Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Real Divide in America

More than a few post election analyses have pointed to ideological, religious and other divides in America as the key to victory for the GOP (or, conversely, the cause of defeat for Democrats). However, absent the somewhat snarky IQ table there has been scant mention of another divide in America. It is not one simply based on IQ or perceived intelligence, but rather the informed versus the uninformed/misinformed.

One has to look no further than the well noted PIPA study with respect to Bush voters and their perception of truth/fact. A majority of them thought that Iraq was involved in 9-11 and that WMD had been found there, among other findings. Of course, these beliefs do not comport with reality at all. A simple google search will turn up the fact that there has not been a scintilla of evidence to support either of these positions, yet the Faux News/Bush crowd believes them to be true.

And this is not simply an ideological divide, where the more conservative elements of society stick their heads in the sand ostrich like to avoid truth. Quite a number of conservatives abandoned the President in his re-election bid (see, Bob Barr, Andrew Sullivan et al). Some broke ranks over spending issues, while others were more concerned with civil liberties (Patriot Act) and another group opposed the Iraq war. So, why did so many principled conservatives fail to support Bush? Perhaps because like many other informed people in America they knew and understood the realities of this administration.

But who here is to blame- the people or the media? Probably a combination of both. Faux News came blazing onto the scene to remedy what many perceived as a liberal media bias. (I do not want to rehash that debate here. Suffice to say that as someone who has been on both sides of the ideological spectrum I tend to think the media's bias is towards laziness and the easy story.) But, even if the major media had been tilted to the left, it did seem at least to provide something close to accurate reporting. Faux, on the other hand, seems to exist in a separate, alternate world that does not represent reality (GOP talking points land, let's call it). It should also be noted that another study showed the folks who got their news from Faux were also prone to the same erroneous beliefs about Iraq/9-11.

So, in addition to our ideological and religious divide we also suffer from an information chasm. On the one side is the reality based community (not limited by ideological labels, as noted above) and on the other is the ostrich-like Faux/Limbaugh crowd who get their "information" either missing important pieces or spun into an intricate web of GOP talking points. Unfortunately, the latter group, for whatever reason, are unable or unwilling to think critically about the news they receive. A democracy cannot long exist where one group of people is systematically and wholly misinformed.


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