Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Does it matter if 29% of Louisiana Republicans think Obama's the guy who effed up the Katrina response? (And another 44% are "not sure"?)


Plus: Update on last night's Bkln Cyclones game

-- from (click to enlarge)
When I read a report about the poll on the Talking Points Memo Web site, the first thing that came to mind was the famous campaign-trail quotation from the man who actually was president in 2005: "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning."

Evidently, they is not, at least not in Louisiana. . . .
-- Dana Milbank, in his Washinton Post column
"Embracing misinformation on Obama"
by Ken

"This is a preposterous notion," Dana writes of the PPP poll results.
Everybody knows Barack Obama couldn't have been responsible for the Katrina response because he was in Indonesia in 2005, learning about his Muslim faith in a madrassa. He had moved to Indonesia directly from his home country of Kenya, stopping in the United States just long enough to fake the moon landing.
Even allowing for the provenance of the poll (PPP is a Democratic shop), Dana says, and its unscientific "automated, push-button polling method," "it shows that a substantial number of Republican voters will agree to something they know to be false if it puts Obama in a bad light."

I'm not as sure as Dana is about the "they know to be false" part. While I agree that "ignorance alone does not account for this bizarre finding," I think that perhaps cunningly manipulated ignorance may well do the trick. We'll come back to this, but I do think it's important to grasp that a substantial number of Republican voters will agree to anything that puts Obama in a bad light.

"The Katrina question," Dana says, "is consistent with the many surveys finding an appalling amount of misinformation embraced by the electorate."
Seven in 10 Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. One in five thought that Obama was Muslim. In another famous poll, Americans were three times more likely to be able to name two of the seven dwarfs than two Supreme Court justices.

Earlier this year, Public Policy Polling found disturbingly high levels of belief in UFOs and aliens, and the believers were bipartisan: Twenty-two percent of Mitt Romney voters said Obama was the Antichrist, and 13 percent of Obama voters said the government allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur. [Links onsite.]
Now those 13 percent of Obama voters who said the government allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur are nothing to brag about, but I'm not sure they balance out the 22 percent of Willard voters who said Obama was the Antichrist. And I'm sorry to have to point it out, Dana, but there are still a bunch of unanswered questions about the Bush regime's ties to the Saudi regime and curious circumstances about the 9/11 attacks.

Dana notes that "Obama's presidency has provoked a particularly steep rise in the proportion of Republican conspiracy theorists."
A Pew poll last year found that 30 percent of Republicans and 34 percent of conservative Republicans thought Obama was Muslim -- roughly double than thought so four years earlier. Gallup polling in April 2011 found that 43 percent of Republicans thought Obama was born in another country.

Obama conspiracy theories have flourished in the Deep South, where wealth and educational levels are both low. This makes sense: Where voters are least informed, they are most susceptible to misinformation peddled by talk-radio hosts and the like.

For this reason, voters in reliably Republican states, which tend to be poorer, with lower test scores, are more vulnerable to misinformation. To use one measure, the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress test of eighth-grade reading, all but one of the top 10 states were in Obama's column in 2012. Of the 19 doing worse than average, 14 were red states. [Links onsite.]
"This is what makes the Katrina question so interesting," Dana says.
Certainly, Louisianans are on the low end of the education rankings, fifth from the bottom in math and third-to-last in reading. But this question got around the ignorance question by asking Louisiana Republicans about a topic they know intimately.

All but the most clueless had to know that Obama, a first-term senator in 2005, was not responsible for the botched storm response that Louisianans experienced up close and personally. It's a notion so demonstrably false that they wouldn't have heard anybody arguing for it on Fox News or talk radio. Yet 29 percent of Republican primary voters (the sample size was 274) reflexively endorsed the falsehood.
Here again, I have to disagree about what all but the most clueless Louisiana Republicans know. I see no reason to assume that they know: (a) that Katrina happened in 2005, as opposed to "you know, back a piece," or (b) who was president at the time. More important, I believe that the insanification and imbecilization of the American public, a state actively pursued by right-wing strategists for decades, has reached the point where a scarifyingly large sector of the electorate has no conception of what a "fact" is -- they truly believe that "reality" is whatever the hell bizarre notions lodge in their heads.

I do believe, however, that this small polling sample may well have been influenced by "reflexive" endorsement of the Obama-effed-up-Katrina proposition. I really don't think a single one of the button-pushers knew, as a matter of fact, that Obama wasn't the guy. I think rather that their Obama animus was so pervasive that they had no hesitation in laying Katrina on him. After all, they believe all those other things about him.

On the Right there are plenty of demagogues who know perfectly well that the "birther" nonsense is just that, nonsense, but they haven't hesitated to work what they know to be a lie to the hilt, knowing what whacked-out brain defectives they are manipulating. Does anyone know better than Rush Limbaugh how cretinous and gullible his audience is? He knows they have been pounded down into human scum, and their mental incompetence has made him rich and powerful.

