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Amen to that: Why Evangelicals Hate Jesus

This article was co-authored by Phil Zuckerman, a professor of sociology at Pitzer College in Claremont, CA and Dan Cady, an assistant professor of history at California State University, Fresno. He publishes on the history of the American West, music, and religion. Since Huffington Post didn’t pay them for this, I hope they won’t mind if I post it here in full, it’s quite a good read and so eloquently put.

What is addressed here should be examined in every church in America:

The results from a recent poll published by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reveal what social scientists have known for a long time: White Evangelical Christians are the group least likely to support politicians or policies that reflect the actual teachings of Jesus. It is perhaps one of the strangest, most dumb-founding ironies in contemporary American culture. Evangelical Christians, who most fiercely proclaim to have a personal relationship with Christ, who most confidently declare their belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, who go to church on a regular basis, pray daily, listen to Christian music, and place God and His Only Begotten Son at the center of their lives, are simultaneously the very people most likely to reject his teachings and despise his radical message.

Jesus unambiguously preached mercy and forgiveness. These are supposed to be cardinal virtues of the Christian faith. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of the death penalty, draconian sentencing, punitive punishment over rehabilitation, and the governmental use of torture. Jesus exhorted humans to be loving, peaceful, and non-violent. And yet Evangelicals are the group of Americans most supportive of easy-access weaponry, little-to-no regulation of handgun and semi-automatic gun ownership, not to mention the violent military invasion of various countries around the world. Jesus was very clear that the pursuit of wealth was inimical to the Kingdom of God, that the rich are to be condemned, and that to be a follower of Him means to give one’s money to the poor. And yet Evangelicals are the most supportive of corporate greed and capitalistic excess, and they are the most opposed to institutional help for the nation’s poor—especially poor children. They hate anything that smacks of “socialism,” even though that is essentially what their Savior preached. They despise food stamp programs, subsidies for schools, hospitals, job training—anything that might dare to help out those in need. Even though helping out those in need was exactly what Jesus urged humans to do. In short, Evangelicals are that segment of America which is the most pro-militaristic, pro-gun, and pro-corporate, while simultaneously claiming to be most ardent lovers of the Prince of Peace.

What’s the deal?

Before attempting an answer, allow a quick clarification. Evangelicals don’t exactly hate Jesus—as we’ve provocatively asserted in the title of this piece. They do love him dearly. But not because of what he tried to teach humanity. Rather, Evangelicals love Jesus for what he does for them. Through his magical grace, and by shedding his precious blood, Jesus saves Evangelicals from everlasting torture in hell, and guarantees them a premium, luxury villa in heaven. For this, and this only, they love him. They can’t stop thanking him. And yet, as for Jesus himself—his core values of peace, his core teachings of social justice, his core commandments of goodwill—most Evangelicals seem to have nothing but disdain.

And this is nothing new. At the end of World War I, the more rabid, and often less educated Evangelicals decried the influence of the Social Gospel amongst liberal churches. According to these self-proclaimed torch-bearers of a religion born in the Middle East, progressive church-goers had been infected by foreign ideas such as German Rationalism, Soviet-style Communism, and, of course, atheistic Darwinism. In the 1950s, the anti-Social Gospel message piggybacked the rhetoric of anti-communism, which slashed and burned its way through the Old South and onward through the Sunbelt, turning liberal churches into vacant lots along the way. It was here that the spirit and the body collided, leaving us with a prototypical Christian nationalist, hell-bent on prosperity. Charity was thus rebranded as collectivism and self-denial gave way to the gospel of accumulation. Church-to-church, sermon-to-sermon, evangelical preachers grew less comfortable with the fish and loaves Jesus who lived on earth, and more committed to the angry Jesus of the future. By the 1990s, this divine Terminator gained “most-favored Jesus status” among America’s mega churches; and with that, even the mention of the former “social justice” Messiah drove the socially conscious from their larger, meaner flock.

In addition to such historical developments, there may very well simply be an underlying, all-too-human social-psychological process at root, one that probably plays itself out among all religious individuals: they see in their religion what they want to see, and deny or despise the rest. That is, religion is one big Rorschach test. People look at the content of their religious tradition—its teachings, its creeds, its prophet’s proclamations—and they basically pick and choose what suits their own secular outlook. They see in their faith what they want to see as they live their daily lives, and simultaneously ignore the rest. And as is the case for most White Evangelical Christians, what they are ignoring is actually the very heart and soul of Jesus’s message—a message that emphasizes sharing, not greed. Peace-making, not war-mongering. Love, not violence.

