Triumph of the Airheads – what future as communicators do we face?

by Lee Hopkins on November 12, 2006 · 6 comments

in Uncategorized

Triumph of the Airheads

A Tasmanian reader writes to a newspaper column, describing what happened when her husband tried to hire a car at Sydney airport. Given his credit card and driver’s licence, the clerk punched several computer keys fruitlessly before asking helplessly: “Is Tasmania in New Zealand?”

A university lecturer discovers that of the 33 students in her class, not one has heard of Chairman Mao. What’s more, they get irritated when she expresses astonishment. “How would we know that unless we’d studied Chinese history?” they demand of her.

A fascinating and disheartening excerpt in the Weekend Australian from Shelley Gare’s new book, “Triumph of the Airheads – and the Retreat from Commonsense.”

What scares me is that much (if not all) of what Gare writes is apparent to me — and I fear for the implication it has for business communication.

How are we as communicators going to communicate to a less-and-less literate audience? Do we ‘dumb down’ in order to connect?

Will the incoming batch of BusComms graduates be unable to write half-decent copy? Will advertising copywriting fall into dismal disarray?


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  • http://trafcomnews.com/ donna papacosta

    This scares the hell out of me, Lee. When speaking to a crowd of under-30s, I often find I cannot make literary allusions, Biblical references or indeed mention anyone who has not been on TV this week.

  • http://trafcomnews.com donna papacosta

    This scares the hell out of me, Lee. When speaking to a crowd of under-30s, I often find I cannot make literary allusions, Biblical references or indeed mention anyone who has not been on TV this week.

  • http://fabadger.blogspot.com/ Dan Hill

    What’s more scary is the idea that you would consider dumbing down your material.

    The problem you’re describing is undeniable. The bible is much less relevant to a 25 year old in 2006 than it was to a 25 year old in 1986.

    I’ll wager the same goes for literature in general as other forms of entertainment have widely taken over.

    The largest part of this problem is new adult generation’s unwarranted sense of entitlement. That everything should come to them provided they show up. Communicators lowering their expectations of youth intellect and accommodating accordingly isn’t going to make things any better in the long term.

  • http://fabadger.blogspot.com Dan Hill

    What’s more scary is the idea that you would consider dumbing down your material.

    The problem you’re describing is undeniable. The bible is much less relevant to a 25 year old in 2006 than it was to a 25 year old in 1986.

    I’ll wager the same goes for literature in general as other forms of entertainment have widely taken over.

    The largest part of this problem is new adult generation’s unwarranted sense of entitlement. That everything should come to them provided they show up. Communicators lowering their expectations of youth intellect and accommodating accordingly isn’t going to make things any better in the long term.

  • Bilbo

    I haven’t yet read this book. I certainly intend to. I’ve been an advocate of these opinions of Shelley Gare’s for the last few years. As a 60 year old man, I saw this fashionable vacuity coming a mile off. As a 60 year old man, I initially thought it was just me suffering reduced testosterone levels and the consequent crankiness. It isn’t. My 35 and 30 years old sons see it too.

    It’s frightening. But this “Me Vacant, You entertain ME” effect is how retailers, entertainers, TV stations, magazine owners, advertisers and even Telstra, make a good living.

    Those affected by this malaise seem to suffer from an aversion to thought. Their motto is,” Whatever you do, don’t think”.

    Bilbo

  • Bilbo

    I haven’t yet read this book. I certainly intend to. I’ve been an advocate of these opinions of Shelley Gare’s for the last few years. As a 60 year old man, I saw this fashionable vacuity coming a mile off. As a 60 year old man, I initially thought it was just me suffering reduced testosterone levels and the consequent crankiness. It isn’t. My 35 and 30 years old sons see it too.

    It’s frightening. But this “Me Vacant, You entertain ME” effect is how retailers, entertainers, TV stations, magazine owners, advertisers and even Telstra, make a good living.

    Those affected by this malaise seem to suffer from an aversion to thought. Their motto is,” Whatever you do, don’t think”.

    Bilbo

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