Monday, June 30, 2008

In Other News, People Are Stupid


I love conspiracy theories and baseless rumors as much as the next girl, but, really...if we just got rid of Ohio, would anyone miss it?

Today's Post tells us all about the people of Findlay, Ohio, who apparently believe all sorts of awesome untrue things about Barack Obama. It's not the ignorance of the Findlayans that kills me, it's the willful stupidity. And if that makes me an urban Starbucks-toting snooty lily-livered elitist, so be it. Money quote:

"I understand he's from Africa, and that the first thing he's going to do if he gets into office is bring his family over here, illegally. He's got that racist [pastor] who practically raised him, and then there's the Muslim thing. He's just not presidential material, if you ask me."

So, Obama's an African Muslim, but he was practically raised by a pastor (who are, generally speaking, Christian) in America. That's not just being a bit misguided. You would really need to do some mental backflips to twist yourself into that one. That level of idiocy takes perseverance and effort. If we could harness the willful ignorance of America's Findlays, along with the mental power used to make bongs out of honey jars and soda cans, we'd have a cure for cancer by now.

The other hilarious part is that the locals believe whatever their friends and neighbors tell them. As one man says, "These are good people, smart people, so can they really all be wrong?"

Because if you love someone, they must be right. Right?

I love my mom, and she believes Clearasil is carcinogenic and that the FBI keeps a file on me. I have a friend who sends me at least one (easily discredited) chain email rumor a week, usually that antiperspirant causes breast cancer or that Microsoft will give me money for forwarding stuff. I also know a guy who thinks the Trilateral Commission sets gas prices. Just because these are all lovely, God-fearing people doesn't mean I'm going to banish benzoyl peroxide and antiperspirant from my medicine cabinet.

Look, voters are dumb. They are thick and selfish and willfully silly. I was a pollster, and I can tell you, empirically, within a margin of error of three percentage points, precisely how dumb voters truly are. Our current president was chosen based on whom we'd rather have a beer with. Apparently, a majority of us would rather have a beer with a teetotaler, because we're just that smart.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is this: it's not just Findlay, Ohio. And I take back my assertion that we should just get rid of the entire state.

All we can do is cross our fingers and hope the next president improves education enough that perhaps the next generation won't be choosing presidents based on what Joe down at the bait shop thinks.

In the comments, pretend you're Joe from the bait shop and tell me something outrageous.

39 comments:

DCBrownie said...

Standing ovation! I read that article also, and I couldn't agree more with your post.

Lemmonex said...

Hm, something outrageous about Obama or something outrageous in general?

In general: a town in Alaska recently changed it's name from Barrow to Jolt...for free soda.

About Obama: He walks around the Senate in sunglasses with his suit coat slung over his shoulder. it is supremely bad ass. (and true)

Shannon said...

Aw, thanks, DCBrownie! I normally stay far, far away from politics, but Findlay was just too funny to pass up.

Michael J. West said...

Obama is not even a Muslim--he's a member of a Hindu death cult. Remember Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? The character of Mola Ram was actually based on Barack.

Shannon said...

Lem, Mike, you left out the fact that Barack is personally responsible for global warming and bathes in the blood of virgins.

My only real concern is that a Findlayan sort will come across this blog and pass this crap along as fact. If that happens, I demand royalties!

Jamie said...

Not holding my breath. When almost half of the country thinks that someone deity rolled up some dirt and created human beings as an encore to creating the universe in the 6 days, we got some serious issues here.

But the FBI does have a file on you. Trust me.

dara said...

The electorate is surprisingly dumb. I have some really well-educated and well-read left-leaning friends who still believe that Obama is a Muslim and will cut off diplomatic relations with Israel if he wins in November. Whenever I hear this, my first step is loan them my copy of "Dreams From My Father."

But my sister takes the cake. She is 30 years old and refuses to vote because she doesn't read a newspaper or watch the news and has no idea what the candidates stand for, and has no desire to educate herself. Every time we have this conversation, I have to resist the urge to smack her in the head.

Shannon said...

Jamie, I think the real story is that YOU have a file on me.

Dara, all things considered, I'm sort of relieved your sister DOESN'T vote...wouldn't we be in an even bigger pickle if she did? :)

Kevin said...

I read the article as well and was stunned, stunned I say, by the willful suspension of ... what? ... Actual brain activity by the folks there in Findlay.

If they're really looking for a conspiracy and for someone ineligible to run for president, they're looking at the wrong candidate. Not that I'm in any way, shape or form saying it disqualifies him, but McCain actually WAS born outside of the U.S. (he was born in the Panama Canal Zone while his father was stationed there with the Navy). There actually is more of a Constitutional question of whether he is eligible to run for president than Obama is.