Of course, conservative Americans have every right to support corporate greed, militarism, gun possession, and the death penalty, and to oppose welfare, food stamps, health care for those in need, etc.—it is just strange and contradictory when they claim these positions as somehow “Christian.” They aren’t.


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Gov. Walker job approval poll

No comment.

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Theater of Hate: How YOU can contact California’s anti-Muslim politicians

By now, we’ve all probably seen the video of the anti-Muslim hate rally in Orange County, CA. These REPUBLICAN idiots should be ashamed of themselves, but chances are of course, that they feel completely self-satisfied about their actions. Why allow them this pleasure?

Each of these REPUBLICAN politicians who spoke at the anti-Muslim hate rally should resign, effective immediately, so as not to bring any more shame on the great state of California. Why not exercise YOUR right of free speech and let these folks know exactly how you feel about their disgusting behavior? Last time I checked, this was still America and these folks DESERVE SOME FREE SPEECH, don’t ya think?
You can reach REPUBLICAN Congressman Ed Royce here (I just called both offices, it was fun!)

1110 E. Chapman Ave, Suite 207
Orange, CA 92866
T (714) 744-4130 F (714) 744-4056

2185 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
T (202) 225-4111 F (202) 226-03
Villa Park Councilwoman Deborah Pauly, also a REPUBLICAN, said this at the hate rally: “I know quite a few marines who would be happy to help these terrorists to an early meeting in paradise.” Was she implying that our marines should be put in service of killing the people who were attending the charity event???

Vile Teabagger Deborah Pauly can be reached here:

Here is her Twitter account:

Email address:
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Facebook profile:

How I wish I had a phone number for her, but so far, no luck… Deborah Pauly is also the first pol in the OC to call for CA following Arizona’s plans for illegal immigrants!

You can contact her fellow members of the Villa Park city council here. Why not cc them on anything you send? Can’t hurt!
Ethically-challenged wingnut asshat REPUBLICAN Representative Gary Miller has three offices, two in CA and one in Washington, DC.

Send your love to Rep. Miller at one (or all three) of the following addresses:

2349 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Phone: 202-225-3201
Fax: 202-226-6962

1800 E. Lambert Road
Suite 150
Brea, CA 92821

Phone: 714-257-1142
Fax: 714-257-9242

200 Civic Center
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

Phone: 949-470-8484

Go get ‘em. They NEED to hear from you!
Also among the non-elected protesters were Rabbi Dov Fischer of Young Israel of Orange County, Irvine Jewish activist Dee Sterling and Chapman University adjunct professor of law Karen Lugo. It was Karen Lugo (a pal of Michele Bachmann) who said “This is not about hate [...] We are not hatemongers. The word ‘Islamophobia’ is an effort to chill us. The Constitution was never meant to allow a tyranny of a minority.”

She’s a freakin’ LAW PROFESSOR and she makes a statement like that in this context! Lugo must have a severe irony deficiency, eh? (Or else she’s just a flaming idiot). Best of all? Lugo is a member on the California Advisory Committee to the US Civil Rights Commission!!!

Unfortunately, here’s that vile video again if you want to psych yourself up for the task:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Video of disgusting anti-Muslim Teabagger rally

Via the heroic and always on-the-money Glenn Greenwald comes this nauseating video of a truly hateful mob of so-called Christians and Teabaggers as well as various Republican government officials staging an anti-Islam demonstration outside of a harmless Muslim charity fundraising event in Yorba Linda, California last month. It breaks my heart to see such virulent hatred and ignorance and fear of the “other” in this day and age. Greenwald says it best:

I think what was most striking about that video is that the presence of small children didn’t give these anti-Muslim protesters even momentary pause; they just continued screeching their ugly invective while staring at 4-year-olds walking with their parents.  People like that are so overflowing with hatred and resentments that the place where their humanity—their soul—is supposed to be has been drowned.


Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment
Why Dummies Want to Forget the Tea Party Ancestry

LOVE IT. This is from a series called “Mock the Dummy.” I just discovered them today, but plan to dig in for more.

Dummies should be mocked. Name ‘em, and shame ‘em.

