Saturday, March 27, 2010

Democracy and Ignorance

A Harris Interactive Poll just released is frightening and sobering, which is truly an understatement. The Poll reveals that large portions of the American voting public have little grasp of some pretty unchallenged facts while holding some delusional opinions, to put it mildly.

The Poll asked some hot-wire questions: "... here are some things people have said about President Obama. Please indicate for each whether you believe it is true or false." You can find all the questions and a breakdown of the responses by political affiliation and education here: http://news.harrisinteractive.com/profiles/investor/ResLibraryView.asp?BzID=1963&ResLibraryID=37050&Category=1777

It apparently is pointless to prove how nuts some of these beliefs are since they have been proven false many times over, but since these beliefs are easily disputed, here we go again.

The Obama is a foreigner, Muslim, not legally president stuff which can be shown to be objectively false has been well covered at Snopes.com: http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/citizen.asp and http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/muslim.asp.

The other items in the poll are, more or less, opinions. Is Obama a racist, Wall Street catering socialist(!) who wants to take our guns and who wants the terrorists to win?

Take the craziest of the above ideas: let's say that Obama "wants the terrorists to win" is the craziest idea; why on earth would he want this? What possible motive could a US president have in wanting terrorists to win against his own country?

Could it be that Obama is a Muslim and, of course, all Muslims want the terrorists to win? This is simply another certifiably nutty idea besides being totally untrue in its depiction of Obama as a Muslim. In fact, I would bet that the majority of those who believe that Obama is a Muslim think that being a Muslim means being a member of a race, such as Caucasian, or that it's a nationality, such as Canadian. It is just ignorance, stupidity and arrogance.

Add to this nonsense the impossible to ignore real world escalation of American efforts by the Obama administration in Afghanistan to FIGHT THE TERRORISTS, then it becomes simply undeniable that this opinion is just crazy.

Yet 23% of Republicans believe that Obama wants the terrorists to win! 57% of Republicans, versus 15% of Democrats think Obama is a Muslim! In my humble opinion, it is obviously fine to take issue with many of Obama's policies. However to believe that Barack Obama (or George W Bush before him) wants bad things to happen to the country is idiotic. It is possible that presidential policies can lead to American misery, and they have, but even W did not ruin our country on purpose!

But the cherry on top of American and particularly right-wing insanity is the belief of 24% of Republicans and conservatives that Obama may be the anti-Christ. This indicates a belief that there actually could be an anti-Christ, which is crazy enough, but it also supports a belief that, conveniently, their current political opponent is equivalent to the greatest evil of all time. What could be more evil than the anti-Christ?

I'm sure that this kind of idiocy is not confined to the right wing; many left wingers shared extreme beliefs about President Bush and his administration, including the nonsense that he somehow allowed or planned the 9/11 attacks as opposed to merely being incompetent or ignorant. But it would seem that the left wing nuttiness was truly confined to the extremes. 24% of Republicans believe that Obama is the anti-Christ and 57% think he's a Muslim and 45% think he's not legally the president. This is no fringe movement - if this Harris Poll is accurate (it would be good to review their methodology which was not perfect but may not have affected the results) insanity is now a component of mainstream Republicanism.

Where is this all coming from? What is the cause of the outright rejection of obvious facts or the formulation of ridiculous and illogical conclusions?

Could it be the mainstream and acceptable indoctrination of the average person into believing the planet is about 6,000 years old, that the universe is governed by an invisible man somewhere up in the sky and that death is not the end for us.

Maybe this indoctrination works not only to get us to believe the impossible, but to disbelieve the obvious.
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