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The dumbing down of America

 
 
Reply Sat 4 Sep, 2010 11:02 am
September 2, 2010
Commentary: The dumbing down of America
By James Werrell | The Rock Hill Herald

Maybe we, the people, have lost the intellectual capacity to manage a workable democracy. How else do you explain why nearly one in five Americans believes that President Barack Obama is a Muslim?

A recent poll by the nonpartisan Pew Forum found that 18 percent of all those polled -- and 31 percent of Republicans -- believe the president is a Muslim. That is up from 11 percent of all Americans last year.

Obama's faith is not a matter of public opinion. He's a baptized Christian who routinely prays with fellow Christians and invokes his "risen savior" when speaking of his faith.

He does not practice the Islamic faith. He has never been seen performing the ritual prayer, which Muslims do five times a day. He is not observing Ramadan, which requires Muslims to fast each day from Aug. 11 to Sept. 10. Nor has he made the required pilgrimage to Mecca.

It is ironic that many of the same critics who excoriated Obama for his close ties with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright now are accusing him of being a Muslim.

I suspect that a lot of people enjoy calling Obama a Muslim because they think it marks him as an outsider, an imposter, someone who assumed the presidency illegitimately. Many of those who call Obama a Muslim undoubtedly are "birthers," too, the ones who believe Obama was not born in the United States.

Or perhaps they aren't aware that Hawaii is a state.

That wouldn't surprise me. As noted, it seems that a significant number of Americans are losing the capacity to accept facts, sift through valid evidence and come to reasonable conclusions about things.

Of course, we always have had wacky conspiracy theories and always will. Some people still believe that the Apollo moon landing was a hoax, that someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK and that the government is covering up evidence of UFOs.

A 2007 New York Times-CBS poll indicated that 22 percent of Americans thought President George W. Bush knew of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in advance. A Newsweek poll that same year found that 41 percent of Americans still believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in planning and carrying out the Sept. 11 attacks.

Those are disturbing statistics, but the flood of misinformation has only risen, topping the levees of rationality at every turn. To a large extent, we can blame the Internet and the ease with which all the false rumors, misstatements, nutty conspiracies and outright lies are disseminated.

I am bombarded with this stuff all the time, accompanied with urgent pleas to write my congressmen, alert my friends and neighbors, send money and lock and load. Here is one example: Obama has ordered the Justice Department to immediately bar all public broadcasting of Christian religious services because they violate the separation of church and state.

Did any of the people spreading that rumor stop and think before pressing the "send" button that the president might not have the authority to do that? Religious services have been broadcast on radio and TV for decades with no constitutional challenge. In fact, wouldn't any attempt by the federal government to interfere with religious broadcasts be a violation of the separation of church and state?

Some of these rumors have a shred of truth that has been distorted to ridiculous extremes. Others are merely fantasy, the equivalent of the urban myth about alligators in the sewers of New York City.

While the Internet has been the source of many of these tall tales, it also can serve as the source of real information to dispute them. One invaluable source is snopes.com.

Go there and learn that President Bill Clinton never tried to fire "half the cattle guards" in Colorado, that Obama hasn't signed an executive order allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to resettle in the United States, and that the artificial sweetener Aspartame is not responsible for an epidemic of cancer, brain tumors and multiple sclerosis.

But even with Snopes and other legitimate sites, the misinformation continues to flow. And if we can't resolve the really stupid disputes -- like whether Obama is a Muslim or not -- then how are we going to resolve the important issues that require some nuanced thinking?

How can we talk sensibly about complex issues such as health care reform, Social Security, Afghanistan, taxes, anything that can't be summarized on a bumper sticker? How do we get past the anger and the empty-headed slogans?

How do we counteract the cynical willingness to exploit baseless fears for political gain? How do we get back to having a national discussion instead of a national shouting match?

Maybe we could start by acknowledging that Obama isn't a Muslim.

Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/09/02/99862/commentary-the-dumbing-down-of.html#ixzz0ya5WpBC0
 
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Sep, 2010 04:25 pm
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
Well, many people are aware that one is Jewish, if one's mother was Jewish. So, in the way of analogy, if an individual chose to be Christian after marrying a Christian, would there not be some people that still thought of that individual as Jewish, since his/her mother was Jewish. I think the term that I heard for such a convert is Hebrew Christian.

