Friday, November 19, 2010

Sixteen Really Dumb Things People Believe

They come all shapes and sizes. 
And we're talking a lot of people. Millions of people. And there are probably more than sixteen of these "truths" floating around out there, but these sixteen were conveniently aggregated in this Alternet piece. It's been one of my constant themes that Thomas Jefferson was completely correct when he premised the success of democracy on an educated electorate. Of course in his day, he was thinking of the mostly rich, well-born, and able who had the franchise, but that doesn't negate his point. Ignorant people can be led about  by their noses by the unscrupulous. They've got no tools to deal with lies, with misrepresentation of the facts, with contrived schemes to manipulate them. It's done all the time. And in our time it's being done on a colossal scale by the right, especially the talk-radio goons like Limbaugh and the Fox News stooges such as Beck, Hannity, and O'Reilly, hell, the whole Fox News collection of bimbos and brain-dead commentators. It is a constant source of amazement to me how people are just effortlessly gulled into believing the veriest nonsense.

I know you can't wait to know what these dumb things are. I feel pretty sure in saying none of them will surprise, but then again, one or two might. Without further ado, here we go. (links to all the following reports are in the source article)
  1. Twenty percent of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim. 
  2. Twenty-five percent deny Darwin's theory of evolution, and even more striking, less than 40 percent (39) actually believe it. The rest don't have an opinion.
  3. Forty percent of people believe one of Sarah Palin's favorite lies, that "death panels" were included in the health care reform bill.
  4. Just a few years ago, about half of all Americans believed Saddam Hussein was connected with the attacks on the World Trade Center. Not sure how many have made that nonsense part of their unchanging truth.
  5. A majority of under-30 Americans cannot identify Iraq and Afghanistan on a map.
  6. Forty percent of Americans think teachers should be able to lead prayers in school. Despite the fact that church/state separation is one of the chief foundations of the American system of government.
  7. Many Americans believe in witchcraft, ESP, and other para-normal phenomena.
  8. A decade ago, 20 percent of Americans believed the sun revolves around the Earth. (One in five!! It doesn't get much dumber than this. I don't think even Glen Beck believes this.)
  9. Only about half of Americans know that Judaism is the oldest of the monotheistic religions. There are other crazy ideas about religion and church/state separation. See last fall's Pew survey on Americans' religious knowledge.
  10. People believe Obama has raised their taxes. Nope. He's actually lowered them for the vast majority of us.
  11. More Americans could name two of the seven dwarfs than could name two justices of the Supreme Court.
  12. Along the same lines, more Americans can ID the Three Stooges than can name the three branches of government!
  13. Polling data reveals that many Americans actually believe that Obama is a Muslim.
  14. Fully half of the new congressmen don't believe in the reality of global warming. This phenomenon, which hardly lacks scientific data to support it, is in fact a bugaboo for the right, which sees it as a plot by the left and government to increase the size of government and interfere with the benign marketplace.
  15. The efficacy of abstinence-only curriculum in schools to curb teen pregnancy, which has been a disaster.
  16. Obama's trip to the Far East cost $200 million a day, one of the latest flat-out lies that people on the right believe.
I tell you, all of this just makes me depressed, knowing that I cannot do anything about it. The combined efforts of schools, media, and (presumably) those who actually know the facts, have had no impression whatever on this gross ignorance. We're already in a situation in which Jefferson did not believe democracy could survive. We've been in it for quite a while. Now, if you want to call what we live in a democracy, that's OK with me. But put me down as a person who doesn't believe it.
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