Ignorance is Bliss

Call me a latte-sipping elitist if you want*, but there are some truly stupid people in this country. Even worse, they’re willfully stupid!

Via Ben Smith’s “Things Americans Believe”:

10% of Americans believe [Barack] Obama’s a Muslim

22% believe President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.
30% believe Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
23% believe they’ve been in the presence of a ghost.
18% believe the sun revolves around the earth.

I can forgive the 9/11 conspiracy theorists because I don’t trust Bush as far as I can throw him, either, and I’m totally open to the idea of ghosts, but anyone still believing Saddam had WMDs is an example of willful stupidity.

And 18% believe the sun revolves around the earth!?!?


Similarly disconcerting are the people who willingly go on the record with their idiotic opinions (I can’t bring myself to raise them to the level of “beliefs” since they’re so easy to prove wrong if one had the slightest interest in the truth), like the Kentuckians who admitted to pollsters last that race was a factor in their voting for Hillary Clinton. At least those polls were ultimately anonymous.

A focus group, however, where an individual opinion is being solicited partly for its extrapolation to a larger sub-group, but where the specific individual is also of note and referenced, is where the real gems reveal themselves.

Via Dick Polman’s “Equal time for the willfully ignorant”:

It seems to be OK in this country to malign educated people, to dismiss them as “eggheads” and “latte-sippers,” probably because there is a sizeable anti-intellectual strain in our culture. But I would suggest that stupid people should also be ripe for open discussion – if only because millions of willfully clueless voters may well function as the swing decision-makers in a close ’08 presidential election.

And since we’re finally talking about ignorance, I offer Exhibit A – the report of a focus group, featuring 12 independent voters, that was conducted earlier this week in swing-state Virginia by the noted Democratic pollster, Peter Hart.

Hart yesterday circulated this report to folks like me. He took pains to point out, in his summary, that his 12 focus-group participants are not close followers of politics. None of them voted in Virginia’s Democratic or Republican primaries. All of them feel like “the election has been going on forever,” but none of them have bothered to learn anything about it. All they know is what they have heard – or, more significantly, misheard. And these independents are potentially pivotal in November; in Hart’s words, they “represent 20 percent of the electorate.”

Kind of a big decision, don’t you think? Choosing the next president? Yet, as Hart put it, much of what they know, or think they know, is “truly chilling.”

For instance, here’s Dorita, opining about Obama: “I’m a little concerned. I don’t know enough about his Muslim background and their beliefs and how he views everything. I’m a little concerned. I need to check his background.”

You do that, Dorita.

*For the record, I’m more of a Fair Trade Organic (Nell’s Breakfast Blend is my favorite), black with a couple of Raw Sugars Independent, though the street carts and Dunkin’ Donuts will do in a pinch. Starbucks, though, never. Also, I served in the military and never did finish college, though I attribute my ability to think for myself primarily to my upbringing and to a simple desire to just not be willfully stupid.

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