Thankfully, the 1st Congress answered this question just before McCain was born when it passed a 1790 law making children of U.S. citizens born overseas "natural-born" citizens.

The hardest thing to change is a mind when it's made up. All you can do is remind everyone you know to vote. Doesn't matter who they vote for, just that they vote. Despite what people say, the system usually works...as long as you don't live in Zimbabwe.

Here endeth the rant.

Gilahi said...

Hey, it's me. Joe from the bait shop. Sure hope they build a lake around here sometime soon.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, we don't need no Irishters like O'Bama in the White House. Next thing you know they'll be a-votin' in a Swede.

restaurantrefugee said...

I am glad you wrote it, because I had been thinking about it since my paper got to my coffee table this morning.

Regarding the ridiculous…
I am only $2K away from raising the $50K I need to claim my prize in the British Lottery.

Shannon said...

Kevin, I don't know if it's a case so much as suspension of brain activity, or over-use of the wrong kind of brain activity.

Hey, does that 1790 thing mean I can run for President after all?

Joe-lahi, now I want a t-shirt depicting Obama as a leprechaun named O'Bama.

Refugee, I'm sure there are plenty of people in Findlay who would chip in!

lacochran's evil twin said...

Sorry, I know I'm supposed to make fun of these morons (or morans, as your lovely picture spells it) but I find it too depressing. What can you expect from a citizenry that believes that Iraq attacked us on 9/11? It's sad that some segments of white America would rather believe all these negative lies than the reality. It's amazing to me how much fear there is and how much stupidity grows out of it. It's also a credit to Obama that he's able triumph and move forward despite so much of this crap.

Shannon said...

LaTwin, I think when life hands you a choice between laughing and crying, you should always laugh. But I did feel my heart sink as I read that story.

Marissa said...

What's even sadder is this country has cast itself into believing only two parties exist and only two "viable" candidates are running for president. Even more dumb is the fact that both parties are essentially the same in the grand scheme of things -- hot bureaucratic messes in love with themselves. Well, here's to hoping the best dressed wins -- sunglasses on the Senate floor is hot. Can't wait to see how he'll roll in the White House. (Thanks for that tidbit, Lemmonex.)

Justin said...

Shannon, I love the photo that goes with the article :)

One place where mass stupidity really annoys me is gas prices. Namely because so many otherwise decent folk get into the same mob mentality as everyone else.

There are so many conspiracies out there, and people are pissed that oil companies make so much money (the idea of a windfall tax is particularly nuts). It stirs emotions and people completely leave logic behind.

It's not really a political thing, either. It's explained by simple economics.

I feel like the Econ 101 class I took in college is something we should be teaching to kids well before they get to college. Or middle school.

I left out specifics so as not to make this post long and rambly. If anyone wants to get into it, go for it.

Capitol Hill 20210 said...

It was Obama in the Library with the leadpipe

The DC Feed said...

Interesting post! I have linked to this at The DC Feed.

Ibid said...

At one point 1/3 of the people in America thought George W Bush was, literally, Jesus returned to Earth.

Anonymous said...

Um, at the risk of being really annoying (but remember, I'm just a dang furriner), I have to ask - isn't education a local and state responsibility in the US, not a federal one? And if so, how can a President improve education in any significant way?

Clio

Ibid said...

anon, there is funding and directions that come from all levels. Because schools are so poorly funded they often take money to teach stupid stuff just because they need the money. For years a lot of states took money from the federal government to teach abstinence only education. Luckily about half the states have determined that program is damaging enough that they're refusing that money.
Similarly, Kennedy's drive to get to the Moon caused a boost in math and science education in the 60's and early 70's.
Federal laws against the union of church and state prevent the schools from teaching that George Bush is Jesus and keep science teachers from teaching that the world is 6,000 years old.

Shannon said...

Marissa, personally, I don't care who y'all vote for, or what party they're from, so long as you don't vote for idiot reasons.

Justin, I got a D-minus in Economics, so I'll have to take your word for it. The professor kept using pizza and beer as examples, and I kept thinking, "mmmm, pizza" and getting distracted. As for the photo, I did a Google image search for "voters are morons."

Zipcode, but was it a Muslim lead pipe?

Feed, thanks for the link!

Ibid, Jesus? Really? Please tell me you made that up.

Clio, what Ibid said.

Ibid, thanks! I like knowing I can count on you when I mouth off without doing any research.

