People just don't read anymore

srkSo Shakrukh Khan got detained at Newark, New Jersey airport for the simple fact of having a Muslim surname. An uncomplicated case of profiling, I suppose, though it must have made King Khan realize his reign is limited to his diaspora pond, where he is a very big fish indeed.

But to be fair to New Jersey authorities, it’s not just international icons they don’t recognize. A rookie cop in the town of Long Branch picked up a scruffy, suspicious looking old man, not realizing it was – Bob Dylan!

Matt Yglesias has a paragraph in a post today which sort of offers an explanation for why stuff like this happens

..the change in the media is part of a much broader shift in American society. Technological and economic change has just made authority weaker and tended to fragment perspectives…. It’s extremely easy for people to bury themselves in a subculture of their liking and not worry too much about the mainstream.

( Emphasis mine)

I just think it comes from people just not doing a whole lot of casual reading anymore. I grew up in a small town in northern India with no exposure to literature, art or western culture, but I picked up a lot of stuff by reading newspapers, magazines and popular fiction, at least enough to recognize names and places in countries I (then) never thought I would ever be visiting.

Today it’s so easy to find a subset of like-minded thinkers and opinions on the internet and television, it is just not necessary or gratifying enough to be exposed to views that challenge your own. Don’t like the NY Times op-eds? Just switch to the Wall Street Journal. Don’t agree with CNN? Just keep the TV tuned to Fox News. And with a lot of the big-city, broad-spectrum newspapers folding, that trend is likely to accelerate.

I’m guilty of echo-chambering too. One glance at my bookmarks will reveal a definite left-of-center predilection. But I still subscribe to the big newspaper in the Bay Area and I will read op-eds by the likes of Pat Buchanan and Victor Davis Hanson, even though they make me gag over breakfast. The browsing that a newspaper encourages leads me to bits of trivia, Hollywood news, weird stories from around the world that I would never pick up over the internet by myself.

There’s a shitstorm brewing in India over the SRK brouhaha but I suggest everybody take a deep breath and calm down. Just advocate that the NJ cops read, read, read!

4 thoughts on “People just don't read anymore

  1. Bharath

    I’m curious how you concluded the following – “So Shakrukh Khan got detained at Newark, New Jersey airport for the simple fact of having a Muslim surname”? Because SRK said so? Its much more likely he got the screening “lottery”. Personally, I’d hesitate to apply negative intention motives freely.

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    1. Vidya Pradhan Post author

      It was a shallow take on the news but that was not the point of my article. I really have no idea what prompted the detention. My issue was two-fold – that one shouldn’t really expect NJ cops to recognize SRK when they can’t even recognize Bob Dylan and that reading gives you some idea of what’s going on in the rest of the world so that if someone claims to be a recognizable Bollywood icon( or American music legend) you shouldn’t go “Huh?”

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