Wednesday, March 01, 2006

D'oh! Why do we need so many rights, Marge?

In America, where we only seem to know our rights when we wanna sue somebody, a sobering new study proves we don't know our amendments from a hole in the ground.

In fact, the poll showed Americans know more about "The Simpsons" than they do about the First Amendment, on which our entire values are based. Or was that Duff Beer?

Only one in four Americans can name more than one of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petition for redress of grievances.) But more than half can name at least two members of the cartoon family, according to a survey.

The study was done by the new McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum. It found that 22 percent of Americans could name all five Simpson family members, compared with just one in 1,000 people who could name all five First Amendment freedoms.

It gets worse, according to the Associated Press. More people could name the three "American Idol" judges than could identify three basic First Amendment rights. Advertising slogans were more recognizable than freedom of speech or religion.

Worse still, the survey found about one in five people thought the right to own a pet was protected, and 38 percent said they believed the right against self-incrimination (the Fifth Amendment) was a First Amendment guarantee.

OK, I won't even get into the recent survey in which 90-plus percent of Americans believed their free speech should be totally unregulated by government ... but two-thirds of them believed the government should regulate OTHER peoples' free speech.

Are we really so self-absorbed in this country that TV shows are more important to us than our fundamental beliefs? Next thing you know, they'll tell us more Americans can quote Paris Hilton than Ben Franklin. Shoot me now.


Michael Gillespie said...

Ignorance of our fundamental rights and responsibilities as Americans really is as prevalent as the poll you cite indicates, Ron, if my own experience and observation is any guide. A few years ago I sat in a classroom at a Carnegie-1 research institution that is home to a named school of journalism as a tenured professor asked her upper level media law class the question, "Who wrote the Constitution?" One student of about 30 gave a correct answer, but only after three others had in turn eliminated Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George
Washington as possibilities. Far too many Americans take their freedom, or what remains of it, for granted. A nation comprised of citizens who are for the most part ignorant of even the most basic values, principles, elements, structure, and history of their government is a nation in great danger because such citizens are unprepared to maintain and protect their own rights and freedom, much less those of others.

Ron Franscell said...

Sheesh! Everybody knows Mr. Burns wrote the Constitution ... right?

Krusty the Klown?

Ed Flanders?

Stinky Ray's Bait Shop and Constitutional Convention?

lylacra_lei said...

What does this say about Americans? Well you can definately see where the priorities are. More time is spent watching television and wasting aimless hours than learning or reflecting on important parts of American history. Not only is this a smack in the face to those of us that take the time to appreciate and learn such a necessity, it is also a terrible blast to the lives lost protecting and fighting for our rights both in the past and present. The thing that many people seem to forget is how special it is to live in a country that recognizes our rights. Fewer than half of the world's countries gives such recognition to its people. So why are we so easy to forget?

In recent years, the thought process of people has changed. Not only is it not important to rememeber such important parts of American history, it just doesn't apply. People have developed this attitude that if it doesn't directly affect the here and now, it just isn't important. But should a case arise where you were being sued for libel, slander, or what have you, you best belive that all of a sudden the knowledge of the First Amendment becomes more apparent. And in most cases is widely misunderstood. See things are only applicable when they are needed, and sadly the knowledge of America's youth is declining into a media world. A world where knowing that the Simpson's family is Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie is more important than knowing the five rights given to us by the First Amendment, establishment of religion and the exercise of, free speech, press, the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition governement.

I guess we were thinking about the same thing today. A pitty and unfortunately only the beginning. I pride myself in being a 21 year old college student, that while knowing the Simpson's family and characters also takes the time to know about my country and what actually happens. I wish more people would wake up!
Pleasure...and take care

Love, Rita said...

You asked, "Are we really so self-absorbed in this country that TV shows are more important to us than our fundamental beliefs?"

The short answer is YES! (I have begun to wonder whether we even HAVE fundamental beliefs anymore...)

Assorted Babble by Suzie said...

It is really sad isn't it?? When I heard this awhile back...I somewhat was not surprised, only b/c many that comment or email me at times have no idea what the heck is going on. Why would they know our amendments? Excellent post..

P.S. Off subject..I have a VERY IMPORTANT ISSUE POSTED...and would very much appreciate if time permits for you to take a look at it. I meant to get it up earlier this week..but due to being sick/and got published today. Thanking you in advance. (smiling)

Chancelucky said...

1. Montgomery Burns did not write the Constitution, he did sign the Declaration of Independence. His signature was obscured by John Hancock's.

2. Technically it's still illegal to oppose the draft during a time of war. Schenck v. United States is still good law (though they later did change the Espionage Act provision that Schenck was convicted under)

So the First Amendment doesn't necessarily say what even those who actually think they know what it says, say it says.

3. the Zogby poll recently indicated that 85% of Americans serving in Iraq think we're there to retaliate for Saddam's role in 9/11.
Surely, if someone knows how to teach people to believe that and stake their lives on it, there's a way to get across the elements of the Bill of Rights to an equal number of people.


Ron Franscell said...

Apu: You hit the nail on the head! If we can convince people that alien corpses are being stored at Area 51, that there was a second shooter on the grassy knoll, that Bill Clinton didn't lie and George Bush did ... why can't we convince them that the First Amendment is more important than "American Idol"?

Ron Franscell said...

From Bill Pride in Denver, an excellent "stats lie" reflection that arrived via email ....

This is a link for all those worried about the Simpsons-vs-Bill of Rights poll story. It won't surprise anybody who has read "How to Lie With Statistics," a little 1954 classic by Darrell Huff (I read it in j-school circa 1961, and I think it's still in print).
As this item points out, an alternate lede for the wire story would have been "Thirty-five percent of Americans cannot name ANY of the Simpsons characters, while 73 percent can name at least one First Amendment freedom":
This turned up on this morning.
Enjoying your blog, and looking forward to "Fall."
Bill Pride, Denver