Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Willful ignorance and mind control

“Having shed much of his dignity, core convictions, and reputation for straight talk, Senator John McCain won his primary on Tuesday against the flat-earth wing of his party. Now McCain can go search for his lost character…” (1) His character was lost somewhere before the 2008 presidential campaign. We did get a glimpse of it one time during the campaign: a woman with messy hair that stuck out in all directions rose to express her doubts about Barack Obama.

“I have read about him,” she said, “and he’s not… [not American being implied here] – he’s an Arab.”

McCain answered, “No, ma’am, he’s a decent family man, a citizen.” And he got knocked around by the Republicans and Fox News for that one decent slip of the tongue.

A recent Pew poll reporting the spike in ignorant people who are like that ill-informed, stupid woman – her head stuffed with fabrications from viral emails, Limbaugh, and Fox ‘News’ – now makes up more than a third of the Republican Party. That’s right – one third of the Republican Party does not think for themselves and chooses to believe the lies because it fits with their own belief system:

• Forty-seven percent of Republicans believe the lie that Obama is a Muslim;
• Twenty-seven percent think that the president of the United States is not a U.S. citizen;
• Half of Republicans believe falsely that the big bailout of banks and insurance companies under TARP was enacted by Obama, and not by President Bush.

Those who believe these lies say they got their information from the media, but no reputable news agency based in facts has spread such lies. One known source for the lies is radio talk show entertainer Rush Limbaugh, whose word is the gospel truth among Republicans. He easily manipulates his listeners by dropping seeds of deception in hints, noting that “people are questioning” things. His purpose is to make Obama un-American, foreign, not ‘one of us’. For example:

“Tomorrow is Obama’s birthday — not that we’ve seen any proof of that,” he said on Aug. 3. “They tell us Aug. 4 is the birthday; we haven’t seen any proof of that.” Of course, there is proof, go to www.factcheck.org for starters, one of many places posting Obama’s Hawaiian birth certificate. But then they ask, “where is the long form?” They do not accept that once everything is put into the computer system, Hawaii does not keep the long forms.

On the Muslim deception: “Obama says he’s a Christian, but where is the evidence?” Limbaugh said on Aug. 19. He has repeatedly called the president “imam Obama,” and said, “I’m just throwing things out there, folks, because people are questioning his Christianity.”

Once Limbaugh has planted a lie, a Republican politician will often pick it up and run with it. For example, Kim Lehman, one of Iowa’s two Republican National Committee members, went public with doubts on Obama’s Christianity.

The second media source for those who think that Obama is “not one of us” is Fox News and their star, Glenn Beck, whose parent company, run by Rupert Murdoch, “…has given $1 million to Republican causes this year but still masquerades as a legitimate source of news. Their chat and opinion programs spread misinformation, lies, half-truths, and innuendo daily. Their main purpose is to fill its viewers with anger toward the Democrats, especially President Obama. The founder of Politifact said the most popular items on its Truth-o-meter are corrections of Glenn Beck’s statements…. Glenn Beck tosses off enough half-truths in a month to keep Politifact working overtime.” (1)

We could say that the political lies that Americans choose to believe as the price of being a democracy – if they were harmless. It has been a part of our history. For example, hate-filled partisans swore that Abraham Lincoln was a Catholic [which in his day was as bad as being a Muslim today] and that Franklin D. Roosevelt was a Communist.

Is there any harm in the fact that 27% of Republicans believe the President is not an American? Yes. False beliefs by a large section of the public can cause our country to make grave mistakes – like the time the public was lead to believe Iraq held weapons of mass-destruction resulting in a war that raised our deficit by $1 trillion and killed nearly 4500 of our young troops.

What is most worrisome to me is that a growing number from the extreme far-right Tea Party segment of the Republican Party is poised to take several Congressional seats. These rabble rousers are backed by an electorate who refuses to comprehend the present … much less remember and understand the past. (And as a retired history teacher who did her best to help students understand the mistakes of the past and learn to think critically, this makes me cringe.)

