Our cultural obsession with celebrity and all things trending leads to undeserved press and regard for our adversaries. It’s unlikely you would get an educated response if you were to ask the average American why China is a long-term foe, or even what occurred in Benghazi and why the government’s reaction was concerning. But most concerning is that outfits like ISIS and Russian hackers are catapulted to bogeyman status. Because everything is sensationalized, we lose our objectivity and, as a result, our adversaries enjoy propaganda that our culture generates.

ISIS, Putin, and China enjoy an elevated status with the American people who do not see them for the threats they do pose, and they imagine threats they do not pose. This is propaganda, and these countries have done nothing to deserve it. We aren’t thinking strategically as a nation. We aren’t on the same sheet of music. ISIS has many around the country terrified, and the same goes for the Middle East. It’s all propaganda that we, as people, make worse by spreading the word of their military might. But they haven’t really faced another military. Their primary weapon is fear.

If Putin had an Instagram feed, could you imagine how many followers he would have overnight? Whether it’s right or wrong, he gets a lot of publicity. He has emerged a player and topic of conversation in our presidential election. That’s very far from where many in this country felt Russia was only a few years ago. We have an obsession with idolization and mythologies surrounding individuals. We do the same with our politicians, and even ordinary people, until they’re no longer people—they’re caricatures. There’s such a strong desire to escape reality that we shape a narrative not reflective of it. I think this is a long-term threat to our way of life. Not paying attention has become cool. The anti-intellectualism is odd, because I thought everyone had to go to college to get a job in today’s society.

Our voting participation is low, and we’re in a situation where both of our primary candidates aren’t liked. I’ve always been told the race for the presidency is not a popularity contest. But it’s not an unpopularity contest. This is what happens when people do not pay attention. Was it 9/11? Was that too much reality for our collective cultural consciousness and, as a result, many have opted to check out? We’ve flexed and taken the helm as leadership around the world, but lack strong leadership at home. I know that, even for me, I was never really excited to come back. The work abroad just felt more meaningful, and the people I worked with seemed to care. Then, you come home and encounter a profound sense of apathy for the world. When ISIL does horrendous things, it’s shocking, outrageous, and too much to handle. Because of that, they quickly fade from the common memory of the American public. I think it’s depressing that no one cares about the world and how we fit in it.

As a result, Putin could parachute in and write an op-ed in the New York Times that everyone would read or at least have read to them. Most likely the latter. “Celebrity worship syndrome (CWS) is an obsessive-addictive disorder in which a person becomes overly involved with the details of a  celebrity’s life.” Is this a widespread phenomenon in the United States?

Featured image courtesy of quotesgram.com.