Yikes! Using “real” dummies really makes the stupidity of the real-life Tea party dummies seem quite sinister, if you ask me. Remember those creepy ads for Magic?

Via Blog to Comm

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Call goes out on rightwing website for armed demonstrators to intimidate pro-labor rally in Atlanta

Jay Bookman at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted about right-wing website Free Republic, where a call has gone for members of the RTC (“Right to Carry” firearms) group to uh, “counterbalance” the pro-union demonstrators at a solidarity rally in Atlanta today:

Members of the various Tea Party, 9/12, and other freedom-oriented folks in the Atlanta area will be assembling in the vicinity of Georgia State Capitol this coming Wednesday afternoon at 4 pm. We’ll be providing balance to the ravings of the passengers aboard the SEIU Thugbus, which is scheduled to vomit forth its stooges at that same place and time.

If you are within three hours drive of ATL, come join us.

Dan and others from RTC will be there, with the usual accoutrements. As always, each participant is responsible for compliance with all applicable local laws.

Rally point will be the corner of Trinity and Washington Streets in front of the Trinity United Methodist Church. Guide on the Gadsden flags. Rendezvous time no later than 3:45 pm local.

There appears to be some regulations re armed protests on the Washington Street side of the Capitol, so attendees are requested to be flexible in your attire. We will attempt (but no promises) to get some additional clarity regarding the situation and post it here prior to the show.

Take a stand. Join us in Atlanta on Wednesday.

Oh great, rednecks with guns… This rally takes place in about a half hour. Stay tuned.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Gov. Scott Walker punk’d, shows his true colors

There is still a bit of a question lingering in some minds as to whether or not this is real, but to my mind, it absolutely has the ring of truth. If that’s not Gov. Scott Walker, it’s an acting genius portraying him. Sadly, this seems too real. The implications of this are staggering if it’s true!

And if it is true, then where do you go after something like this? I can think of a couple of solutions. A statewide recall election, where Walker is crushed and left on the scrapheap of history, becoming in the process, the dictionary definition of “traitor to humanity” or “cunt” for a generation; or perhaps Scott Walker’s head on a fucking pole? (Would Fox News broadcast that or pretend it didn’t happen?) How can this man feel good about what he’s doing? Listen in, you’ll want to puke by the end of this.


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Be on the lookout for Tea party creep Mark Williams at pro-union protests

Former Tea Party Express chairman Mark Williams, the low IQ buffoon who wrote the racist “letter to Abe Lincoln” from “the coloreds” has a, um, brand new bag…

Via our friend Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

Well, Williams has a new idea. Now he’s going to infiltrate pro-union protests pretending to be a supporter, then try to get in front of cameras and make outrageous statements to discredit the demonstrators. And with that toxic mix of vitriol, low cunning, and pure stupidity for which he’s infamous, he posted his plans on his website and invited others to do the same thing: FIGHT THE SEIU WITH TACTIC THEY USE AGAINST US – THIS WEEK! | Mark Williams News & Commentary.

That link will take you to an SEIU page where you can sign up as an “organizer” for one of their upcoming major rallies to support the union goons in Wisconsin.

Here is what I am doing in Sacramento, where they are holding a 5:30 PM event this coming Tuesday:  (1) I signed up as an organizer (2) with any luck they will contact me and I will have an “in”  (3) in or not I will be there and am asking as many other people as can get there to come with, all of us in SEIU shirts (those who don’t have them we can possibly buy some from vendors likely to be there)  (4) we are going to target the many TV cameras and reporters looking for comments from the members there (5) we will approach the cameras to make good pictures… signs under our shirts that say things like “screw the taxpayer!”  and “you OWE me!” to be pulled out for the camera (timing is important because the signs will be taken away from us) (6) we will echo those slogans in angry sounding tones to the cameras and the reporters.  (7) if I do get the ‘in’ I am going to do my darnedest to get podium access and take the mic to do that rant from there…with any luck and if I can manage the moments to build up to it, I can probably get a cheer out of the crowd for something extreme.

WARNING: When around these union events do NOT instigate ANY physical confrontation, walk away from anyone who tries to start one with you. These people WILL have a mob mentality and ARE dangerous …

Several Tea Party chapters around the country are planning to join with me, if you are a member of one in your area please contact them for details.  If they are not participating get them to!

