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Pew Research Poll

Pew Research Poll

Perhaps the most alarming statistic revealing the average ignorance of the American voter was this Pew Research Poll, conducted about a month ago, which demonstrated that 12% of registered voters still incorrectly believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim. Even more frightening is that this number has remained mostly constant throughout the election season, even throughout the spectacle about Obama’s former Christian pastor, Rev. Wright, which littered headlines everywhere not long ago. This means that there is a block of the American voting public which is not only uninformed now, but which appears to be persistently uninformed.

And this block of voters might be even more numerous than 12%. If we’re using this poll alone as indication, you’ll notice that only 57% of registered voters actually get it right about Obama’s faith. There are a large number of voters who ‘have heard conflicting reports’ or simply aren’t sure yet one way or another (1% actually believe Obama is Jewish!). Of course, this should be an easy fact to check. But instead, it appears that these uninformed voters are not only ignorant, but also resiliently stubborn about their ignorance. Thus, it’s probable that somewhere between 15 and 40 percent of American voters could be placed in a voting block; we might as well call it the ‘Ignorant Vote’.

What all of this really means, shamefully, is that the candidate which can pander best to the ‘Ignorant Vote’ can literally sway the election. And if any political party has learned to feed, grope and spin the cycle of misinformation which tinkers the Ignorant Vote, it is the modern Republican Party. Not only do Republicans tend to consistently gain the favor of the Ignorant Vote, but I’ve no doubt that they consciously target it.

It’s no different here, regarding misinformation about Obama’s faith. Let’s brush aside for a moment that it shouldn’t matter which Abrahamic religion Obama adheres to: The fact remains that among the voters who aren’t sure yet, have heard conflicting reports or who already falsely believe that Obama is a Muslim, the vast majority sway toward voting for McCain as a result. Thus, if Republicans were going to play dirty here, they’d have a propaganda campaign designed specifically around proliferating rumors, misinformation and straight-up lies about Obama’s faith. And, unfortunately, this is exactly what we’ve seen– and in unprecedented, unabashed, explicit force.

Republican pundits everywhere raise the question about Obama’s faith. They continually reinforce stereotypes surrounding Obama’s unusual name and his race. For instance, Republican pundit and talking head, Tucker Carlson, on MSNBC’s Tucker, has been caught claiming that Obama’s faith has become “suddenly conspicuous”. Meanwhile, a book replete with lies and falsehoods, many of which were literally made up out of thin air, was recently published by conservative strategist Jerome Corsi, wherein Corsi attempts to make the case that Obama is really a Muslim (among a slough of other falsehoods and lies, too). This is the same guy who coined the phrase ‘swiftboating’ and who published an equally fraudulent book which courted the Ignorant Vote and derailed the Kerry campaign in 2004. Corsi has also published another book which is aimed at concealing the scientific consensus about the truth of global warming, wherein he goes so far as to question the “truism that oil is a fossil fuel”. I’m not kidding. Meanwhile, conservative radio talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have repeatedly hosted Corsi as a guest, presenting him as an ‘expert opinion’ on all of these matters. If this isn’t incriminating evidence demonstrating the conservative effort to court and foster the Ignorant Vote, I don’t know what is.

There are at least two possible ways of countering the dirty politics of courting the Ignorant Vote: We can either play dirty back (by spreading rumors and lies which influence ignorant voters in other ways), or we can nobly attempt to educate the American public by telling the truth, hoping to dwindle down the percentages of the ignorant. Since this election season is about hope, I’ll reserve my faith for the latter.

Unfortunately, it seems that Republicans have sputtered off entirely toward the dark side instead, shamefully propagating the politics of “anything goes”. To the extent that democracy relies upon an informed and politically active populace, these conservative strategies are not only dangerous to the Obama campaign– they flagrantly threaten our democracy. So I’m asking you: What do you think could be done to combat these out-of-control attempts to foster and manipulate ignorance among American voters?

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It’s become eerily consistent: it seems the only times the Bush Administration and our media really cares about democracy, liberty and independence in the world is when there’s a lot of oil at stake. While Bush is parading around as a noble crusader for democracy, backing Georgia and hypocritically attempting to lecture Russia about the wrongs of invasion, it doesn’t hurt that Georgia also has a major oil pipeline running through it. The pipeline, which was completed in 2005, is one of the West’s latest attempts to secure its interest in the massive Caspian oil reserves, which diversifies the West’s supply of foreign oil outside of the Middle East. Also worthy of note is that the pipeline, which is controlled by BP, also shares its investment with the likes of Chevron and ConocoPhillips, as well as Norwegian, French and Italian oil giants.