And, Islam is based on one's father's faith. So, do other Muslims just consider the President a Muslim, based on what his father was? In other words, my question is whether Islam is not like something that one puts on, and takes off like a tee-shirt. Some of those Americans that might think the President is still a Muslim might be giving credence the fact that Islam is passed from father to child, the way Judaism is passed from mother to child?
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Sep, 2010 04:36 pm
According to Snopes, Obama's father was born a black Muslim, but by the time he met Obama's mother, he no longer considered himself a Muslim. He was an agnostic or atheist. Obama's mother was an atheist. Obama practices the Christian religion, so far as anyone can tell by the evidence.
0 Replies
 
kuvasz
 
  -1  
Reply Sat 4 Sep, 2010 05:14 pm
Stupid people bred more than smart people.
reasoning logic
 
  0  
Reply Sat 4 Sep, 2010 06:20 pm
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
The sad truth may be that us americans are not dumbing down, "you are just becoming more enlightened.
Jebediah
 
  3  
Reply Sat 4 Sep, 2010 08:02 pm
Quote:
Maybe we, the people, have lost the intellectual capacity to manage a workable democracy. How else do you explain why nearly one in five Americans believes that President Barack Obama is a Muslim?

A recent poll by the nonpartisan Pew Forum found that 18 percent of all those polled -- and 31 percent of Republicans -- believe the president is a Muslim.


a) For there to be "dumbing down" it has to have been greater in the past, which the article doesn't try and show
b) Polls do not show that "18% of Americans believe the president is a Muslim". They show that 18% of Americans answered that when asked. In britain the census result had "Jedi" as the 4th largest religion, does that mean that 1.8% of the people in britain believe in the Jedi religion? Obviously not.

Quote:

How can we talk sensibly about complex issues such as health care reform, Social Security, Afghanistan, taxes, anything that can't be summarized on a bumper sticker? How do we get past the anger and the empty-headed slogans?


You start Razz

Clearly there is a problem of some sort with conspiracy theories, but this article doesn't deal with it well.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Sep, 2010 08:15 pm
Today, I read a review of a book by Andrew Basevich, former military man now professor of political science at Boston University, considered a conservative yet he voted for Obama and was a frequent guest on the Bill Moyers' Journal.

Basevich's book is said to cover the same ground that Noam Chomsky. . . who might be considered America's leading leftist . . . often covers in a less intimidating manner.

His ground? That both the Democrats and the Republicans are responsible for the mess this country is in by repeating the same old myths.

If the real left had had its way back in the 60s, America would not be dumbed down at all.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Sep, 2010 10:19 pm
@plainoldme,
plainoldme wrote:

Today, I read a review of a book by Andrew Basevich, former military man now professor of political science at Boston University, considered a conservative yet he voted for Obama and was a frequent guest on the Bill Moyers' Journal.

Basevich's book is said to cover the same ground that Noam Chomsky. . . who might be considered America's leading leftist . . . often covers in a less intimidating manner.

His ground? That both the Democrats and the Republicans are responsible for the mess this country is in by repeating the same old myths.

If the real left had had its way back in the 60s, America would not be dumbed down at all.

Yup.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Sat 4 Sep, 2010 10:40 pm
@Foofie,
Quote:
Some of those Americans that might think the President is still a Muslim might be giving credence the fact that Islam is passed from father to child, the way Judaism is passed from mother to child?


Have they located those particular genes yet, Foofie?

One would think that you would give this thread a wide berth.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Sep, 2010 10:42 pm
@plainoldme,
Quote:
Andrew Basevich,


I believe that it's Bacevich, POM.
Jebediah
 
  1  
Reply Sat 4 Sep, 2010 11:56 pm
I can't edit my post for some reason Neutral

I wanted to say that to be fair he does point this out:

Quote:
I suspect that a lot of people enjoy calling Obama a Muslim because they think it marks him as an outsider, an imposter, someone who assumed the presidency illegitimately.


But for some reason he still takes the polls at face value when reporting them. It's an easy trap to slip into I guess.

Digging up some comparable data, I find that 6% of americans say the moon landing was faked and 28% of russians say it was. Are there that many more stupid people in russia than in the us? I doubt it. His own reportings provide the same clue: 18% of americans, but 31% of republicans. It is very clearly a "want to/enjoy saying" phenomenon on the whole.

Focusing on intellectual capacity seems like the wrong tack to take. Desire would be more appropriate.
0 Replies
 
hawkeye10
 
  -1  
Reply Sun 5 Sep, 2010 12:03 am
I fail to see where the people should get blamed for believing something other that what they are told to believe. Obama says that he is a Christian, but what has he done to demonstrate his Christian belief system? I can't think if a single thing. Obama is a politician, and what he have here is a failure to communicate. This is in large part Obama's fault, because he decided early that his spiritual life is none of our business. He also rarely (or is it very rarely?) goes to Church. Obama has left a vacuum, and it has been filled by some with the conclusion that he is lying about being a Christian, that he is really a black Muslim. This was completely predictable, if Obama has a problem with it then he should reverse course. If not then the miscommunication stands, and the people are to blame, as well as Obama.
aidan
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Sep, 2010 12:05 am


Quote:
Focusing on intellectual capacity seems like the wrong tack to take. Desire would be more appropriate.
I think that's a good point. Like the thread that was active on a2k that doubted whether or not Obama was truly a Christian, although he said that he is. There were statements made to the effect that he only pretended to be a Christian because a non-Christian wouldn't have been electable.

