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Ignorance on Parade June 16, 2007

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events.

We Americans think of ourselves as hard-headed realists. Our technological prowess and economic power is testimony to the way we deal with the nuts and bolts of the world as it really is, carefully examining the facts before acting. Maybe there is some truth to this self conception—we certainly are committed to techno-science as a way of life and success in this endeavor requires a commitment to understanding how the world works.  

Or is this commitment to the facts now consigned to the dustbin of history?

 On June 5th, we were treated to quite a spectacle in mystery mongering—a debate between the exalted Republican candidates for President of our technologically advanced, scientifically sophisticated nation. 

One question put to these worthies was “Do you believe in evolution?” Like first-graders eager to impress their teacher, three of them (Tancredo, Brownbeck, and Huckabee) rushed to assure the audience that they did not. Of course, the theory of evolution is as well established as anything in science, and rejecting evolutionary theory would entail throwing out a good deal of physics, substantial portions of astronomy and geology, not to mention much of biology and bio-chemistry. For a brief summary of why opposition to evolutionary theory is nonsense see this. 

On more mundane matters of state, when asked whether he thought it was a mistake for the U.S. to invade Iraq, candidate Romney replied: 

“If you’re saying let’s turn back the clock, and Saddam Hussein had opened up his country to IAEA inspectors, and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction, had Saddam Hussein, therefore, not violated United Nations resolutions, we wouldn’t be in the conflict we’re in. But he didn’t do those things, and we knew what we knew at the point we made the decision to get in.” 

Unfortunately, Romney is factually challenged. Weapons inspectors from the UN had been in Iraq for months reporting on Iraqi compliance with UN weapons mandates and discovered no weapons of mass destruction.  (The IAEA report is here)  On a matter of crucial interest to our national security, an obvious and well-known fact seems to have escaped the attention of the former Governor of Massachusetts. 

Rudy Giuliani, responding to the same question about the justification for the war in Iraq said,

 “And the problem is that we see Iraq in a vacuum. Iraq should not be seen in a vacuum. Iraq is part of the overall terrorist war against the United States.”

 Once again, facts are not in evidence here. There was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terrorists or any other known threat. Although there is now an “organization” called Al Quaeda in Iraq, experts on terrorism largely agree that, though dangerous, they play a minor role in the overall picture of violence in Iraq. (For a summary see this.) 

Of course, perhaps we ought not to worry about politicians misleading the public. After all, don’t we have a press corps that is doggedly determined to get to the truth about matters of public import? Unfortunately, the press doesn’t seem up to the task. As Fairness in Accuracy and Media reports, Republican candidates are seldom called to account for the liberties they take with the truth. 

If you are entertained by these mythomaniacs, you ought to catch Tony Snow’s act. Snow, President Bush’s Press Secretary, in reacting to the recent bombing of the mosque in Samarra on Tuesday said “It does fit a pattern that we see throughout the region, which is that when you see things moving towards success, or when you see signs of success, that there are acts of violence.”  

As Orwell’s 1984 reminds us: “War is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Ignorance is Strength.”



1. Thea - June 20, 2007

Well, remember how the public reacted to Al Gore? They said that he was trying to trick them with his big words. I think that the public just doesn’t want a government that comes from the American elite or aristocracy these days. It’s part of the American dream. Anyone can become wealthy. Heck, anyone can even become the president!

Also, this is how things are done. The lore of the televised debate between JFK and Nixon features how tan JFK was and how he wore a nice tie while Nixon was poorly composed highlights just how much of a joke presidential campaigns are. It’s like high school.

Another component to the problem is intimately related to the lack of quality reporting in America. Now, I don’t watch tv or buy the local newspaper, but I can only deduce based on the last news report that I saw that todays’ news reports have deteriorated into observing trends in the porn industry as opposed to details on the oil crisis in Nigeria.

Lack of quality reporting wouldn’t be such a big deal if people were also taught to sift through information better and seek out the pieces that they really need. As I’m sure you’ve heard umpteen times, the new generation won’t need to be taught research skills in the same way as their elders. They’ll need to learn to diffrentiate quality information bits from non-quality. They’ll need to learn to analyze the source and to check for relevancy. However, I’ve never heard of a process being implemented to that effect.

Knowing how slowly bureaucracy works, a process won’t be implemented until another 10 years have passed and then, it will only happen in the aristocrat-training classes and schools. It’s a shame because that would likely result in a big change in our political arena.

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