follow us in feedly
Facts? We don’t need your stinking facts! Why right-wing Americans are so stubbornly ignorant

image
 
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
Gotta revolution
02.11.2011
05:11 am

Topics:
Current Events
Politics
Science/Tech

Tags:

image
 
Gotta revolution if you want it. Click here and watch the future unfold in real time on your computer. The concept that we’re all in this together has never been truer or more immediate. Governments, Egypt’s and our own, are playing catch up. Information is power and it makes us all equal.

Blogs not bombs!

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Republican Senator Pat Toomey explains his conservative political philosophy to simpletons

image
Above, Pat Toomey says it’s not the size…
 
Senator Pat Toomey, that rotten shit who is the new Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, tells the CPAC attendees his political philosophy in a form that they can all understand, that of a simple children’s story. Amazing. How does a scoundrel like this get elected to the Senate in a state so full of poor and working class people??? The man clearly hates the poor, they’re just “useless eaters” to him and his GOP buddies. Toomey even puts Rick Santorum in perspective! The sight of Toomey turns my stomach. He’s anti-gay, anti-poor, anti-healthcare reform, pro-gun, says global warming is nonsense, was against the Bush expansion of Medicare prescription benefits when he was a congressman and thinks that the economic meltdown should have been allowed to continue to the bitter end! (Oddly, Toomey supported DADT repeal. Go figure).

If teabagger Toomey—who should immediately stop dying his hair—had his druthers he would deregulate Wall Street and put a doctor who performs a legal abortion in prison, but when it comes to politics, he’s all for baby-talking to his base of buffoons. CPAC is going to be quite a show this year. These fucks are just tuning up the orchestra before unleashing a full-on symphony of hate. Non-haters need not apply to speak at CPAC. Her reasons are her reasons, but I have to say that Sarah Palin looks especially canny by avoiding this cavalcade of asshats.

Bonus: If you really want to make yourself retch, check out the video of Newt Gingrich’s CPAC entrance to the sounds of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” What a tacky little man. You have to appreciate the brain-dead embrace of this guy by Christian conservatives. Newt Gingrich, a man who left his wife while she was battling cancer for a much hotter, younger woman, treated like a rock star by these people and not a moral pariah, which would be appropriate (the way John Edwards was shunned by Democrats). Extraordinary stuff.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape
02.09.2011
08:36 am

Topics:
History
Hysteria
Media
Movies
Politics
Pop Culture

Tags:

image
 
In 1984 the British government drew up a list of 72 films which it deemed so reprehensible that they should be banned. Anyone found in possession of a copy, or actively distributing one of the films, could face a prison sentence. This was in the very early days of video, when distribution of movies on VHS was unregulated, and the new medium could be found in almost every small local corner shop. This is the story covered by the fantastic documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape by British horror director Jake West, which was released late last year in the UK.

More than just a look at the films that were banned by the UK Government in 1984, it’s an examination of the political climate of the era, and the moral panic whipped up by national newspapers, busy looking for an easy scapegoat for society’s problems (and probably a bit worried that their own medium was under threat). The most fascinating part, for me, are the interviews with the dubious, so-called “moral leaders” that decided the public couldn’t handle this type of thing in the first place. A quarter of a century later and society has relegated them to a status of mockery, yet they still cling dearly to the notion that they were doing something right and protecting stupid people from themselves, not just furthering their own mealy-mouthed careers. Sociopathic politicians aren’t just a new phenomena, you know.
 

image

 
Interestingly, one of the prime movers in the the banning of these films was a man called Peter Kruger, who was the head of Scotland Yard’s Obscene Publications Unit. It may be just one huge coincidence, but almost a year later saw the release of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street, and the unleashing of one of the greatest horror characters of all time, Freddy Krueger. Was this Craven’s own F.U. to the British board of censors? Perhaps not, but it doesn’t take a wild leap of the imagination to draw this conclusion - Craven is a smart, politically aware man whose own Last House On The Left ended up on the list of 72 banned films.

The three-disc DVD set, called Video Nasties - the Definitive Guide, comes with the documentary itself, and split over a further two discs a guide to all 72 films on the list (almost half of which were unbanned at the time) with commentary from British horror critics like Kim Newman, Alan Jones and Stephen Thrower. It also comes lovingly packaged in a fake video cassette box with artwork by Graham Humphreys, who created the now iconic British sleeve for The Evil Dead (another banned film on the list). So far only available in the UK, for anyone with a multi-region DVD player the film can be found on Amazon.co.uk and comes highly recommended. This documentary is not just for horror buffs, it is for anyone with an interest in politics, culture, and how liberal ideals can be thwarted by a select, self-interested few.
 

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Sarah Palin Battle Hymn Redux
02.07.2011
04:45 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Politics

Tags:

image
 
Is it creepier? Yes. Is it more disturbing? Yes. Was this necessary? Yes.

