Societal pressures reflect lack of political engagement

It is imperative for United States citizens to be knowledgeable about our political processes—but the pressure placed upon us to be constantly opinionated and informed is gravely hurting this nation’s citizens. Comedian Jimmy Kimmel hosts a popular video segment called “Lie Witness News” in which his staff asks people on the streets or at events their opinions about ridiculous, made-up scenarios. The people featured in these videos typically feel compelled to be dishonest with the interviewer in order to avoid looking ignorant on that specific topic.

The most recent video “Lie Witness News - Presidential Debate Edition”—which aired on Sept. 27—asked American citizens their thoughts on the presidential debate between Republican nominee Donald Trump and former Secretary of State and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the day before the debate occurred.

Every single person in the video lied about his or her thoughts, since the debate hadn’t even happened yet. In doing so, they prove themselves to be ignorant—though they don’t want to look it—as they agree with everything the interviewer referenced about the “presidential debate.”

Some notably ridiculous material the video features are made-up scenarios, such as Trump saying to Clinton, “Liar, liar, pantsuit on fire,” the candidates having a pull-up contest and each giving the other a “peck on the lips” at the close of the debate.

The video—although funny to watch—is extremely unsettling. It highlights the direct effects of the condescending way politics are talked about within the U.S. This is a serious issue because so many citizens are afraid to come across as ignorant when it comes to politics; they are willing to pretend they understand what is going on instead of actively learning about it.

In our society, it is seemingly unacceptable to say, “I don’t know” or “I don’t really have an opinion” when it comes to talking about politics. This is what causes so many people to get into irrelevant arguments, to lie about their knowledge on important subjects and to essentially become easily persuaded by other people’s opinions.

It should not be so acceptable to turn a blind eye to politics because being informed about elections is imperative to our nation’s future. Fostering an environment of honesty and inclusion when discussing politics in the public sphere, however, is needed to nourish this political engagement.

If more people were forthright with themselves, acknowledged how much they actually know about the upcoming election and were motivated to educate themselves, satirical videos such as Kimmel’s “Lie Witness News” would not exist.

It should be socially acceptable to admit that you haven’t had a chance to watch the debate or to read up on a candidate’s specific stance on an issue. Admitting this aloud—or at least just to ourselves—might encourage us to continue to learn about politics. Ultimately, our conversations about politics will become much more thought provoking and honest as a result.