First: American Elephant, a blog that insults pachyderms with its mendacious ways, stretches for ways to complain about President Obama. In a recent post, the author tried to poke ill-humored fun at Obama and companies he’s visited over the past couple of years. It’s the headline that caught my attention:
The premise is false, of course — it’s based on that Republican smear meme that Obama and his cabinet lack experience in the private sector, a smear that breaks down quickly if anyone looks at the biographies of the cabinet. Obama also comes from the private sector, though when confronted with the facts the meme spreaders tend to make rash and foolish claims like “the Catholic church is public sector” and “lawyers all work for the government.”
I left a response there, but don’t expect the blog owner to show the decency of allowing it through moderation:
President Obama worked for a private group providing services to people below the poverty line, and then he worked for a very large private law firm, while teaching at the privately-run University of Chicago. He had never worked for government until his election to the Illinois State Senate (is that salaried?).
You should probably correct the headline.
As if. Not only is the headline wrong, but the evidence doesn’t support the second premise, and there are other serious problems with the claims and arguments advanced there. True American elephants probably take to drink to try to forget what’s being done under their name.
Second, and probably third: There is the minor kerfuffle of the hoax report out of Pakistan that nuclear power plants in Nebraska are either near meltdown, or already melted down, and you don’t know about it because President Obama ordered a news blackout to avoid panic but at the same time condemning hundreds of thousands of Midwesterners to radiation poisoning deaths. It’s an absurd story on several fronts and several levels — news of the flood plight of the power plants has been reported around the world, for example — but those bent on being suckered by every conspiracy claim to come down the pike, or bent on criticizing President Obama no matter how much they must twist the fact to do it, cannot be dissuaded.
Take for example this odd blog: A discussion of the imagined meltdown quickly disintegrates into defense of holding on to birther views despite Obama’s release of his “long form” birth certificate (no good information goes un-urinated upon). Then discussion veers off into all sorts of paranoia — UN “control” of U.S. lands, occupation of several states by rogue Transportation Security Agents (you didn’t hear about it due to the news blackout, most likely), Obama’s being controlled by or controlling GE (‘didn’t GE have something to do with the design of those nuclear reactors?’), Army Corps of Engineers plots to flood the Midwest (????), Obama’s overturning the Constitution through the use of executive orders (which no one there can find at the moment, but they’re sure they exist, somewhere . . . gee, did we misplace it?) including a wholly imaginary order to take over all rural lands in the U.S. (why?), and complaints that the U.S. is not deporting U.S. soldiers or their families quickly enough.
Such a ball of delusional paranoia and errors of history, law, and other facts! One might imagine these people so involved in tracking down misinformation and distorting real information that they forget to kick their dogs. (Seriously, I’d tend to think these people could be helped by having a dog or a cat, except for the very real fear I have they’d forget to feed the creatures; like a drowning person, fighting all efforts to save them.)
Our nation has a collective inability to deal with the facts of too many situations, because too many people simply deny the facts in front of our collective national face. Jonathan Kay’s recent book, Among the Truthers, gets at the problem — you can imagine how strongly any of these bloggers and commenters would resist even reading Kay’s book. It’s not that they seek information to make good decisions on policy, but that they seek the misinformation to justify their paranoid claims that “we are all really, really screwed!”
As with the blogs noted above, we witness the birth of voodoo history, bogus history, and intentional ignorance.
There is a great danger from these cesspools of willful ignorance. As more people refuse to grant credence to facts, to reality, it becomes more difficult to muster a consensus on what to do about any particular problem. Wildfires and drought in Texas this year already wiped out more than three-fifths of the state’s wheat harvest; floods in the upper Midwest will surely do serious damage to wheat crops there. We face a shortage of the surpluses of wheat the nation has used to bring peace and vanquish hunger around the world for the past 60 years — think of our “sale” of wheat to the old Soviet Union, stopping the starvation death toll under 10 million and indebting the USSR to the U.S. and the non-communist West — a debt the USSR never could pay off, and a debt which was the hammer to start the crumbling of the foundations of Soviet Communism. In short, we have a wheat supply problem, caused in no small part by weather extremes that are, mostly likely, aggravated by global warming.
Can we agree to take action? Probably not, not so long as so many people deny that warming is happening and throw every roadblock in the path of action, in the name of “preventing government takeover.”
As a nation, we have problems with flood control, and emergency preparedness, and the management of undeveloped lands and farm lands — not to mention the many urban problems we face. What are the odds we can get a consensus on any of those problems, at least enough of a consensus to take constructive action?
For want of a nail, the horseshoe was lost, begins the old saw. We can’t even get agreement that horseshoes should be nailed to a horse’s hoof — how can we get the consensus to make sure there are enough nails to do the job?
- Perhaps related: Jason Stanley at the online New York Times, explains how words can be used to unfairly silence others — the use of propaganda to distort the truth, mischaracterize and demonize good people and good views.