits for intense scrutiny, I begin to wonder if they're talking about politics or participating in a high-velocity debate on subatomic physics.
This trend can be summed up in eight words: "Tell me what's new and make it quick."
It's been gathering momentum for decades. The modern world is relentlessly busy. Speed is synonymous with efficiency, and being efficient means not getting bogged down by long periods of study or introspection. Busy people only have time for headlines, highlights, and talking points.
But by focusing so much collective attention on "right now" and "the latest details," we become distracted and eventually disconnected from the past. Here's an important update: History is more than just old news.
Surfing across the media tidal wave of analysis, spin, and speculation creates the illusion of becoming informed. What I see is a system of mass communication sinking into a quagmire of assertions and opinions that are often out of context, inaccurate, or just plain wrong.
One example that still resonates with me happened after the 2007 State of the Union address. A TV correspondent interviewed a US senator about the occupation of Iraq, and the senator made a comparison to postwar Germany that included this statement: "We had a soldier on every corner." That's untrue, literally and figuratively, and it went unchallenged. I was annoyed, but not surprised.