*****UPDATE:  IOWA, COLORADO, MASSACHUSETTS AND SEVERAL OTHER STATES HAVE CHECKED IN…. Tea Party Patriot groups and individuals are flooding me with emails vowing to participate and come up with their own creative ruses!   Several have also reminded me that we have a distinct advantage in that the SEIU primarily represents non-English speaking illegal aliens so we will be the ones whose comments will make air!!!!*****

******Help me keep this going!  I need to travel beyond Sacramento to the other SEIU rally cities and then Madison, and in short order!  Please contribute!!!  Click here for secure link*****

Chances are that because I am publishing this they’ll catch wind, but it is worth the chance if you take it upon yourself to act…there’s only one of me but there are millions of you and I know that you CAN do this!

Our goal is to make the gathering look as greedy and goonish as we know that it is, ding their credibility with the media and exploit the lazy reporters who just want dramatic shots and outrageous quotes for headlines.  Even if it becomes known that we are plants the quotes and pictures will linger as defacto truth.

What a sleazy creep.

How idiotic to announce you’re going to do something like this! Who is this guy Jethro Bodine??? I would imagine that if anyone recognizes him—see pic above, btw—he’s gonna get a severe beat-down. Some people, well, that’s all they understand, isn’t it?

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My Mea Culpa on Glenn Beck: Immanentize the Eschaton!

When you’re wrong, you’re wrong and it’s always best to face up to the facts and just admit it. Here goes: I was wrong, very wrong… I was OH SO WRONG about Glenn Beck in my post yesterday. I said that Beck was getting boring. Running out of steam. That his rants were getting repetitive.

In a word: HAH!

Oh, man, I really blew it, didn’t I? Turns out that there was merely a brief lull in the monkeyshines. Beck was just tuning up the orchestra before unleashing the grandest, most fucked-up (not to mention “supernatural”) conspiracy theory that he’s yet come up with in that fetid, rancid, over-heated little brain of his.

Last night’s broadcast, well, Glenn Beck made a fool of me.

Watch in disbelief as Beck uses information gleaned from a new crackpot Christian prophecy book called The Islamic Antichrist. Embraced by the batshit crazy WorldNet Daily crowd (natch), The Islamic Antichrist posits the theory that the Mahdi, the end-times Islamic redeemer/Messiah who Muslims believe will come to Earth to rid it of evildoers, the tyranny of kings and despots and, of course, the infidels, is in fact, the same fellow Christians call the Antichrist. (Their good guy = our bad guy. Makes sense so far, right? Except that the Koran says the Mahdi works WITH Jesus, keep that in mind and there is already a direct Muslim equivalent to the Antichrist known as Masih ad-Dajjal, “the deceiving Messiah,” although this character doesn’t actually appear in the Koran itself).

Within Islam, the Mahdi is often conflated or considered to be synonymous, with the 12th Imam (see Twelvers), who is prophesied to set up a worldwide Caliphate. The Islamic Antichrist, written by a guy calling himself “Joel Richardson” (apparently a pseudonym to protect him from seeing a fatwa put on his head—DO watch this video for more on this ass-clown) does appear to have some valid points (the Christian eschaton and the Islamic end-times stuff do have many parallels), but Beck being Beck, he takes what are in fact, “facts” about supernatural holy books from over a thousand years ago (interpreted by a fanatical modern day believer, of course) and then turns around and PARADES THESE “FACTS” ABOUT SUPERNATURAL PROPHECIES AS “CURRENT EVENTS ANALYSIS” ON WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE A “NEWS” NETWORK and not the fucking 700 Club. It would really be stretching it to call a book like The Islamic Antichrist, “non-fiction,” if you take my point, so what value would a “fact” about fiction (or a religious holy book, both are the same to me) have? It’s an empty calorie for most people. For Glenn Beck, it’s a motif whistled by his good old prophetic buddy Joel that he can turn into a conspiracy theory symphony of small-minded (albeit brilliant) religious bigotry that is positively Wagnerian—by way of Jack Van Impe—in its scope.

Fuck me… he’s good! It was a new, fresh low for Fox News, but a triumph, a tour de force, for Glenn Beck, personally.