Also, this talk of abstinence education reminds me...anyone who went to Carolina with me remember, "Outercourse"? The Manual of Heavy Petting?

Anonymous said...

I'm doing the one thing I always try not to do - get involved in commenting on American policy matters. (And I'm not anonymous, btw, I'm Clio.) But here goes:

1. It's not the schools in the Bible belt that are so poorly funded, no?

2. If your Constitutional protection against the establishment of religion is so effective, esp. at the educational level, why do so many people believe in Creationism anyway? Clearly they believe in it because they want to do so, not because it's taught to them in schools - or not.

3. It isn't clear that money is the problem for the school districts that perform most poorly. I believe the DC public school system has one of the highest per pupil spending rates in your country, but its students consistently perform poorly and drop out at high rates. Just to make myself clear, I don't believe that it's a race issue; I suspect the problem is DC politics and the teachers' unions there. What could a president do about that?

Clio

Anonymous said...

DC schools rank third in the country in spending. As of June 2008 they spend an average of $13,446 per pupil.

Here's the link: http://newsroom.dc.gov/show.aspx/agency/planning/section/2/release/14109

Clio

Ibid said...

Really? They spend that much in DC? Then how is it that they can still graduate without ever having had turned on a computer?
I deal with a few neighbor kids. They'll be Juniors next year and I'd put any second grader from the Kansas City suburbs against them.
I've been teaching them to use hammers, saws, socket sets, and brooms. That's right. They couldn't use a broom.

Ibid said...

The president can't force parents to care. That's probably more important than anything.

But race is an issue. Not so much to the teachers but to the students themselves. If you have a student who actually wants to do well or speak clearly s/he'll get beaten up for "acting white".

Shannon said...

Clio, goodness, you're making me think. I much prefer to crack jokes.

As for the effectiveness of the separation church and state, I would argue we'd be in far worse shape if we let the zealots run willy-nilly. Incidentally, the Bill of Rights is what guarantees freedom of religion and bars the establishment of a state religion (which, in a roundabout way, is why we separate church and state). In other words, no matter how much some folks may want it, America is not and will never be a theocracy.

But, yeah, Americans are still going to believe in silly things because schools can only do so much. Families and upbringing matter, too.

Which brings us to the glorious clusterfuck of the DC school system. Many of the problems are institutional - teacher's unions and a notoriously intractable bureaucracy. Chancellor Rhee is trying to fix these things and is handing out pink slips like candy (more power to her, I say throw the bums out).

And many DC education problems are cultural, vs. institutional. Many dropouts are raised by dropouts, affluent parents put their kids in private school or head to the burbs, and assorted other standard-issue urban ills.

I agree the solution isn't to throw money at the problem, and that education is primarily a state and local issue. One thing the federal government can do, though, is ease up on No Child Left Behind, which in my opinion is creating more problems than it solves. Teachers are teaching by rote so kids can pass a test, instead of conveying learning and critical thinking skills (meaning we'll have a whole generation of Findlay sorts).

Anonymous said...

Shannon, the whole matter of the disestablishment of religion in the US, and its effect on religious devotion, is a complex one. There is a theory that argues that it has made the US more, rather than less, religious, because religion in the US has never been tainted by a too-close alliance with the state.

In fairness, I don't think that evangelical Americans actually want a theocracy. I suspect that most people who make this accusation have no conception of what a theocracy really is. It does not refer to a state in which people allow their religious beliefs to influence their votes. It means direct rule by priests, or their representatives. Iran was a theocracy for a time after the revolution of 1979.

Catholic states before the French Revolution were not, strictly speaking, theocracies, in spite of the fact that the Church was "established" in their jurisdictions, because church and state remained two separate bodies and were often at daggers drawn with each other. OTOH, in Russia, the Orthodox church became in effect an arm of the state after Peter the Great's reforms, governed by secular bodies. (That's the situation you want to avoid at all costs...)

In the US, I believe most critics use the theocracy accusation to mean something like "government according to theological principles" - but it is very difficult, in practise, to determine which principles are strictly theological. Take this idea too far - insist, for example, that public policy should never be influenced by believers - and you would deprive enormous numbers of people of their right to say in how they are to be governed.

Clio

p.s. sorry to on for so long; this touches on my, ahem, "scholarly interests".

Ibid said...

American Christians THINK they want a theocracy. With George Bush they got pretty much exactly what they wanted. Most realize that it's all gone wrong but won't acknowledge that it's the faith based leadership that's driven everything off the rails.

Shannon said...

