Ignorance Is Powerful


Jeanne at Body and Soul had a flash of insight yesterday after looking at the Newsweek poll over the weekend:

Forty-nine percent of Americans still believe that Iraq was directly involved in the attacks of September 11th, and even after significant coverage of David Kay’s report, fifty-percent believed, as of Friday and Saturday, that Iraq had banned biological or chemical weapons right before the war began. He draws the not unreasonable conclusion that any support George Bush has is based on ignorance.******************************

That leads me to a question I don’t have good answers to. Is anything going to happen in the next nine months to knock a hole in that ignorance, and is there anything I or anyone else can do to help it along? Because ignorance could elect George Bush president.

Good point. What the hell can we do? Scream ’til we’re blue in the face, I suppose. But what good does it do when no one is listening? Surveys show that only 11%–11%!!!–of us get our national news from somewhere other than tv, and tv news shows have become a running joke–1 1/2 mins (if you’re lucky) on the Bush Budget Cartoon, most of which simply repeats BA assertions that it will cut the deficit in half without mentioning that it will do no such thing, and 10 mins on Janet Jackson’s tit because “that’s what the audience wants.” It was a nice tit but was it more important than the budget? the burgeoning guerilla war in Iraq? the fact that our govt manufactured an unnecessary war, lied about it, is still lying about it, and alienated much of the rest of the world to have it? Is JJ’s tit more important than health care? than the open sale of our govt to corporate CEO’s? than the wholesale destruction of our environment through Presidential fiat? Is it even more important than flu shots?

Apparently. If you watch the news on tv, JJ’s tit would seem to be a more important topic than Armageddon. And yet this is the way 89% of us find out what’s happening in the world. (BTW, if you want an even scarier statistic, within that 89%, more than half of respondents under 30 reported getting most of their knowledge about the news from late-night talk shows!) With an ill-informed uninformed public doing the voting, a public that has no freaking idea what the hell is going on around it and is less interested in finding out than in catching a glimpse of half-time nipple, what can any of us do? Commenter Mary Kay put it this way:

The difficulty of getting a message, undistorted, out through this media is immense. Add to that, most people don’t want to know that Shrub and his allies are lying themselves black in the face, selling out both the public and the republic to monied interests, and do not have their best interests at heart. The want to believe that effective measures are being taken against terrorism, that the government is protecting and making them safe, that everything will be all right.Jordin and I were just discussing this today over lunch. I want to go around grabbing people on the street, shrieking, “Look. Look what they’re doing to you. To us. To the Constitution, the environment, the country.” It’d get me arrested in short order of course, and just annoy the heck out of everyone I talked to.

Probably, but what choice do we have? Between excellent alternative news sites like Alternet or Democracy Now! and the many blogs like Atrios’ Eschaton or Tapped–or even this here site–providing oodles of news and commentary that would otherwise never see the light of day, the internet is a valuable and–for most folks these days, even us working-class stiffs–accessible resource. But what good is it when people won’t use it?

Well, I’ll tell ya. The answer is in Junior’s falling ratings: the Bush/Rove Fantasy Hour is struggling, people. Nobody’s laughing at the jokes, listening to the sermons, or believing the bulletins. They’re starting to change the station–in droves. Partly it’s “we’ve seen this already” and partly it’s “oh come on, who do you think you’re kidding?” but the point is they’re pushing the button on the old remote. Why? It sure ain’t because of what network Happy-News is ladling out, so what is it?

I think it’s primarily two things:

1) Reality is slowly overcoming fantasy. Given the choice, most Americans will act exactly the way Mary Kay says: they’ll go into denial because they want to believe everything ‘s alright–or will be. But as the fantasies mount up and the reality we live with matches them less and less, that choice gets taken away. We start to notice the discrepancies, we start to react to the vast differences between what they’re telling us and what we see around us. And we start to turn off.

2) Us. That’s right, all of us–the blogs, the alternative news sites, the people like Mary Kay who grab people by the lapels and shake them. People may not read us but, like osmosis. what we say gradually works its way out into the general population and has its effect. Individually we may not be a terribly important part of all this–certainly I’m not–but collectively we are the battering ram that breaks down the HappyNews media wall and lets a little light shine into the castle courtyard. We are the flyer on the general store wall that one person sees and then tells ten other people about. We are the kid in the crowd who shouts, “But the Emperor is butt-naked!” and makes the scales fall from everyone else’s eyes.

We’re pushing, we’re pulling, we’re pleading, we’re reporting, and, like the force of evolution, we are slowly beginning to shift the flaccid mass of blind deniers into a different form, bit by bit, a petal at a time. It isn’t much, maybe, but it’s what we can do. Even if it’s all we can do, it’s better than doing nothing. Eventually we will make it possible for the blind to see and the lame to walk–to the polls, hopefully–and the momentum will move with us instead of against us.

Whenever you doubt, whenever you think you’re wasting your time, whenever it looks hopeless and naive and useless, tell yourself this: Despite everything in the mass media going Junior’s way, despite being told over and over every hour of the day that we live in the best of all possible worlds, despite the massive Rove PR machine, Junior is now losing to every Democrat in the polls.

Don’t quit. Don’t ever quit. In the words of Henry Stamper, “Never Give an Inch.”

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