Incorporating Biblical (and now Koranic!) “prophecy” into a wild-eyed, bughouse crazy conspiracy theory is EXACTLY the trick Beck needed to really draw the faithful back into his drama and shore up his ratings in the middle of a big dip. My hat is off to him: Glenn Beck, you are a MAESTRO of weaving together paranoia, bigotry, misrepresentation of history and wacko religious beliefs, and although the sight of you turns my stomach, I will say this: You are a genius showman. A genius. Your schtick is fucked up, corrosive to American civic life (or what’s left of it because of people like you) and I hope you’ll be raptured soon (on camera, if you can swing it). Still, as a person raised in a family of West Virginia born-agains who all vote Republican (and don’t even know why), I now have a grudging respect for your immense talents.

You’re an artist. No, an artiste! But you are no political scientist, Glenn. On that count you’re not much better than a tinfoil hat-wearing Ham radio conspiracy theorist living alone in a trailer somewhere in the Nevada desert with a cache of automatic weapons, saving his pee-pee in mason jars, but boy oh boy are you a master at coming up with plot-lines that Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsay and Jack T. Chick would envy and turning it all into a personal fortune on prime time America tee-vee!  When it comes to taking crazy, fucked-up religulous bullshit and making it sound plausible for an audience of low IQ dolts who should be asked to take a test in critical thinking skills before they vote (or are issued a driver’s license), you are DA MAN!

The thing the kept going through my mind, though, as I watched this (other than wondering what Kirk Cameron thought of it all) is that Beck really seems to be setting himself up to become the next Salman Rushdie by explicitly welding Islamaphobia with Christian Eschatology in an insecure time. Who knows, maybe that would be appealing to his pathologies and his oft-admitted martyr complex?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Facts? We don’t need your stinking facts! Why right-wing Americans are so stubbornly ignorant

There’s a transcript of a speech that Bill Moyers gave in January to History Makers, an organization of broadcasters and producers who make factual programs, posted at Alternet. It’s a very interesting talk, but ultimately depressing. He cites an July 2010 article from the Boston Globe that sets the tone for his remarks and I’d imagine that most of the people listening to what the saintly Texan had to say that day had the same thought “Wow, that sucks.” It’s certainly what went through my mind as I read it. Quoting Moyers:

As Joe Keohane reported last year in The Boston Globe, political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency “deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information.” He was reporting on research at the University of Michigan, which found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in new stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts were not curing misinformation. “Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.”

I won’t spoil it for you by a lengthy summary here. Suffice it to say that, while “most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence,” the research found that actually “we often base our opinions on our beliefs ... and rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions.”

These studies help to explain why America seems more and more unable to deal with reality. So many people inhabit a closed belief system on whose door they have hung the “Do Not Disturb” sign, that they pick and choose only those facts that will serve as building blocks for walling them off from uncomfortable truths. Any journalist whose reporting threatens that belief system gets sliced and diced by its apologists and polemicists (say, the fabulists at Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the yahoos of talk radio.) Remember when Limbaugh, for one, took journalists on for their reporting about torture at Abu Ghraib? He attempted to dismiss the cruelty inflicted on their captives by American soldiers as a little necessary “sport” for soldiers under stress, saying on air: “This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation ... you [ever] heard of need to blow some steam off?” As so often happens, the Limbaugh line became a drumbeat in the nether reaches of the right-wing echo chamber. So, it was not surprising that in a nationwide survey conducted by The Chicago Tribune on First Amendment issues, half of the respondents said there should be some kind of press restraint on reporting about the prison abuse. According to Charles Madigan, the editor of the Tribune’s Perspective section, 50 or 60 percent of the respondents said they “would embrace government controls of some kind on free speech, particularly when it has sexual content or is heard as unpatriotic.”

No wonder many people still believe Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, as his birth certificate shows; or that he is a Muslim, when in fact he is a Christian; or that he is a socialist when day by day he shows an eager solicitude for corporate capitalism. Partisans in particular - and the audiences for Murdoch’s Fox News and talk radio - are particularly susceptible to such scurrilous disinformation. In a Harris survey last spring, 67 percent of Republicans said Obama is a socialist; 57 percent believed him to be a Muslim; 45 percent refused to believe he was born in America; and 24 percent said he “may be the antichrist.”

