I wish there was a concrete answer, but here’s my best guess:
We know that public education in the U.S. is often substandard, and that people often don’t have access to comprehensive, understandable written information on a regular basis, or they do have access, but they don’t know where to start looking. Sure, people can have a computer with Google, but if they don’t know what to type in the search box to get accurate information, or how to sort out accurate information from stuff that seems like accurate information but is not, Google actually doesn’t make a lot of a difference.
That doesn’t mean that everyone who believes Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity has had a crap education or can’t figure out fact from fiction, but since we’re talking about a large group (people who believe talking heads) I have to generalize.
Another factor is that talking heads are simply more compelling. TV shows have been engineered to grab your attention, and the speaking style that these people use is also designed to pull you away from whatever else you are doing. A book has to be really good to compete with someone yelling in your face, and if you weren’t holding a book to begin with, it’s that much harder to look away.
In addition, there’s the time factor. People who work, especially those who work long hours, don’t have a lot of time and want to spend it relaxing. Which is more relaxing, sitting in front of your TV and hearing that it’s perfectly okay for you to stay there, or reading a dense article that tells you that unless you trade in your car for a hybrid or switch out all your lightbulbs the planet will end up in crisis (or that the planet is already in crisis)? In short, it’s easier to pay attention to those folks than to do the research, and once you pay attention to those folks, it seems like the research is all pointless, anyways.
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