So we have some on the left doubting that he's really a Christian because that wouldn't fit their preferred perception of what they believe he should be while some on the right doubts that he's not a Muslim.

Is is smarter or better to not believe what someone says he is or to not believe what someone says he isn't?

Is there any difference?

I guess it all depends on who does which doubting.

I think this article is more about denial than either desire or intelligence.

0 Replies
 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Sep, 2010 03:10 am
@reasoning logic,
reasoning logic wrote:

...us americans are not dumbing down


You've got me fooled!

plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Sep, 2010 05:59 am
@JTT,
You are correct on the spelling. The hour was late and I was in a hurry to type a few pieces before sleeping. In fact, I had the paper with the review in the kitchen but was too tired to go back downstairs again before falling over.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Sep, 2010 09:20 am
@Foofie,
Foofie wrote:

Well, many people are aware that one is Jewish, if one's mother was Jewish. So, in the way of analogy, if an individual chose to be Christian after marrying a Christian, would there not be some people that still thought of that individual as Jewish, since his/her mother was Jewish. I think the term that I heard for such a convert is Hebrew Christian.

And, Islam is based on one's father's faith. So, do other Muslims just consider the President a Muslim, based on what his father was? In other words, my question is whether Islam is not like something that one puts on, and takes off like a tee-shirt. Some of those Americans that might think the President is still a Muslim might be giving credence the fact that Islam is passed from father to child, the way Judaism is passed from mother to child?


The trouble with your analogy is that although being Jewish is considered to be both a religion and also an ethnic designation, the same is not true of being a Muslim. I think it is more probable that those who think that Obama is a Muslim suspect him of having Muslim sympathies.
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Sep, 2010 05:25 pm
@JTT,
JTT wrote:

Quote:
Some of those Americans that might think the President is still a Muslim might be giving credence the fact that Islam is passed from father to child, the way Judaism is passed from mother to child?


Have they located those particular genes yet, Foofie?

One would think that you would give this thread a wide berth.


Pray tell why? I am Jewish, because my mother was Jewish. My father being Jewish was not relevant. So, since I am not on your wavelength, so to speak, please explain the nuance of your thinking (oh wise one).
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Sun 5 Sep, 2010 05:30 pm
@Miller,
Miller wrote:

reasoning logic wrote:

...us americans are not dumbing down


You've got me fooled!




You have got to look at America as a quilt made up of many breeds and classes. Oddly, upper class WASP's are not dumbed down. Oddly, the majority of non-Chassidic Jews are not dumbed down (my opinion). Oddly, many people that can call themselves upper-middle class, with a two-parent home, are not dumbed down (especially if they are in Parochial school for 12 years).

I do not believe that America is dumbed down. It is just that some segments of society have never gotten beyond where they had been a century ago, in my opinion.
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  0  
Reply Sun 5 Sep, 2010 05:53 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:

Foofie wrote:

Well, many people are aware that one is Jewish, if one's mother was Jewish. So, in the way of analogy, if an individual chose to be Christian after marrying a Christian, would there not be some people that still thought of that individual as Jewish, since his/her mother was Jewish. I think the term that I heard for such a convert is Hebrew Christian.

And, Islam is based on one's father's faith. So, do other Muslims just consider the President a Muslim, based on what his father was? In other words, my question is whether Islam is not like something that one puts on, and takes off like a tee-shirt. Some of those Americans that might think the President is still a Muslim might be giving credence the fact that Islam is passed from father to child, the way Judaism is passed from mother to child?


The trouble with your analogy is that although being Jewish is considered to be both a religion and also an ethnic designation, the same is not true of being a Muslim. I think it is more probable that those who think that Obama is a Muslim suspect him of having Muslim sympathies.


Well, while " being Jewish is considered to be both a religion and also an ethnic designation," I think it might also be a mindset and world view. I say this because in this free U.S., one can be born Jewish, and then change one's last name and tell the world one is not Jewish. Nothing wrong with that. One does not have to accepts one's birth identity, thanks to the fact that many Jews have no identifiable Jewish markings (I am being sarcastic). Also, it can be a world view, since Jews understand what it is to be a minority in many situations, not just the office Christmas party.

I would rather not talk about the President, since I did not vote for him, and do not care to discuss his Presidency.
0 Replies
 
glitterbag
 
  1  
Reply Tue 12 Mar, 2013 09:47 pm
@kuvasz,
kuvasz wrote:

Stupid people bred more than smart people.


Amen!
0 Replies
 
 

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