What’s Really Important?

If I were to randomly ask Colgate students which candidate won the South Carolina Republican primary last week, I think a majority would be able to correctly answer that Newt Gingrich won. Many would also probably know irrelevant details such as venerable Mr. Gingrich’s former marital woes. If I were to then ask them, however, what the unemployment rate of the United States cur­rently is or how many Syrians have been killed during Bashar al-Assad’s desperate attempts to main­tain power, I would predict that a much smaller number would be able to accurately answer these questions, if any at all.

Is this because I believe my peers are largely ignorant of current events? Quite the contrary: I would argue that Colgate students are among the more informed United States residents. The problem, in­stead, is the way in which the American media portrays current events, specifically, which topics they make an effort to highlight. And the media, both broadcast and print, is obsessed (and wrongly so) with the Republican primaries. They choose to inundate the viewer, reader or listener with information regarding the primaries, rather than events that are, relatively speaking, much more important.

Virtually every issue of The New York Times, a fairly liberal paper, during the past ten days has featured a picture of Mr. Gingrich flanked by his platinum-blonde wife, or a picture of Mitt Romney campaigning. I understand the value and importance in allowing each party the ability to deliberate over candidates, and acknowledge that the process should be included in the news. But my grievance is the amount of coverage that the primaries receive. Most people consume the news fleetingly, listen­ing to the news in the morning or glancing at the front page of a newspaper. Since news regarding the primaries is so prevalent in the media, it may be the only news they see. Viewers may notice a headline regarding the recent Costa Concordia cruise liner’s unfortunate brush with the coastline of an Italian island, but the sheer volume and presentation regarding the GOP, in comparison to all of the other news, causes it to be more memorable. I think the comparatively less obvious coverage of other news undermines its importance.

Right now, there are events occurring around the world whose repercussions could have an im­pact on us for years to come. Yes, electing the American president will shape the next four years, but the next president will not be elected for another ten months. Egypt recently democratically elected its parliament for the first time, with the majority of seats won by Islamist parties. These results are a stark contrast to the secular way in which Egypt and the Middle East has been governed under rul­ers like Egypt’s ousted President Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s former dictator Moammar Ghaddafi. The global implications of more Islamist-based rule in the Middle East are not only political but also economic and social. At the same time, the euro zone is experiencing an unprecedented financial crisis whose consequences could involve all participants in the global economy. Events such as these are more relatable, important and, frankly, more interesting than, for example, an analysis of whether a new “super PAC” will help or hurt Mr. Gingrich’s campaign.

On the most primitive level, it is just plain boring. Honestly, how is it possible to ruminate so extensively regarding something like Mr. Romney’s success in our capitalist economy? Yes, he’s done fabulously well, and no, the average American has not profited at such a level. Now that the obvious has been stated, can we move on? We are living in such a tumultuous yet inspiring and interesting time. We’ll be able to read about current events such as the U.S.’s shift toward better relations with Myanmar in history books, but the GOP primaries of 2012 will be forgotten within months. I just wish they would be forgotten a little quicker…like, now, preferably.

Contact Selina Koller at [email protected].