At various times, I have read parts of "The Federalist Papers." These are a series of articles that appeared in various newspapers that explained the Constitution to the common people in an effort to get their support for its passage. I am always struck by the obvious attention span that early Americans possessed, unlike today's Americans, who not only get their information in sound bytes but think that way as well. John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton authored "The Federalist Papers," and their expectations for a certain level of critical thinking skills among their readers is in clear evidence throughout.
It would be unfathomable to these early Americans that their descendants, just a few generations removed, would accept a few short sentences as an explanation for multi-thousand page tomes of legislation. Or that 21st century Americans would elect a President on the basis of two words, or re-elect that same President as a result of a campaign based on the juvenile and shallow. Our ancestors would be appalled at the lack of substance in our news, the importance placed on the frivolous in our society and the unwillingness that many modern Americans have to not only provide for their own basic needs, but to think for themselves in any meaningful way.
I believe the sound-byte culture began as far back as the 1950s, when television started to make its way into the typical American home. With TV becoming a permanent member of the American family, it's very essence, the immediate resolution, became a way of life for many Americans. Generations of Americans existed in a world where sitcom families solved all their problems in half an hour and the hero caught the bad guy in one hour. Of course this isn't reality, and most early TV watchers knew this instinctively. But as successive generations grew up with TV, then the Internet, our public figures began to speak in sound-bytes, and we accepted it because we had been conditioned to accept quick, well-packaged solutions to our problems.
People of the sound-byte republic don't have to look any further for answers than the few words contained within the byte. There is no need for sound-bytonians to read long cumbersome books or study the wisdom of the ages that is readily available to them at their fingertips . In fact, there isn't any need to think or question, all will be answered by the wisdom of sound-byte. And as Thomas Jefferson said, "You can have ignorance or liberty, but not both." The people of the sound-byte Republic, at least for the time being, have cast their vote for the former at the expense of the latter.
Click here to watch my political song parodies.