Tuesday, July 25, 2006

People Are Impervious to Facts, 7/25/06 Edition

Drum summarizes a new Harris poll. Jesus wept, we are an ignorant and irrational people.

Even self-respecting conservatives should be outraged that more than 50% of people now say that Iraq had WMDs at the time of invasion, and 64% say Saddam had strong links with al Qaeda. Granted, unscrupulous conservatives are still trying to push those lines...some, perhaps, are genuinely deluded, but most are probably just spouting convenient propaganda. But principled conservatives should say "enough is enough."

It was a reasonably smart bet that Saddam had some stores of WMDs when we invaded, and it's o.k. for conservatives to point this out. Evidence was exaggerated and fabricated, but there was some good evidence out there, too. It's o.k. for them to point out that you didn't have to be crazy to believe in Iraqi WMDs in 2002.

But it is now clear that there were no WMDs, and it is in everyone's interest to try to get the American people to believe the truth. It is even more strongly in all our interests to try to help Americans develop habits of mind that will allow them to avoid such absurd errors in the future. What on Earth is happening to explain these amazing misconceptions is beyond me. Laziness is probably one thing, and propaganda by unscrupulous conservatives is another...but what in the world explains the fact that last year only ("only") 36% of people thought that Saddam had WMDs in 2002? If the amount of evidence now available to us is insufficient to correct these misapprehensions, then it isn't clear to me that any amount of evidence will ever do so.

This battle--the battle to get the American electorate to pay attention to and absorb at least the most salient and basic facts--is far more important than any other battle we are currently fighting.

Let's remember Jefferson's observation that "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."

My guess is that most people simply have little or no idea what is really going on. They give answers to such polls, but really haven't spent more than five minutes reading about or discussing these issues in any serious way, and they just repeat the latest thing they've heard, or the first thing that comes to mind. I can't believe that these are considered opinions. Still, such fleeting semi-thoughts may be what actually determine the course of our democracy.


Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

But there were WMDs, so there. So the 45% who answered in the negative are the cementheads.

Albeit that they were past their shelf life, Saddam was required by his peace treaty to account for them, and many more, which he did not.

Since the poll question is transparently designed to embarrass the decision to go to war (and even bumkpkins can detect that), your great Republican unwashed answered, yes, there were WMDs, Mr. Disingenuous Polltaker. Screw you.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous lovable liberal said...

Quick, somebody excavate a trebuchet and some sheepskins, and we can invade Andorra.

3:03 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Tom, you're embarrassing yourself on this one I'm afraid.

There were no WMDs. If you're gonna count the relics they recently uncovered, then, to paraphrase the experts, you might as well count the 409 under my kitchen counter, too.

The point wasn't to embarrass the decision to go to war. News flash: that's already been done. The evil liberal facts did that. Bad facts! Bad!

And, by the way, who knows or cares what the point of the poll was? What it SHOWS, however, is that propaganda can beat facts.

Now tell me how proud you are of our propagandistic administration.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

An attempt to discuss the actual rationale for war is useless in light of the revisionism that has taken place. Saddam didn't account for his weapons and violated his peace treaty, which took the form of numerous UN resolutions. That was it.

But we've been there, done that.

But to address the actual point at hand, I'm attempting an explanation of the poll results.

The poll question's agenda is clear, and insulting to the intelligence. I'm well aware of all the facts, and would have answered "yes."

5:00 PM  

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