Television and Government
Many interpreters of contemporary culture see the public as fickle and undiscriminating. Yet what is the evidence that people are not making judgments on the basis of strongly held beliefs and values, critical thinking, and a sifting through of the data as it becomes available to them? Individuals in mass society continually discriminate in all kinds of matters, both significant and petty. Who really believes that citizens at the end of the twentieth century are less critical and discerning than they were fifty, or a hundred, or even two hundred years ago? We may not agree with the latest election results or like the list of the top ten TV shows as based on the ratings, but we cannot deny that individuals are making specific choices in both instances.
There is a difference between rigorous thinking about society and culture that is based upon the assembling and working through of data, as opposed to a science of society and culture. We may measure intelligence fairly well, insofar as IQ-tests give us good statistics for predicting success in school and academic cognitive ability. But we cannot test for sensitivity, or taste, or judgment. We can obtain precise statistics for the number of divorces in a given year in the United States, but we recognize that each divorce in that year has its specific causes and its own uniqueness.
We can learn much from laboratory experiments with animals that carry over to humans, such as the effects of certain drugs on the organism, the causal relationships of certain substances to illness or its cure, and even the likely causes of helplessness or depression. But we