Monday, June 30, 2008

Why the American People Were So Easily Bamboozled by the Bush Administration

An interesting, if somewhat depressing article, from the History News Network -- a review of Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter, by Rick Shenkman.

Here is a lengthy taste of the article.

The extent of Americans' ignorance is underestimated. To take one example that will give you an idea of the vast ignorance with which policy makers must come to terms: A majority of Americans do not know that it was their own country which dropped the atomic bomb.

Not all is grim. On the positive side, Americans did not make wholly irrational demands of their leaders after 9/11. American Muslims were not rounded up and sent to concentration camps after 9/11 (as Japanese-Americans were after Pearl Harbor). Mosques were not closed down. Nuclear weapons were not employed against our perceived enemies. And nobody was lynched. Given what has happened in American history any one of these responses or all of them might have been anticipated. That none occurred and that nothing like them occurred is worth noting.

But polls indicate that a significant segment of the American public was susceptible to wild conspiracy theories. A Scripps-Howard poll in 2006 found that 36 percent believe that it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that U.S. officials either allowed the attack to take place or were involved it.

Americans do not have a monopoly on conspiracy thinking. Nineteen percent of Germans said in a 2004 poll that 9/11 was the work of the CIA and Israel’s Mossad. The French turned Thierry Meyssan’s book The Appalling Fraud into a best-seller, despite the absence of evidence for its chief and crazy claim: that the Pentagon attacked itself on 9/11 with a cruise missile. Millions of Muslims around the world persist in believing that Jews were given advance warning of the attack on the World Trade Center.

But instead of the thoughtful debate we should by rights have had in this country, we settled for slogans:

  • We must fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here
  • The Global War on Terror (GWOT)
  • Mission Accomplished
  • You are either with us or with the terrorists
  • The axis of evil
To be sure the public eventually turned against Mr. Bush's war in Iraq. The one thing the public usually gets is success and failure. And Mr. Bush's war has been a spectacular failure when judged against all of the many measures by which he has asked us to judge it.
Read the whole article.

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