Clio, actually, I always enjoy your posts. I don't mind when posters disagree with me, and very much enjoy it when people do so in an informed and respectful way.

I don't mind if people use religion as a guide for how they vote, or what policies they agree with. Where I get queasy is when I hear America is a "Christian nation" that should be governed by "Christian principles." Folks who argue those ideas often don't understand what that really means.

Back in my pollster days, we ran a survey in Alabama regarding Roy Moore, Crazy Ten Commandments Man. We asked voters if they agreed with, "Biblical law." Overwhelmingly, they said yes. After all, who doesn't like the Bible?

Then we dug a little, and explained to those same voters that Biblical law would entail stoning adulterers and cutting off ears and the like (I don't remember the specifics). People recoiled from Biblical law.

My take: Americans in theory like the idea of religious law, but in practice would completely hate it.

Anonymous said...

Ibid - I don't think so. Nor do I see that in Bush they got theocratic leadership. Bush's gravest faults have little to do with his religious affiliation. If it's that war you object to, I suspect any president in power at the time of 9/11 would have felt enormous political pressure to make some kind of move against those thought to be responsible. That Bush and his advisers then chose to see Iraq as an enemy cannot be ascribed to their religious beliefs, or lack of them for that matter.

As for those matters which are more directly connected to religion - abortion, opposition to embryonic stem cell research, and the like - it is perfectly possible to oppose or question all of these without being, in fact, a believer.

But hey - it's your country. I had better stop now, before you think I'm trying to mind your business for you. Especially since today is Canada Day and I really ought to be celebrating that, not lecturing Americans.

My apologies to Shannon if I come off as a troll...

Clio

Shannon said...

Clio, seriously, don't worry about it. I don't care about multi-posting or debating with other psoters, so long as commenters are coherent and refrain from personal insults. So do what you will, as long as you don't call anyone stupid or hound people (Usually Lurking is as an example for that one).

Shannon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ibid said...

Bush had a mission to invade Iraq long before he took office. That was crystal clear the first time I heard him speak. Whether trying to prove something to his Daddy or as part of a new Crusade is up to debate. Sept 11 was just an excuse since we knew they had nothing to do with it.

No, George has admitted that God speaks to him and he bases his decisions on the voices. He gives lots of his faith based money to Christian organizations, a dribble to Jewish organizations, and none to Muslim organizations. In fact, the Muslim organizations get raided and shut down.
Many people he hired for staff and advisers admit that they think Jesus will come when we cut down the last tree. This motivates their decisions. To be fair, Reagan had many people who believed this, too.
George himself said he's not worried about global warming because Jesus will be back soon.

No, all George's decisions were either religiously motivated or driven by helping his cronies.

Anonymous said...

Ibid, Muslims and Jews form a rather small percentage of the population of the US, do they not? That might explain the lack of support for their organizations. It is also just possible that the Muslim charitable groups to which you refer have been shut down for legitimate reasons.

That said, I think the idea of funds for "faith-based initiatives" are a mistake, and likely to lead to bad feeling.

The fact that Bush thinks God speaks to him is neither here nor there. as long as he isn't taking direct orders from some earthly group of clerics. If you insist on regarding Bush's prayerful consultations with his Maker as a kind of church-state conspiracy, you will make all believers who pray regularly ineligible for office.

Clio

Tina said...

Clio-

If it matters I am enjoying your posts as well. It is refreshing to have someone look at hot button issues from a scholerly bent rather than the usual "sides". i susupect thought that being a furriner - makes that easier. Its usually easier to be objective when you can do so from outside the system you are analysing. I'm not saying its impossible from the inside - just harder.

Shannon said...

Ibid, BUSH HEARS VOICES? Sometimes, it isn't God. It's schizophrenia.

Clio, I agree on your second point, as it's absurd to expect people to drop their faith the second they're sworn in. What creates problems in the U.S. is that Republicans wrapped themselves up in religion, and changed the dialogue somehow so that being progressive meant that you hated God. Insulting, untrue, but has amazing traction in the Findlay, Ohios of America. This was really one of the great coups of American political history. There is a push among progressives (and progressive evangelicals) to counteract this - look up www.sojo.net for a group called the Sojourners for more info.

As for your first point, statistically, yes, we have more Christians than anything else. But we are founded on the premise of majority rule/minority rights, meaning that just because the majority are Christian doesn't mean other religions can be swept under the carpet. So, there should at least be a FEW Muslim and Jewish charities receiving faith-based initiative funds.

Wow, eighth grade Civics just reared its ugly head, huh?

Ibid said...

