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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Can't Have Democracy Without Knowing The Facts

Implicit in my earlier posts on the tenets of Neoprogressivism, but not discussed yet, is the idea that citizens in a successful democracy must base their decisions on facts, not opinions or "spin." Ideology is great, but too many people ignore any facts that contradict their ideology -- and doing so is not only unwise and intellectually dishonest, it's poor citizenship.

Do you believe that "No Child Left Behind" is a good idea? Then you should want to know whether that program did or did not work in Texas, where it has been tried for about a decade (long enough to start generating results). Do you think the President lied us into the Iraq War? Then you're concerned with knowing what facts were available to the President, when, and to the Senate, when.

Stephen Colbert, on "The Colbert Report," did a great parody of some demagogues' manipulation of our emotions disguised as facts. He promised his viewers:

"There are those who think with their heads and those who know with their hearts... But the gut's where the truth comes from...I know some of you may not trust your gut yet. But with my help you will. The truthiness is that anyone can report the news to you, but I promise to FEEL the news AT you."

Unfortunately, neither our citizens nor our mainstream media are sufficiently focused on identifying and communicating the facts that we, as citizens, as voters, need to make sound decisions. A new survey shows that while things are getting better, there's still a lot of misinformation out there:

-- Forty-one percent (41%) of U.S. adults believe that Saddam Hussein had "strong links to Al Qaeda." (The truth, as determined by the 9/11 commission, is that there were no operational ties between the two. Hussein was a secular dictator who idolized Josef Stalin and often jailed or killed religious zealots; Bin Laden is (was?) a theocrat who detested Saddam and wanted him overthrown so that an Islamic state could be created.)

-- Twenty-two percent (22%) of adults believe that Saddam Hussein "helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11." (Again: simply not true.)

-- Twenty-six percent (26%) of adults believe that Iraq "had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded." (Neither the weapons inspectors who were in place before the war, nor our own troops, found any evidence of actual WMDs, and there is no evidence at all -- no intel, no satellite photos, nothing -- that Saddam smuggled any to Syria, as some conspiracy theorists have theorized.)

-- Twenty-four percent (24%) of all adults believe that "several of the hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11 were Iraqis." (None were. Most were Saudi citizens. Saudi Arabia, which says the Koran is its constitution, still executes women accused of promiscuity, and continues to fund fundamentalist Islamic madrasas around the world, is considered a U.S. ally.)

Of course some politicians will lie about things like this. But what excuses our media's failure to correct those misimpressions, and some of our citizens' refusal to set aside what they believe in order to see what truly is?


Blogger OsakaJack said...

Okay, how about this. 93% of the planet believes in a super being in the universe who created it and administers to it.

There are enough Muslims in the Middle East to dictate Islamic law over a social contract, democracy or a socialist oligarchy. There are monarchies, ruled by Islamic law, and dictatorships, ditto. Except for Turkey and Iraq. And we broke Iraq. Pieces everwhere. Gonna take all afternoon to put back together or I don't dessert.

So, to say that a hefty percentage of the American public basically isn't willing to get the facts or to consider those facts is to deny that it is human nature to simply just do what everybody else is doing. It is this same unwillingness to actually learn for yourself that has enabled the October Revolution and the Red Guard (yes, I am saying that they happened because eloquent firebrands took control knowing most people will be complacent).

Note, I am not saying that Muslims are complacent. I am saying people are complacent. That's what those numbers mean to me.

As a conservative, neoprogressivism looks to me like a tool for using what you know to make an educated political act. Most folks, dunno, I guess I assume they vote for the incumbant or the dude with the easy to understand speech or just looks really good. In fact, a great many people (sorry, no statistics) vote on party lines. They don't know what the candidates stand for or what the initiative is. They don't want to know. Its enough that its Democrat or Republican and that's fine by them. Which I think is absolutely insulting to the democratic process and to the lives of the men and women who fought for that process since the American Revolution on up to this very minute.

1/02/2006 11:23 PM  

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