Friday, May 2, 2008

"Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government" - and if they are not?

"Delusion Dwellers" by Laurie Lipton
Popular Delusions

Reading the February/March 2008 edition Scientific American Mind, I ran into a rather illuminating piece, called "Popular Delusions," on the prevalence of misconceptions the American masses seem bound to behold.

If we are to ever evolve past this limited and disadvantageous plateau of human understanding, identifying the source is the first step. Once identified, we are considerably more likely to move out of the dank tunnels of ignorance and into a place where we see ourselves as we actually are.

"According to polls conducted in 2003 and 2007, Americans held several misperceptions about the war in Iraq. For example:
  • In March 2003, only 35 percent of Americans correctly perceived that most people in the world at large were opposed to the decision to go to war with Iraq.
  • In May 2003, 22 percent of Americans said that Iraq had actually used chemical or biological weapons against U.S. troops.
  • In September 2003, 24 percent of Americans believed that the U.S. has found evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
  • In 2007, 33 percent of Americans still believed Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks."1
Although these are all unnerving, I would have to say the last one is the worst. Can you really believe that just last year, fours years since the invasion, a third of America still believed Saddam had a hand in 9/11 - even though the only evidence given to public has been the statements by Bush, Rumsfeld, Powell and Cheney which have all been falsified?

If you still would like to refute this, read the following quote and then click here: "On April 29, 2007, former Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said on 60 Minutes, 'We could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al-Qaeda for 9/11 or any operational act against America, period.'"2

The Source of our Delusions

The most illustrative and flabbergasting part of this Scientific American Mind article is that "Among those who used Fox News as their primary news source, 80 percent held one such erroneous view." In comparison," 55 percent of CNN watchers, 47 percent of print newshounds and only 23 percent of the PBS-NPR audience believed in at least one such myth."

I think the facts are indisputable here and suggest that unless one genuinely diversifies their news intake, especially with at least one publicly-funded body, they may find that up to 80% of what they believe on a specific issue is total farce.

Is Ignorance Bliss?

It makes one wonder how many people who have been doped by these misperceptions are going to vote in the upcoming election and what that means for the quality of life in America.

For, let us not forget the infamous words of Thomas Jefferson: "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,"3 and if they are not?

We are likely to end up in more and ever-worse debacles than the Iraq War - Iraq may in fact be just a piece of the result of a generally ignorant American people and politicos.

1 "Popular Delusions."February/March 2008. Scientific American Mind.
2 Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda
3 Thomas Jefferson Quotes

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