The idea that the public should be well-informed about local, regional, national, and global events is misguided and harmful.
It stems from the fact that in a democracy, every citizen can theoretically influence events on a global scale through the vote. The implication of this is that every citizen is ethically obligated to stay informed on the issues in order to make informed votes.
"Informed Citizen" Is an Impossible Standard
However, this standard is both impossible and harmful. The vast majority of people are busy with their personal lives and must already consume and process a huge amount of information to stay competitive in the modern world. It is impossible for non-intellectuals to keep up.
The impossible standard of the “informed citizen” leads to constant disillusionment of intellectuals with the public. Politics is impossibly complicated, and a distraction from the ongoing task of being successful in life. It’s also intentionally addictive. The result is a perceived gulf between the “educated” intellectual elite and the “ignorant” working masses, who the elite feels must be ruled for their own good through a mythology of invented, ever-escalating crises posed by as immigrants, rogue nations, abortion doctors, greedy landlords, corrupt CEOs, etc.
It is impossible for the average citizen to make a truly informed decision about a single local candidate, the interaction of national candidates with complex issues.
During the last election cycle, I met a fellow dad in the park who gave me an election flier, as he was running for a position as a local judge. I went to the link on his flier and tried to make a list of pros and cons.
Pro: he’s a nice guy, friendly and doting dad. Con: he’s a Democrat, along with all the other bad positions Democrats hold. Pro: he is a fellow secular Jew, which means we probably share views on many issues. Con: he’s a secular Jew, which means that he probably supports “social justice” and many other things I oppose.
I don’t remember the specific stances on his election site, but after reviewing them, I still felt completely unqualified to support or oppose his candidacy.
Ignorance in Elections
I am aware of my own ignorance and know that no matter how much attention I paid to the news, I could not even make an informed decision about a single local election, much less state or national roles. I had a long list of reasons why Trump and Hillary would both be terrible presidents, but ultimately, I could only make a wild guess about which one would be worse.
Politics is intentionally addictive, as politicians compete to invent new and more urgent emergencies to grab the public’s attention.It’s impossible to make informed votes in a political system where the elected representatives have arbitrary power to disregard constitutional principles and the rule of law after they are in office.
Politics is impossibly complicated, and a distraction from the ongoing task of being successful in life. It’s intentionally addictive, as politicians compete to invent new and more urgent emergencies to grab the public’s attention. Politicians and the intellectual elite work with the media to manipulate the news cycle to direct attention to their pet issues, so that all news becomes politically radicalized. I have noticed how people who become immersed in the game of political theatre can hardly focus on the difficult job of reaching their own goals and focus on the events that affect their own lives instead of political alarmism. It’s much easier to blame their failures on their preferred political scapegoats.
How to Engage in Politics Without Being Sucked in
This is not to say that I advocate complete ignorance of politics. I believe in certain civic responsibilities—not because I live in a certain country, but simply from a selfish desire for a better life for myself and those I care for. Among these is the duty to assist in emergencies, to testify against criminals, to serve on a jury when asked, and to speak on behalf of principles which make our civilization possible and denounce those who erode it.
You should ignore the news cycle to the maximum extent practicable in your life, and focus on being educated in areas relevant to your success.
I follow and engage in political causes only where basic social principles are at stake. For example, I believe that everyone who values American values, civilization, and just law ought to denounce the vicious campaign against immigrants.
Aside from such cases, I believe that unless politics is your career or primary hobby, you should ignore the news cycle to the maximum extent practicable in your life, and instead focus on being educated in areas relevant to the success of your personal projects.