Interestingly, it has been massively under-reported thus far that this conflict began, not due to a Russian invasion, but rather due to a Georgian invasion of one of its territories: South Ossetia, which is not an ethnically Georgian region and has been interested in its own independence from Georgia. While South Ossetia’s rebel forces have been fueled by Russian support– support which had recently been advanced and accelerated– undoubtedly Russia’s support for the region has more to due with the oil pipeline too, and less to do with noble protection of a region’s independence.

Thus, this is the real reason for why the U.S. and Europe are picking Georgia’s side and painting Russia as the invading force: it can only truly be about controlling that Caspian oil supply.

It’s become part of our lexicon: islamo-fascism. We hear the term used everywhere in the political sphere by Right Wing radio talkers, cable news pundits and even our President. It’s a term that’s been useful for drumming up blind patriotism, religious intolerance, the War on Terror, and all kinds of blatant fear-mongering, bigotry and cultural conflict. But as it is for many of the handy pieces of rhetoric used by conservatives, it’s also an ironically-shaped, deceitful misnomer. For those that use the term, it basically displays a complete ignorance about the meaning of the words involved.

In other words, for anyone who knows the origins of the term, ‘fascism’, they know that it doesn’t have much to do with what Islamic terrorist groups are preaching. In fact, the term much more closely resembles the philosophy of the conservative movement and the principles being applied by the Bush-Cheney-Rove Administration than it does with religious-inspired terrorism. The use of the term, therefore, is either hilariously ironic or otherwise frightfully ignorant.

Let’s begin with my 1983 American Heritage Dictionary’s entry on ‘fascism’: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.

In fact, the term was first coined and extolled by dictator Benito Mussolini and neo-Hegelian philosopher Giovanni Gentile, from the Italian, fascio, which essentially translates as a ‘bundle’ or ‘union’. The term was therefore utilized to reference a unification of the state with corporate interests; to eliminate the notion of individual and local liberties and to reinforce a governmental stronghold. Fascism was plainly designed to be a political system diametrically opposed to democracy. Mussolini was not shy from stating this directly:

Granted that the 19th century was the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy, this does not mean that the 20th century must also be the century of socialism, liberalism, democracy. Political doctrines pass; nations remain. We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the “right”, a Fascist century.

Here are some basic symptoms of a fascist/corporatist state:

Fervent nationalism/patriotism: thus the irony of drumming up patriotism with a term like islamo-fascism.
Government agencies run like businesses: privatization and corporate control of our public programs.
Monopolies: large subsidies favoring particular corporations, numbing out competition
Large corporations successfully lobbying Governments: lobbyists freely roam the halls of Congress and usually write our legislation themselves.
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer: tax cuts to the rich, under the mythical banner of the repeated failings of ‘trickle-down economics’.
Favours given to campaign contributors: John McCain’s recent support of offshore drilling has been sharply correlated to a fourfold increase in campaign contributions from Big Oil.

Let’s face it, the marriage of big business to the government, the mantra of ‘privatizing’ our government, a call for American patriotism in the face of an unjust war (and the demonization of ‘liberalism’, another fascist strategy): these are all talking points straight from both the conservative playbook, and Mussolini’s. Don’t believe me? Several of John McCain’s top economic and campaign advisors are former lobbyists for the Oil and Pharmaceutical companies. Ed Gillespie, former RNC chairman, was a lobbyist for Enron. The also ironically titled Patriot Act, which does nothing more than strip away the civil liberties that the real patriots which founded our nation fought and died for, undermines our constitution and is one of many ploys to give excessive power to the Executive Branch. There’s the conservative attack on Habeas Corpus. The list goes on and on.

On the political spectrum, these are all traits and trends which steer toward text-book fascism, and which directly oppose and steer away from democracy. Our nation was built to be a representative democracy. If there is anything which is blatantly un-American, it is the fascist-oriented bent of the conservative, right-wing movement. There’s nothing American about conservative thought whatsoever. How, then, do conservative talkers, right wing pundits and the Republican Party get away with making claims about what is or what isn’t truly American or patriotic? Unfortunately, it’s probably because the American people themselves have forgotten what it is that makes them truly American.

As President Franklin D. Roosevelt warned in an April 29th, 1938 message to Congress:

The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.

Saying all of this is not to excuse the vile tactics and political motives of radical religious terrorists, whether they be inspired through the warped fury of Islam, or any other religious fervor. But if we are going to reserve the term, ‘fascism’, to describe anything, it certainly seems to apply far better to the current Bush administration’s policies and the un-American conservative think-tanks which are slowly but surely stripping away our democracy and replacing it with a totalitarian corporatism, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Mussolini. Thus, when you hear those conservative pundits or cable news anchors warning about the ‘islamo-fascist’ threats to our nation, be careful not to react by becoming devoted to the wrong banner in response.