Topic: The Culture
Here in the reality-based community...
Earlier this month in an item called "The Annuls of Cognitive Dissonance" - on the web log here and in Just Above Sunset here - you will find a discussion of a study done by researchers from PIPA, the Program on International Policy Attitudes, a joint project of several academic centers, some of them based at the University of Maryland, and Knowledge Networks, a California-based polling firm.
And what did that study show? Americans who plan to vote for President Bush have many incorrect assumptions about his foreign policy positions. Kerry supporters, on the other hand, are largely accurate in their assessments. The uncommitted also tend to misperceive Bush's positions, though to a smaller extent than Bush supporters, and to perceive Kerry's positions correctly. Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments: "What is striking is that even after nearly four years President Bush's foreign policy positions are so widely misread, while Senator Kerry, who is relatively new to the public and reputed to be unclear about his positions, is read correctly."
As was said then, at some visceral level about half of the country wants Bush to win in November, if you follow the polls. And wanting that, they make up stuff about what he does, and what he says - to assure themselves he's a reasonable, thoughtful guy who is simply misunderstood. These are decent people and want to believe Bush is being a decent and fair guy. These are your friends and neighbors - and people who want us, as a country, to do the right thing.
And perhaps one can forgive these people supporting Bush for assuming the best about him in spite of the facts. That is natural, and understandable. And earlier I suggested you look up the term cognitive dissonance.
But facts are facts.
Well the PIPA folks are at it again this week with a new study.
Percentage of Bush supporters who recognize that a majority of the world's countries opposed the war in Iraq: 31.0% ...
Percentage of Bush supporters who believe a majority of the world's citizens favor Bush's reelection: 57.0% ...
Percentage of Bush supporters who believe a majority of the world's citizens favor Kerry: 9.0% ...
Is everything we all read in the news just wrong, and are these people right? And how did these Bush supporters come to this unusual grasp of the real truth no one is reporting - that the majority of the world's countries supported us in the war, and a majority people around the world really do want Bush reelected, and hardly anyone anywhere in the world likes the idea of Kerry or anyone else replacing Bush?
And James Bartlett wonders -
And Bartlett points to Michelle Goldberg in SALON.COM asking the key question - "How can arguments based on fact prevail in a nation where so many people know so little?"Here in the reality-based community, it's our tendency (perhaps our curse) to figure that there's a rational explanation for everything. And so, many of us look at the poll data every day, scratch our heads, and wonder why the hell Bush is doing so well, when he's so manifestly wrong on so much stuff. We already know that Bush supporters don't think he's wrong. We also know they continue to believe what he says even when you confront them with the truth about the stuff he says. So some of it is self-delusion. But [the PIPA study] indicates the level of the delusion is even worse than we thought.
The answer? Such arguments cannot prevail, or can prevail only with great difficulty. And if arguments based on fact do prevail, a lot of folks are going to be very angry on November 3rd - and these are the folks with guns.
Okay. That is a very snobbish, elitist thing to say.
Pointing out how "the other side" has got the facts wrong rightly offends the other side - as getting on one's high horse and sneering that these folks are all delusional fools and dumb-as-a-post dupes is counterproductive. That just creates more conflict, and God knows we have enough of that.
And a response from that other side might be that the press, and the whole of the liberal media, and the Pew international pollsters, have always had it in for humble Christian conservative leaders like George Bush - and have just reported the facts wrong. On purpose. All that stuff - the reports and film of people protesting in the streets around the world, and those many surveys - all that was a pack of lies the elitist news and fancy-pants research firms made up to bring down the president, a regular guy, a man of the people, and a man of God. Never happened.
No, that won't fly. It did happen. It is happening.
Another response from that other side might be that this disconnect regarding "the facts" is just be a matter of attitude and emphasis. Pessimistic, defeatist people (the Kerry supporters) see the massive worldwide demonstrations against us, the insurgency in Iraq and day after day our guys getting killed in the streets, the incredibly negative polling data, and foreign leaders turning their backs on us, as only a small part of the part of the bigger picture. The UK is with us - well, Tony Blair is, even of the people over there are not. And the Australians have their eight hundred troops with us in Iraq. And Poland hasn't pulled out just yet, even if Spain did, along with six or seven other nations. Fiji and Tonga are still with us. It's all how you look at it - a matter of attitude. And the press, reporting the negative, just stirs up lots of bad attitude. (Well, Fox News doesn't - see this from a year ago.)
So those who attend to only the bad news don't support Bush - but there are always two sides to every story. One should have a positive attitude.
The problem is the facts. Maybe the facts don't tell the whole story?
But if not, what good are facts? Some of us think they're useful. And the true right, the Bush supporters PIPA surveys this week, say it's all how you look at the facts.
Isn't that what they themselves used to say was the problem with those on the left - all the fulminating about moral relativism and how we need clarity about right and wrong, good and evil, the truth and fiction? There's no small irony in this. It's big time irony.
Can this disagreement - about what is actually happening - be resolved? That's going to be hard work. Hard work? You heard Bush whine about that in the first presidential debate. He doesn't like it.
So this disagreement about the facts is not going to be resolved. We just will not agree about what is happening. One side will continue to shout, "Look at what is really happening! Man, it looks bad!" The other side will say, "You just see it that way because you have a bad attitude. Geez, why not look at the good side?"
Facts used to be a common ground. No more.
Posted by Alan at 21:41 PDT
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Updated: Thursday, 21 October 2004 21:47 PDT home