Friday, January 23, 2004

And Now for the Nonfacts Behind the News

Whatever value differences lie behind people’s politics, sheer misinformation explains a great deal. If you listen to AM radio, you’ll discover that a large portion of the electorate believes:

1. The progressivity of the tax code is what makes it complicated.

2. Foreign aid is a major part of the Federal budget.

3. The health care system of the United States is second to none.

4. Millions of unwed mothers live high on the hog off welfare.

5. Affirmative action in education and business is one of the main reasons for high levels of unemployment among white men.

6. The Federal government is primarily responsible for zoning, gun control, and family law, even on a local level.

7. Judges frequently release violent criminals on technicalities. Lots of murders get off on insanity pleas.

8. Many reputable scientists doubt the truth of evolution and the reality of global warming.

9. Bill Clinton raised everybody’s income taxes.

10. Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.

11. The liberals are in charge.

Of course people tend to believe what they want to believe—many environmentalists have gravely informed me that the cancer rate is much higher around nuclear power plants—but I suspect mere ignorance does explain a lot, even over and beyond the cultural despair, gnawing envy, and injured narcissism that feeds the anger of so many American white men. Which is a hopeful thought, really. We can work to inform. It’s harder to deal with the we-won-the-Cold-War-and-all-I-got-was-this-lousy-tee-shirt dynamic.

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