Thursday, August 19, 2010

Annals of American Ignorance: Or; The President Prays Every Day, And So Should We All

It's all over the news lately that, according to a new poll conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, nearly one in five Americans is dumber than a rock -- er, I mean, thinks that Barack is a Muslim (not that there's anything wrong with that!) The increase in those who believe that Obama sneaks off to the mosque behind our backs -- seven percent since last spring- is accompanied by a "sharp decline" of 14% in the number of Americans who think Obama is a Christian.

In May 2009, LiveScience reported that one out of five Americans admit that they pee in the swimming pool. The Centers for Disease Control reports that one out of six Americans has genital herpes, one out of five Americans infected with HIV do not know they have it, the American Dental Association reports (gag!!) that one out of five Americans surveyed do not brush their teeth twice a day, and the National Institute of Mental Health reports that more than one in four Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.

So who cares what Americans think about the President's spiritual life? Tend to your own damn gardens, America, that's what I say, and don't forget to wear a rubber when you are playing any version of hide the salami. For a list of the other things characterizing one out of five Americans, go to this article in The Washington Post.

Interestingly, the number of African-American people who think the President is a Muslim has only risen from 6% to 7% in the same period in which whites in both parties, and those registered in neither party, have been successfully brainwashed by paid political operatives and radio talk show hosts. Given that the margin of error for each category was around 4% (and I suspect somewhat higher for African Americans, since their proportion of the survey group was probably the same as their percentage of the population), we can say with some confidence that it seems to be only white people who are obsessed with this question and there may be no black people who believe that Obama is a Muslim.

Odd that the media is not reporting this, isn't it? I guess this is what it means to be post-racial.

Stranger still, given how much talk there has been about the President's religion, in the part of the poll that links job approval to the Christian/Muslim question two out of five Americans, when asked about his religion, said they didn't know what religion the President was. This is truly amazing, since the right answer and the wrong answer are available on every media outlet nearly every day. And finally, when asked a series of questions about the proper role of religion in politics, and specifically on presidential decision-making, two out of five Americans were unaware that religious conservatives or liberals had created formal lobbying organizations to try to influence politicians and policy-making.

While the White House has reassured us that the President is not only Christian, he prays every day, there is very little concern being expressed about how unbelievably ignorant and ill-informed Americans are, and why Americans think being religious -- much less having the "right" religion -- has anything to do with policy-making. Not since the 1960 Presidential campaign, when John F. Kennedy had to repeatedly reassure Americans that he would not appoint the Pope to a cabinet post, has religion and the paranoia that Protestants in America harbor towards religions associated with non-white and immigrant people, been such an accepted part of the political landscape.

And not since the nineteenth century has rumor been such an acceptable substitute for being well-informed for so many people. But that may be because only one in five Americans reads above a twelfth grade level.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.


flask said...

ahhh! ahhh!

this is the second time today i've read something about how many people think the president is muslim!

here are two reasons people might think i'm muslim:

1) i pray five times a day
2) i belong to the same denomination as the obamas

go ahead, you do the math, america.

forty-seven percent of you will get it wrong.

eric said...

great. i now feel that choice to work in 'higher education' is both a good one and also perhaps overshooting the mark by a bit.

grow & resist said...

Great post! Thanks! I am constantly amazed at the mass public's ignorance. Frightening!

Anonymous said...

TR, it would appear from the statistics that you cite here that the authors of Higher Education were not so far off as you indicated in your earlier review, and that Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan may be on the right track. If you don't make teachers accountable, children won't learn, nu?

What would really be interesting would be to see what percentage of teachers (and professors!) read above the twelfth-grade level (present company excepted, of course!)

Jack Daniels Black

ish said...

I find the creepiest part is that the number of people displaying such aggressive ignorance is actually increasing.

Anonymous said...

When liberals are winning (eg, the last presidential election) Americans are geniuses. When liberals are losing, Americans are benighted morons. Hmmm--I guess you liberals are currently losing!

Jack Daniels Black

Anonymous said...

Jack Daniels Black,

I never think liberals are winning. You can draw your own inference...

TheRaven said...

not since the nineteenth century has rumor been such an acceptable substitute for being well-informed for so many people

Indeed. The great paradox of the digital age is that technological breakthroughs have fomented social backwardness. Technology is medium but not root cause. Widespread denialism and outright lunacy are the bitter fruit of three misguided notions, exacerbated by an economic trend. The first two are owned by liberal academics:

1. Political correctness
2. Relativity of truth
3. Personal belief over contrary knowledge
4. Financial peril of mass media

Education level or literacy alone doesn't explain current mass irrationality. The uneducated, credulous or just plain stupid were on a short societal leash until political correctness and relativity of truth conspired to equate belief with knowledge in the public sphere. This gave new life to creationism and other poisonous dogmas.

Political correctness, which David Hackett Fischer so memorably excoriated in the introduction to Paul Revere's Ride, taught denialists like Senator Inhofe to deflect truth with counter-balancing lies. Hence, those who accept the truth of climate change are "elitists".

The relativity of truth was perhaps a brave concept three or four decades ago, when academics rightfully reacted to Nixonian government. However, the higher education industry, like all others, sticks with winning formulas even as they become outmoded. Fischer rebelled against political correctness in 1994, after years of academic prejudice towards balanced historiography.

Formerly respectable media outlets will grant interview time to crackpots, merely to garner a sliver of extra ratings. The so-called news is influenced by the economic clout of advertisers. No one but bloggers dares call the Stupid Movement for what it is because risible fools such as the tea party crowd buy beer, food and autos. The result is an enforced faux equality between baseless opinion and fact. In this environment it shouldn't be terribly surprising that Rupert Murdoch dominates ratings with the American version of Tass. The uneducated, the unread and the organically limited no longer know their place and everyone who invests time in formal education, career development, positive activism or legitimate self-study suffers as a result.

Ironically, the new American divide bears no resemblance the discrimination that prompted political correctness. Now, the dividing line is education, regardless of color, gender, orientation, etc. In America, adults over 25 with higher education attainment are outnumbered by those limited to a high school diploma (or less) by a 3:1 margin. No wonder pollsters can find so many fools.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:51, here's hoping that you never have occasion to change your mind on this! As the most prominent female politician in America once asked, "How's that hopey-changey thing workin' out for ya?"