Giant Mustache explains, “This is NOT a remix of the God-awful Sarah Palin song. This is something altogether different and disturbing and wonderful. Transformative…”

Enjoy.

 
(via BB Submitterator)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Egyptian sound & visual artist Ahmed Basiony dies in Cairo during revolution
02.06.2011
01:06 pm

Topics:
Art
Music
Politics
R.I.P.

Tags:

image
 
Cairo artist and electronic musician Ahmed Basiony died at age 32 on January 28, the fourth day of major anti-government demonstrations in his home city.

Basiony’s rather remarkable music is being played continuously on 100radiostation, an arm of Egyptian experimentalist Mahmoud Refat’s now-offline 100copies organization, which organizes the annual 100live electronic music festival in Cairo.

Here he is performing at the 100live festival in 2010:
 

 
Basiony leaves behind a wife and son. Let’s hope this revolution is worth all the lives and creative talent lost. Peace, justice, power and freedom to the people of Egypt.
 
Hat-tip Marc Weidenbaum at disquiet.

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
Tariq Ramadan and Slavoj Zizek on the future of Egyptian politics
02.05.2011
09:54 pm

Topics:
Current Events
Politics

Tags:

image
 
Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, “the Elvis of cultural theory,” discuss the revolution in Egypt with insight, wisdom, humor and clarity. What a refreshing alternative to the blowhards on American television.

I love Zizek’s “Tom and Jerry” analogy (though I think he means Wile E. Coyote). At the point President Hosni Mubarak looks down he will see there is no ground beneath his feet and he’s in free fall. But he keeps staring straight ahead.

 
Via Timothy Buckwalter.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Aerosol resistance in bloody Cairo: ‘The people want the regime to end’
02.02.2011
06:25 pm

Topics:
Art
Current Events
History
Politics

Tags:

image
 
Cairo-based British journalist Sara Carr continues to bring some fantastic street-level photojournalism from her adopted home city, including some shots of the spray-paint agitprop going on in the capitol.

Carr and some others have just assembled a Cairo offshoot from the Occupied London site, reporting on the ground, and along with Democracy Now, it’s proven a great item to add to your Egyptian Revolution RSS. They’ve already posted twice on today’s ruthless and unsurprising pro-Mubarak raid on Tahrir Square.
 
image
“No to Mubarak, no to Nazif, no to Sorour”
(Refers to Ahmed Nazif, Prime Minister for past 7 years until yesterday, and Ahmad Fathi Sorour, speaker of the People’s Assembly since 1991 and first in the official line of succession as President after Mubarak)

 
image
“Down with the regime” with inverted “Eagle of Saladin” coat of arms from the Egyptian flag.
 
image
Stencil of Mubarak; underneath, the Arabic word “Irhal”, meaning “Leave”.

 

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment
John Peel interviews Mick Farren about the underground press
02.01.2011
02:20 pm

Topics:
Heroes
History
Media
Politics

Tags:

image
 
Fantastic! Vintage interview with Dangerous Minds pal Mick Farren (seen here with ex-wife Joy) conducted by John Peel!

Here the legendary Mr. Farren discusses how “the authorities” would pressure printers not to deal with the International Times or the underground press as a means of suppressing it. Towards the end, he sketches out how an underground economy would work. What a thrill to see this. Imagine if rock stars today were this smart!

When Mick gets back to me about this interview (not mentioned in his autobiography Give the Anarchist a Cigarette) I will update this post.
 

 
Via Blog to Comm

More Mick Farren on Dangerous Minds

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
An evening of glamor with Sharron Angle?
01.31.2011
11:30 pm

Topics:
Fashion
Kooks
Politics

Tags:

image
 
Stay pretty after a hard day of racist tea-bagging!

Of all the prominent woman I can think of to give celebrity beauty tips, I must admit that lemon-faced Republican church lady Sharron Angle, recently defeated in the Nevada Senate race because she’s fucking nuts would not be one of them. Nevertheless, on Janurary 21, Angle was the special guest of SeneGence International at a beauty seminar they held in Las Vega:

Sharron will be sharing her beauty and makeup challenges during the campaign and how she overcame them! She had confidence that she would look great with 14 -16 hour days & with numerous appearances daily… so can you!

Please be our guest… you will be glad you did!

* Girlfriend time
* Chat with Sharron
* Learn some new make-up tips & techniques
* Find out about an amazing revolutionary skin care line (guaranteed to take 55% of your fine lines and wrinkles away in 8 weeks!) NO kidding
* Free gift for all who attend

Sounds fun, right? I think so too! See you there!

!!!

Via Joe.My.God.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Page 110 of 144 ‹ First  < 108 109 110 111 112 >  Last ›