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Willful Ignorance

Entry 1417, on 2012-07-25 at 20:21:02 (Rating 5, Politics)

America confuses me. It's like a country with two different populations. On one hand there are brilliant, innovative, and generally very friendly and interesting people; and on the other hand there are many mindless morons, unthinking, inflexible and unpleasant throwbacks to what would be considered the distant past in most developed nations.

I'm sure it takes little imagination to realise that when I refer to the "mindless morons" I am referring to ultra-conservatives, believers in extreme literal Christianity, and the totally inflexible and bigoted population who are most numerous in the southern states.

Of course politicians realise that there are many of these people who vote and they are a great way to gain power. The Republican Party has been very effective in telling this population what they want to hear to ensure they get their votes. The fact that these strategies rely on simple lies and gross oversimplifications of reality should be no surprise to anyone.

I recently heard an example of these outrageous tactics. In a political platform statement they released for Texas there is a phrase something like this: "We oppose the teaching of higher order thinking skills, critical thinking skills, and similar programs that are simply a re-labelling of outcome based education, which focus on behaviour modification and have the purpose of challenging the students' fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority."

Basically they are saying they want students to stop thinking. Of course they do because the modern conservative agenda could only appeal to someone whose thought processes have stopped, or to someone who realises the agenda has no real merit but is just a cynical way to gain power.

Please note that many people with extreme views on any subject and with any political agenda are likely to have stopped thinking and to be relying on a received ideology instead. But it's never as overt as this. Only this group actively revels in being ignorant. It's like a badge of honour to them.

What is so appealing about ignorance? Well the truth can be painful. Why would anyone want to accept the truth of evolution when there is the pleasant myth of creation instead? Why would they want to accept the harsh truths of history (such as separation of church and state) when an alternative history suits what they want to believe instead? Why would they want to be forced into accepting the need to move from a petroleum-based energy system to a renewable one when their state produces so much oil?

To these people the facts just aren't convenient so they prefer to live a fantasy world where their God still exists, where there is unlimited oil with no consequences to its use, and where history agrees with their bigoted opinions.

That is bad enough but they take things a lot further. Not only do they want to remain ignorant themselves but they want to make sure that future generations are as ignorant as they are. So they don't want evolution, climate change, certain real history, or some other true but inconvenient science taught in schools; and they don't want students to be encouraged to think for themselves.

That's why they oppose critical thinking. They think that it will lead to the imposition of a "liberal agenda". Well if liberal agenda means teaching the truth instead of their brainless fantasy then yes, they are right, because knowing the facts will inevitably lead people away from ultraconservatism. It has nothing to do with liberalism, just accepting reality. If they equate thinking liberally with thinking logically then that is quite a compliment for liberalism, I would say.

Another of their strange beliefs involves morality. Where would they get the idea that morality has anything to do with blind belief in an old book? Some of the most dedicated believers are some of the most intolerant, inflexible, violent, unforgiving, uncaring people around. Do they really think that that is a good source of morality? Actually that question is meaningless because they just don't think at all.

Ultraconservatives also have some odd thoughts about authoritarianism. They seem to reject it superficially, especially in regard to what they see as too much government control, but they think it's OK for a church or a parent to act as an unquestionable authority. Apparently they cannot see the flaw in the argument that some things should be open to question but others not. Is it OK to question which things should be open to question?

The world has always changed and it always will. No one can stop the march of progress because as soon as one group stifles positive change someone else will come along and take over. It has happened to many civilisations in the past and it always will. I'm sure the last thing the American Christian Conservative movement wants is to sacrifice their country's preeminent position in the world. But that's exactly what they are doing.

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Comment 3 (3309) by OJB on 2012-08-03 at 22:33:13: (view earlier comments)

The problem with this "balance" thing is that it gives crazies the same influence as rational experts. For example creationists want their opinion presented in science class. Why would you do that? Not all opinions are equally valuable and some are just really hardly worth presenting at all.

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Comment 4 (3310) by Rob on 2012-08-12 at 20:27:35:

Anonymous in comment 2 indicates a belief that Fox News (Faux News) is balanced. Personally, I find this as ludicrous as the belief mainstream media is left leaning. Who does this chump believes owns most of the media? It certainly isnít hard-core liberals. Rupert Murdoch comes to mind and I certainly wouldnít put him in my list of top 100 most admired individuals. If your reader wants balanced reporting, that reader should listen to NPR or the BBC. After years of listening to NPR, (and yes, Iíve also listened to Fox) I have found they actually go overboard in trying to provide balanced and non-judgmental reporting to avoid any appearance of catering to the liberal element. Anonymous exhibits another case of dogma over thought.

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Comment 5 (3311) by OJB on 2012-08-13 at 08:26:07:

The usual argument is that Fox provides a contrary opinion to the rest of the media (who are seen as left-leaning) and that creates the balance.

But as I have said before, there is a study showing Fox viewers are actually less well informed than people who watch no news at all!

So the balance is really misinformation and lies from Fox balanced against the something much closer to the truth from others (that's a generalisation but true in most cases). Is that the type of balance we want?

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Comment 6 (3312) by Rob on 2012-08-13 at 08:39:43:

Not the kind of balance I'd like to see. However, if the facts are some bloke gives you $10 but tells you it's $1000 he's "balancing" your truth with his fiction. Good for him perhaps, not so good for you if you're out $990. My point is that Fox's distortion of facts is good for those that are hurt, politically or financially, by the facts. Those zealots prefer the "balance".

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Comment 7 (3313) by OJB on 2012-08-13 at 20:15:43:

Balance sounds like a great idea but it is often used as a reason to present opinions with little or no merit. It's why some news sources insist on presenting unsupported ideas involving global warming denial, claims that vaccination causes autism, creationism, etc. As I said above, "Not all opinions are equally valuable".

The problem is that people will always find sources for whatever nonsense they want to believe. If it wasn't Fox News it would be something else. What we really need is a way to stop stupid people who believe crap from having too much influence. That's why I am increasingly serious about my idea of making people pass a general knowledge test before they are allowed to vote!

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