Panem et circenses: Americans know pop culture but not current events

A recent poll commissioned by a upcoming reality TV show confirmed that Americans are more likely to know pop culture factoids, but not news, classical literature, science or history.

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The poll found that:

  • About 77 per cent of Americans can name at least two of the dwarfs from the fairy tale Snow White, but only about 24 per cent can name two U.S. Supreme Court justices.
  • 57 per cent of the U.S. respondents know that English writer J.K. Rowling's fictional boy wizard is named Harry Potter, while only 50 per cent can name U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair.
  • 73 per cent can name the Three Stooges (Larry, Curly and Moe). Only 42 per cent could name the three branches of the U.S. government (judicial, executive and legislative).
  • 60 per cent of respondents knew that, on The Simpsons, Homer's son is named Bart. Only about 21 per cent could name one of the ancient Greek poet Homer's epics (The Iliad and The Odyssey)
  • Of those polled, 60 per cent could name Krypton as the home planet of Superman. Only 37 per cent could name Mercury as the closest planet to the sun.
  • While 23 per cent of poll participants know that Taylor Hicks is the most recent singer crowned American Idol, only 11 per cent could name Samuel Alito as the most recent judge to join the U.S. Supreme Court.

A consultant to the poll is quoted as saying:

"These results are not about how 'dumb' Americans are, but about how much more effectively popular culture information is communicated and retained by citizens than many of the messages that come from government, educational institutions and the media"

Bread and ciruses : Panem et circenses

This confirms that the tactic of panem et circenses continues to work after 20 centuries. The public are only interested in food and entertainment, and as long as they get it, they will not think about more important issues such as wars their government wage abroad, foreign policy, and the like.

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