Obama told Christianity Today in 2008 that he is a devout Christian. He said that he believes in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Muslims cannot publicly deny their faith by saying such a thing – it would condemn them in this life to have a fatwa (death sentence) issued against them by a mufti. They also believe that they would go to hell.

"Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'" Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57

Although Franklin Graham claims such, there is no such thing as a “seed” of religion. Obama was born to two non-practicing secular parents. Obama’s father, although raised Muslim in Kenya, had turned his back on Islam by the time he met Ann and was a confirmed atheist who considered religion to be superstition. Obama was brought up by his secular white grandparents. Obama came to Christianity like many other people: In his early twenties, he read books by writers such as Augustine, Nietzsche, and other theologians. He would often wander into black Christian churches on Sunday mornings and find the sermons and hymns to be moving. He accepted Christ as his savior and was baptized at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago by the controversial Reverend Wright.

It is curious that any felon, drug addict, or recovering hedonist can loudly proclaim a sudden embrace of Jesus and be welcomed without doubt by leaders of the religious right. But a thoughtful Christian like Obama is still distrusted.” (1)

So, why do the followers of Limbaugh, Fox News, and Glenn Beck check their brains at the door, open up their heads, and let the lies pour in? I believe that the root of all this is partly because a Democrat is in office – this always happens when there is a Democrat in office. But I also believe a large part of the reason is race. Although Limbaugh and Fox don’t directly mention race, they use code words that do it for them. As a native of the south I understand what is meant by "States' rights." It is a code word for resistance to black advances clearly understood by white Southerners. "Doesn't reflect our values" is code for the n-word. "Presumptuous" and “arrogant” are code for “uppity ____”. It goes on and on.

Why doesn’t someone take these fear-mongers to court over the lies they are telling? They were taken to court. In February 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with an assertion by FOX News that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States. Fox editors tried to force two reporters to produce a distorted story. When they refused and threatened to report Fox's actions to the FCC, they were both fired. A jury unanimously found Fox News guilty of wrongfully firing them when they refused to broadcast (in the jury's words) “a false, distorted or slanted story.” But the Court of Appeals said that Fox News has a first amendment right to lie to the public.

Barack Obama and the Democrats could be going down hard in the mid-term elections because of an economic crisis that he did nothing to create but which he has failed to solve fast enough to suit an immature, attention-deficit electorate. These voters are ignoring the fact that the Great Recession belongs to Obama’s predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who let Wall Street run wild. Congressional Republican support was universal for the radical deregulation of the financial industry that produced this debacle. This unbelievable level of willful ignorance by right-leaning voters was planned and initiated by Limbaugh, Beck, and all of FOX ‘News’ – and it has been aided by a media afraid to call out these liars.

Democrats may deserve to lose in November because they have been terrible at explaining to the public what they are doing and why. They may deserve to lose because they have been terrible at handling the minority Party of No (Harry Reid is no bulldozer – he is too soft spoken). But Democrats do not deserve to lose because low-information, politically unintelligent voters are manipulated by Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and Glenn Beck into believing political lies.

Using coded messages to brainwash and control the willfully ignorant and intellectually incurious “we want our country back” minions is uncomfortably close to the theme in the book 1984 by George Orwell with its population under mind control.


1. Building a Nation of Know Nothings by Timothy Egan

2. About Obama becoming a Christian:

3. Obama not being Muslim: http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/muslimfaith.asp

4. About those lies and gossip: http://www.mediaite.com/online/report-conservatives-more-likely-to-forward-false-rumors-via-email-than-liberals/

5. Article from Psychology Today: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/over-simulated/201008/confusing-race-and-religion-is-dangerous

6. Hadith translation of Sahih Bukhari, Book 84:

7. Media can legally lie: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+media+can+legally+lie-a0126529447
Tags: lies, Fox News, Republican Party, Rush Limbaugh