Dana, however, is looking for a different answer to the question "Why Obama?" And he thinks he's gotten it from PPP's director, Tom Jensen:
Obama derangement syndrome is running pretty high right now among a certain segment of the Republican base. There's a certain segment of people who say, "If you're going to give me the opportunity to stick it to Obama, I'm going to take it."
From which Dana gets this:
In other words, a large number of that 29 percent who said Obama was responsible for the Katrina response knew that he wasn't but saw it as a chance to register their displeasure with the president. Obama has driven a large number of Republican voters -- Jensen puts it at 15 to 20 percent of the overall electorate -- right off their rockers.
And while it may be that this is what Tom Jensen believes, and possibly gave evidence of in other things he said to Dana, it isn't what he says here. Jensen says, "There's a certain segment of people who say, 'If you're going to give me the opportunity to stick it to Obama, I'm going to take it.' " He doesn't say that those people don't believe the things they accuse Obama of.

As I've pointed out here a number of times, the genius of so-called "reality TV" is that it plays on the fatigue, or perhaps outright animosity, that a large segment of the public has developed toward, er, real reality, and their eager flight into what I like to call "reality substitute," based on the premise that reality is now defined as whatever it makes me feel best to believe. Obama was born in Kenya and has engaged in a lifelong conspiracy joined by who knows how many people to conceal it? I believe it, and it makes my blood boil.

With regard to the supposed uniqueness of what Tom Jensen describes so picturesquely as "Obama derangement syndrome," is it really so unique? Have we already forgotten the years of Clinton-bashing, and the 24/7 barrage of just as obviously untrue lies about the Clintons which were believed by, I believe, the exact same segment of the population? (How many people who stood in her way is Hillary C supposed to have murdered?)

And it seems to me the same sort of manipulation. The Great Right-Wing Noise Machine -- yes, the very noise machine that Hillary C herself rose up to denounce, and for her labors was generally ridiculed -- discovered back then that if you fed the class of New American Morons so carefully cultivated by the American mis-education system and the right-wing propaganda machine, you could provoke this frothing rage without so much as a single fact. Have we already forgotten the testimony of the Bush regimistas about their derisive contempt for poor sad left-leaning dinosaurs who prattled on about their facts and reality?

If we want to talk about what the segment of the population in question (and note that Jensen's "15 to 20 percent of the overall electorate" suggests that we're talking about something in the vicinity of twice that among Republicans, a pretty sizable bloc, no?) believes about Obama, don't we have to start with the obvious fact that most of those people, even after all this time he's been in the public eye, know virtually nothing about him? As with the Clintons, they know lots of propaganda points -- like that he's not even a "liberal" but a "socialist" -- and Obamacare, for example, is "socialized medicine." All 100 percent unmitigated lies. The "Obama is the Antichrist" crowd by this point probably has no idea what an actual liberal is, or a socialist. It's somebody who's going to take their guns away, and give their money to (shudder) those people. The fact is that a whole lot more of their money is going to right-wingers, whether it's the 1% elites or the Teabaggers who would be dead without Medicare.

If you think about it, there's only one thing the Obama loathers know about the object of their revulsion, and it's what their eyes tell them about him. It's ironic that what their eyes tell them is only half-true, but it wouldn't matter if they knew, because that's enough to make him "the other," as our colleague Noah has been pointing out about the Obama-bashing from the get-go.

So yes, I agree with Dana that there's more to "Obama derangement syndrome" than ignorance or stupidity. But the way I look at it, those other factors just make it more depressing.


I explained that my time to pull that post ("It's more New Yorker readers' cartoon favorites) together was sorely limited by the time it took me get home to Washington Heights, in way-northern Manhattan, from the Brooklyn Cyclones game in Coney Island, in way-southern Brooklyn. It took more like two hours than the hour-and-a-half-plus I optimistically had in my head when I foolishly stuck out the regulation nine innings -- and still left with the Cyclones and the Tri-City ValleyCats tied 3-3.

Once I had the Cyclones cap and the hot dog, chips, and soda that were included in the ticket package, I figured I might stay maybe once through each lineup, or if I was feeling more expansive maybe six innings. But it was a pleasant evening there in the ballpark by the ocean, and I bought a bag of peanuts, and soon enough the Cyclones, after tying the game in the bottom of the 8th inning, had come up empty in the 9th. So there I was trudging out after the bottom of the ninth, abandoning the game still in progress. And having to explain the status of the game to the guy in the soft-serve-ice-cream truck I passed on the walk back to the Coney Island subway station who was seeling postgame $1 cones. (Like I was going to walk right by a truck selling $1 cones.)

I found out this morning with some effort -- it's not so easy getting minor-league scores -- that it's lucky I didn't stick around for extra innings. I finally glommed onto, the Official Site of Minor League Baseball, and learned that the game continued without further scoring until the top of the 15th inning, when the ValleyCats pushed across two runs, then held on for a 5-3 win.


For a "Sunday Classics" fix anytime, visit the stand-alone "Sunday Classics with Ken."


At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is NO doubt that well more than 29% of all Repubs are proudly and aggressively ignorant.

I applaud efforts to demonstrate this.

However, I'm not sure a pooling outfit, especially a "Democratic" one, is going to retain any credibility it might have by having such easy fun.

While Milbank thinks the PPP poll RESULTS reveal a "preposterous notion," I'd suggest it is the poll Katrina question, itself, that is preposterous. (If they were gooing THAT far, why not include FDR as one of the choices?)

John Puma


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