Thursday, August 19, 2010
The Masses are Asses (Again): 24 Percent of Americans Believe that President Obama is a "Secret Muslim"
Once more, are the masses asses?
Despite what the Tea-Party Palin proud to be ignorant crowd would like to have you believe, this question isn't born of high foreheaded, look down the nose snobbery at "those people."
No, it is a simple acknowledgment that the American public--while smart at times in the aggregate--hold none too few absurd beliefs in private. Thus, the "news" that 24 percent of Americans believe that Obama is a "Muslim" should be taken in stride. Sure, the stakes are a bit higher than how many Americans believe that Elvis is still alive (7 percent by the way). And yes, it is true that the "Obama is a secret Muslim meme" does speak to the power of a very basic idea in the White American psyche that black folk, even in the 21st century, are somehow not "real" or "regular" Americans.
But for my two cents, the idea that Obama is a Muslim (as though that is a crime) is not half as disturbing as the data suggesting that a substantial percentage of Americans still believe that the failed war in Iraq was linked to 9/11 and Osama bin Laden. Ultimately, in the twenty-four news cycle, and the bloviating chorus of the Right-wing noise machine we see two publics. The first: the devotees of Fox, Limbaugh, Beck, et al. who live in their own echo chamber of mutually sustaining talking points and epistemic closure, a framing of the world that is increasingly immune to fact, correction, or intervention. The second: the rest of us who live in the reality based community. The struggle going forward is how to talk to one another about making America a better place, when the basic terms of the conversation seem impossible to agree on.
For some context, here are some other "strange" beliefs held by the American public:
41 percent believe in extra-sensory perception;
25 percent believe in astrology;
41 percent believe that Jesus will return by 2050;
48 percent believe in creationism;
6 percent believe that the moon landings did not take place.
In the immortal words of Forrest Gump, "stupid is as stupid does," and it seems that in the age of the New Right our political environment is more and more coloured by a toxic and contagious fog of willful stupidity.