A quick perusal of cable news and talk radio and internet news sites and the blogosphere reveals a stunning plethora of ignorance. I mean, absolutely stunning. It’s remarkable. To wit: 41% of Republicans (A.K.A. “birthers”) believe that President Obama is not a natural born citizen. 63% do not know that Bush signed TARP and the bank bailouts. Less than 10% of Americans know that Obama lowered taxes for 95% of working families and one-third actually think their taxes went up. Conservatives complain of oppressive taxes yet fail to realize that federal, state and local taxes are the lowest since 1950, and the United States has the fourth lowest tax burden in the industrialized world (and this includes being bested by the Shangri La called Mexico). Republicans wrongly believe that the housing crisis was caused by the Community Reinvestment Act (ie, them thar colored people) even though such mortgages comprised only 6% of the bad loans. And on and on and on. How can so many people be this fucking ignorant???
It’s the echo chamber. The echo chamber is a conservative media machine masquerading as journalism that creates its
own news and repeatedly disseminates it to its audience from different angles. The echo chamber is a square rubber room whose walls are made of Republican politcians, FOX News, talk radio, and the internet. “News” orginates with one wall and then bounces it off the other three walls creating a cacaphony of misinformation and prejudiced propaganda that results in a thoroughly dumbassified populace. According to a University of Maryland study, FOX News viewers were, by far, the most ignorant in America. By contrast, NPR listeners were the best informed followed by people who gathered their news from traditional print media and then CNN viewers.
We see the quintessential manifestation of this determined ignorance in the form of teabaggers. Teabaggers are not a new phenomenon, per se, as Bill Clinton saw a faintly similar movement of disaffected Americans who were concerned about “Big Government” and thought Ross Perot was their kind of guy. But the teabaggers are like the Perot supporters on a steady diet of steroids and toxic waste. Whereas Perot garnered exactly zero (0.0) electoral votes in the 1992 election, tea party candidates won 45 congressional elections this month (5 Senate seats, 40 House seats). The echo chamber/rubber room is what made this catastrophe possible. Unlike when Clinton was president, FOX has achieved full market penetration (insert your own sodomy joke here) and the interent is now ubiquitous. Due to this new media, teabaggers were galvanized, named (ironically revealing their rank stupidity), organized and funded. Teabagger rallies then validated and affirmed the prejudices and stupidity of its attendees, feeding the beast that should have been starved. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, “and so it goes …”
The antics of FOX and talk radio are understood quite well by anyone who doesn’t drool on himself. A prime time FOX pundit like Beck or Hannity or O’Reilly will make an absurd allegation and then FOX’s morning ‘news’ programs will continue the narrative and use their own pundits as ‘sources’ of their reports. Talk radio blowhards like Rush Limbaugh (Lush Rimbaugh), Michelle Malkin, (more) Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, et al, need no explanation. They simply lie and lie and lie and get paid well to do it. Nothing new here. The role of the internet, however, is a bit more nuanced.
First, email. This is the fastest way to perpetuate ignorance as it only takes a few seconds to apply (without even understanding, I’m sure) the law of exponents. We all know someone who sends chain emails making outrageous claims such as Barack Obama swore his oath of office on the Koran. And you’ve surely noticed that this shameless chain emailer is a conservative. Websites like snopes.com, factcheck.org, and politifact.com are devoted to debunking these myths, urban legends and lies, but it’s a herculean task that cannot ever be adequately completed nor do the people who accept and perpetuate these lies desire correct information. And, as you’ve surely noticed, these shameless chain emailers are always conservatives. Always. It never fails. In an article by the Seattle Times, the snopes co-founder said, “Claims relating to Obama are the top searches on the site, but ‘even when there were Republicans in the White House, the mail was still overwhelmingly anti-liberal.’” It’s a republican thing.
In addition to chain emails believed and distributed by the willfully gullible amongst us, there are also countless ‘news’ websites pandering to prejudice without any regard to facts. One such example is WorldNetDaily (wnd.com) which has found great success in the confirmation bias market. WorldNetDaily regularly publishes contemptible articles such as this one which stated that a convicted criminal admitted to snorting cocaine and having homosexual liaisons with Barack Obama. Seriously. And these websites are a dime a dozen which conservatives use as their homepages or put in their browser’s bookmarks.
Some websites in the echo chamber/rubber room mimic legitimate websites and alter the content to suit its audience. Conservapedia.com is one such site, pantomiming wikipedia.org. While wikipedia is certainly imperfect, it is generally a good starting point for research especially because of the copious footnotes available to the reader. Conservapedia, however, publishes information that directly contradicts established fact and actively contributes to the dumbing-down of America. For example, this article makes the laughable argument that bears are smarter than atheists. The conservapedia author speciously argues that there is an inverse correlation between high per capita Christian churches and low unemployment (North Dakota) and a direct correlation between high per capita atheism and high unemployment (Oregon). The author’s epic conclusion is that capitalism is the biblically-supported choice of God and atheism is communism. I shit you not.
The republican rubber room: cable news, talk radio, politicians and the internet. That is an impressive (mis)information machine never before seen in any democracy. Ever. Anywhere. There’s big money in stupidity and it’s paying handsome dividends to politicians, their corporate masters and the lying liars who do their dirty work. There’s just one missing piece to the puzzle: dismantle public education.
God bless America where stupidity is a virtue and ignorance is democratized.