What’s even worse is that the most misinformed people (the most gullible, the most fanatical, perhaps) are the ones who vote the most reliably. The Creationists. The people making $40,000 a year who support tax cuts for billionaires to the detriment of their own lives and their kids’ schools. People with no healthcare who protest against it at Tea-party rallies. An entire voting bloc of people who do not believe in what others would deem objective reality. THAT, dear readers, is at base, what we are dealing with in America today and it’s a problem that’s here to stay. You might say it’s the red, white and blue brontosaurus in the room that no one wants to talk about: The willful ignorance of America’s right.

The Boston Globe article that Bill Moyers cites, Joe Keohane’s “How facts backfire: Researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy: our brains” is an absolute must-read. I’m surprised that there wasn’t a bigger fuss made of this information by the liberal media when it was published last year.  Here’s a link to the entire article, and some highlights:

This bodes ill for a democracy, because most voters — the people making decisions about how the country runs — aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

“The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong,” says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon — known as “backfire” — is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

These findings open a long-running argument about the political ignorance of American citizens to broader questions about the interplay between the nature of human intelligence and our democratic ideals. Most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas, and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence. In reality, we often base our opinions on our beliefs, which can have an uneasy relationship with facts. And rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions. Worst of all, they can lead us to uncritically accept bad information just because it reinforces our beliefs. This reinforcement makes us more confident we’re right, and even less likely to listen to any new information. And then we vote.

Yup. And then we vote. Yikes!

Here’s another passage from the article that will wipe that smirk off your Blue State face:

“Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be,” read a recent Onion headline. Like the best satire, this nasty little gem elicits a laugh, which is then promptly muffled by the queasy feeling of recognition. The last five decades of political science have definitively established that most modern-day Americans lack even a basic understanding of how their country works. In 1996, Princeton University’s Larry M. Bartels argued, “the political ignorance of the American voter is one of the best documented data in political science.”

On its own, this might not be a problem: People ignorant of the facts could simply choose not to vote. But instead, it appears that misinformed people often have some of the strongest political opinions. A striking recent example was a study done in the year 2000, led by James Kuklinski of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He led an influential experiment in which more than 1,000 Illinois residents were asked questions about welfare — the percentage of the federal budget spent on welfare, the number of people enrolled in the program, the percentage of enrollees who are black, and the average payout. More than half indicated that they were confident that their answers were correct — but in fact only 3 percent of the people got more than half of the questions right. Perhaps more disturbingly, the ones who were the most confident they were right were by and large the ones who knew the least about the topic. (Most of these participants expressed views that suggested a strong antiwelfare bias.)

Studies by other researchers have observed similar phenomena when addressing education, health care reform, immigration, affirmative action, gun control, and other issues that tend to attract strong partisan opinion. Kuklinski calls this sort of response the “I know I’m right” syndrome, and considers it a “potentially formidable problem” in a democratic system. “It implies not only that most people will resist correcting their factual beliefs,” he wrote, “but also that the very people who most need to correct them will be least likely to do so.”

The persistence of these political misperceptions is perplexing, but can be summed up as “Americans, but lets get real for a second, especially those who have a tendency towards “conservative” opinions, will only listen to you if you are saying something that sounds like something they already believe.” (No, I don’t think that all progressives are open-minded, but xenophobia, homophobia, Islamaphobia, racism, being anti-science and a general “fear of the other,” are not exactly hallmarks of the “liberal” personality the way they tend to be on the right. You’d have to be Andrew Brietbart to “believe” otherwise).

What’s worse is that when someone is feeling threatened or is economically insecure, the mind closes down even more. That’s how demagoguery works. It might explain why some dumb old white people think Glenn Beck is so wonderful. It might also explain his success as a pitchman for gold coins during his program. The more threatened someone feels, the easier they fall in line, and the less likely they are to dissent from the party line when it comes to “taking back the country” from a socialist Kenyan. Fear and gullibility go hand in hand, as we see daily.

But these are the dummies, we’re talking about, right? The ignorant people. Not so fast, smartass, because researchers at Stony Brook University found that the people who were the most politically sophisticated thinkers were even less open to “new” (which is to say a fact) information that challenged their belief systems, than the statistically ignorant! Quoting again from Joe Keohane’s article: “These people may be factually right about 90 percent of things, but their confidence makes it nearly impossible to correct the 10 percent on which they’re totally wrong. Taber and Lodge found this alarming, because engaged, sophisticated thinkers are “the very folks on whom democratic theory relies most heavily.”

How facts backfire: Researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy: our brains (Boston Globe)
Thank you Steven Otero!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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