A clash of civilizations revealed in Newseek poll

by: Paul Rosenberg

Wed Sep 01, 2010 at 09:00


So, there's this new Newsweek Poll with a number of questions about Islam and politics, including  two specifically focused on Obama.  I think that one thing these questions do is to demonstrate the significance of some things that Versailles--and not least the Obama Administration itself--has been trying to ignore.

First off, what both of the following say to me is that (1) identity-based culture wars aren't going anywhere, no matter how much Obama might wish otherwise. (2) Off-the-wall narratives about Obama being a Muslim and being foreign-born are not just strange anomalous opinions without political consequence.  More on what they say, afterwards.  Here's the first one:

The notion that Obama "favors the interests of Muslim Americans"  is frankly ludicrous.  But, then, so was the notion that blacks had too much influence in 1964.  Yet, as I noted in a recent diary, that's exactly what a substantial number of people believed, particularly those who were more conservative:

I wonder what would have happened if Newsweak had a couple of different, but related questions. First: "Some people think President Obama was favoring Muslim Americans when he pointed out that the First Amendment guaranteed their right to build a mosque wherever they wanted. Others disagree, since he specifically said he had no opinion on whether it was a good thing for them to build the mosque. Which comes closest your point of view?" Second (Only for those who agreed with the first statement): Is there anything else specific you can point to as evidence that Obama favors Muslim Americans?  In a formal sense, these two questions represent much better question design.  But I actually think that by screening out a certain level of unreflective prejudice they would deprive us of important information.  I'd like to have all the questions asked, so we could see how the responses differed.

The second question was even more revealing:

So a majority of Republicans think that Obama probably or definitely wants to impose Islamic law. Even more disturbing, the number of Democrats who know this is false is less than a majority!

This is cuckoo talk.  It's on the level of a neighbor boy back in 1956 telling me the day after the Presidential election that Stevenson had been discovered to be a "Jap spy" and that Eisenhower was going to shoot him in the head on White House lawn.  I was seven years old, and he was a year or two older. I was dumbstruck.  I just couldn't believe that someone older than me could be so totally ill-informed. (WW II had been over for the entirety of both of our lives, just for starters.  He didn't even know who our official enemy was.)  Little did I know.

As Meteor Blades  pointed out at DKos,

a key inquiry was nowhere to be found: "Do you know what Islamic law is?" Honest answers to that would probably tally in single digits.

It should be painfully obvious that these sorts of "beliefs" aren't factual beliefs from the realm of logos.  They are moral beliefs from the realm of mythos, though those who hold them have no idea of the difference.

And this is the central fact of the ongoing culture war we are trapped within.  This is the clash of civilizations within America.  And one of those two civilizations has no stable equilibrium this side of utter barbarism.

Paul Rosenberg :: A clash of civilizations revealed in Newseek poll

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The scale on that poll is also ludicrous (4.00 / 2)
Not including an option for 'generally opposes the interests of Muslims' makes that poll pretty close to a push poll.  It's amazing that you get a 50/50 split with it as is.  

We Can't Have People Thinking The Unthinkable! (4.00 / 1)
That would be unthinkable!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Poll proves crazy works (4.00 / 1)
As I pointed out yesterday, a key element of GOP propaganda strategy is to maintaining multiple tracks ranging from batshit to stuffed shirt.

The 'even-handed' question, as pointed out above, seems suspect; but the 'fundamentalist' question looks OK. And for just 28% of independents to say they're sure that Obama doesn't sympathize with the Islamists looks like something of an achievement for their propaganda machine.

On the other hand, 60% of Americans poll as believing in the literal truth of the Bible's Noah's Ark story - they did this time, at least.

And my guess would be that quite a number of those 60% were independents or Dems.

Trouble is, what DC Dems have to offer is their own brand of truthiness - which is just more wonky and murky and emotionally unappealing, though having pretty much as tenuous a link with objective fact as the GOP brand.

Thus, the chameleon 'public option' vs the fantasy 'death panels'.  


They Want To Send a Message (4.00 / 1)
A lot of people are just mad at anyone in authority.  If a poll asked if Obama was born on Saturn or is a Zoroastrian Bishop, 15% of so will say yes because they are mad about the economy and mad at the Obama because he is perceived as being in charge of the economy.  Personally, I think Tim Geithner was born on Neptune and Larry Summers is a practicing Wiccian Voodoo priestess.

There is a profound difference between saying someone (4.00 / 1)
was born on Saturn and calling someone a Muslim. Yes, there is anger, but it is not directed at all those in authority, and the particular form of the expression, racist invective, has meaning.  

[ Parent ]
Evidence Much? (0.00 / 0)
You could be a pundit!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
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