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20 August 2010
Blame it on money in politics. Or on the fact that all Republicans are hateful victims of conniving Bible-thumpers. Or on the fact that the average voter is just stupider than this reporter. Whatever the cause, the rumors persist. Nicholas DeFonzo, a professor of psychology at the prestigious Rochester Institute of Technology, says, "Trust and distrust explains almost all of it. We live in a very polarized time in our history." He uses the harmonious Bush years as a baseline.
You see, this reporter has frequent audiences with Mr. Obama, who has personally denied each of the scurrilous assertions. As well as repeated his assurances that the health care law will be deficit-neutral in Fiscal Year 2014, and that you won't "see" any tax increase if you make less than a quarter million dollars, don't smoke, don't go to tanning salons, don't hold stocks, don't need a stent, pacemaker, crutches, or tampon, and buy a health insurance policy that meets such standards as the Secretary of Health Choices shall promulgate in a couple of years.
But somehow, the easily deceived American public has its doubts. The number of Americans who think Mr. Obama is a Muslim is up from 11% last March to 18%. The number who say he is a Christian (This is the correct answer) is down from 48% to 34%. The survey was conducted by the Phew Research Center and the affiliated Phew Forum for Flipping Skeptics.
Some of these voters say that Mr. Obama is governing outside the historical mainstream. This is also a shocking fallacy. In his misinterpreted comments on the Ground Zero mosque, Mr. Obama started out firmly in the style of Richard Nixon, saying, "Let me be perfectly clear." At a ceremonial Muslim dinner attended by Muslims on an Islamic holiday, he said the U.S. Government has no power to ban the building of a provocative mosque near a sensitive site--simply undeniable. Two days later, he took another cue from Mr. Nixon, a cue that unfortunately was consigned to the fateful 18-minute erasure, when Mr. Obama added, "...but that would be wrong."
In the days to come, Mr. Obama left himself room to take a page from the legacy of John Kerry, and say, "You see, I was for the mosque--before I was against it!"
Why are the American people so wedded to the Muslim myth when the facts are so clearly in opposition? Lori Berenson, managing partner of the web site FactCheck, says, "The Internet is making things worse." The web site is a non-partisan university project, as it receives no traceable funding from the Democratic Party. Ms. Berenson says Mr. Obama was sworn in using a Bible and not a Koran, and did not issue a postage stamp honoring Islam. That was George W. Bush, and we voted for change.
Ms. Berenson also noted web sites such as Uncyclopedia, which contain assertions that are flatly untrue. "What seems outlandish is often based on what we think may be plausible," she concludes.
With such temptations to ignore the objective facts, there is little hope for the American people to become capable of governing a free country. Fortunately, they can rely on educated people in the mass media to do it for them.
- James Taranto "Best of the Web: Great Moments in Public Diplomacy". Wall Street Journal, August 19, 2010