If you look at all the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim charitable organizations that applied for funds and the ratios in which they were approved you'll see they're radically lopsided.

There's people who speak to God (pray) and there's people who God speaks to. George claims to be one of the latter.

Alias Clio said...

I'm sorry, Shannon. I'd understood from Ibid that some Muslim and Jewish charities did in fact receive some federal funds. If this isn't true, then clearly there is a problem. As I said, though, I think the idea was a bad one to begin with.

As far as the Republicans redefining faith in the US so that being progressive means that you hate God, this is actually a complex issue and cannot be blamed on either political party, although both have tried to exploit it. Before the 1960s, there was a far greater consensus amongst Americans regarding nearly all moral issues. The major political differences were those that divided people along economic and regional lines: support for unions, welfare, high or low tariffs, and the like. There was of course a moral element to all of these matters - but it was possible to discuss such matters as purely political issues, without demonizing opponents.

The one exception was segregation, which was an obvious moral issue that could not easily be re-cast as a mere political issue. But the thing about segregation was that it was not yet, in 1960, a party issue: there were more segregationists among the Democrats than among the Republicans, yet the Republicans, as today, were regarded as the party of the well-to-do. Neither party's adherents could really feel morally superior to the other as a result.

Some historians believe that this situation began to change as the 1960s activists, who were nearly all Democrats by familial custom, and because it was traditionally the anti-war party, started a long campaign to radicalize the Democrats. They demanded a voice; they pushed the southern segregationists into the background (and eventually pushed them out of the party altogether); they claimed the cause of Women's Liberation as their own (though it was Republican women at one time who were more likely to be women's rights activists, I believe). The changes were highly visible during the party's 1968 convention, I'm told.

Most importantly for the point I'm making, they began to demonize the religious believers in both their own party and in the Republican ranks as vicious conformists who were mindlessly patriotic, blood thirsty (they often supported the War!); racists; and opposed to abortion.

That last issue was of course of particular significance to both parties and, because of the US's status as a major power, to the world. Once upon a time, supporters of abortion were more likely to be Republicans than Democrats. Catholics, after all, were more likely to be Democrats. (As late as 1973, after Nixon's resignation, Betty Ford became famous as the first president's wife to support abortion openly - and she was of course married to a Republican. Unthinkable now but still possible then.)
But as a result of these changes, Catholics who held to the old beliefs (a shrinking number) began to be less comfortable among the Democrats and started to drift away from the party.

The tendency of conservative Catholics to leave the party grew more pronounced after abortion was declared to be a woman's right in 1973, and Catholic bishops began to organize a movement opposing it. Then a strange new development began: southern churches, many of them with segregationist histories, started to listen to the Catholic bishops, once their sworn enemies (scarlet whore of Babylon) and join forces with them against abortion. Hard to remember that once upon a time conservative Christian non-Catholics did not have strong feelings against abortion...Anyway, the arrival of the Bible-belt churches, with their mixed record regarding race, made it even easier for the Democrats to demonize conservative Christians opposition to abortion.

It took time for these changes to coalesce. Jimmy Carter in 1976 (I remember that election well) looked far less the extra-national elder statesman and far more the Christian evangelical, in both appearance and manner. Not someone the Democrats would elect today. But he was someone the conservative Christians of the south could tolerate as a result. (And the anti-abortionists in the party had not yet been silenced; Carter said he thought abortion was wrong though he accepted its legality.)

But he was the last candidate who could bridge the new moral gap between the old and new-style Democrats. And he didn't do it very well. He was an intelligent man but a bumbler, who handled the "hostage crisis" in a way that many old-timers found embarrassingly inept. (No comment on that; don't know what ought to have been done.) He couldn't censor his thoughts and talked about malaise and lusting in his heart. The economy was tanking into inflation and recession at once, which had been thought impossible. Oil prices were sky-rocketing. Not Carter's fault, exactly, but easy to blame on him.

And so many (not all) of the old-style Democrats, the conservative Christians, decided they weren't at home in the party any more, and when Reagan came along, they voted for him. They began to demonize the progressive brethren in their former party as evil and anti-Christian. Reagan, reading their mood, took political advantage of this, though he wasn't much of a believer himself, I've read. (There's some dispute about this, though.) Meanwhile, the Democrats became the party of young urban professionals and the urban poor, for the most part, and the old unions tagged along, though they had begun to lose much of their influence.

To summarize: I don't think that the demonization can be blamed on either party exclusively. Apologies for going on so long, for lecturing you about your own history, and for anything I may have got wrong.

Clio