Sunday, August 22, 2010

American Delusion: Going Mad in Herds

Posted by Will Moredock on Sun, Aug 22, 2010 at 4:01 AM

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Maureen Dowd calls out the right wing fearmongers for their insane Islamophobia. If you don't believe the right wing has lost its collective mind, take a look at some of the responses to this post.

Read the full text of Dowd's New York Times column here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/opinion/22dowd.html?src=mv

The country is having some weird mass nervous breakdown, with the right spreading fear and disinformation that is amplified by the poisonous echo chamber that is the modern media environment.

The dispute over the Islamic center has tripped some deep national lunacy. The unbottled anger and suspicion concerning ground zero show that many Americans haven’t flushed the trauma of 9/11 out of their systems — making them easy prey for fearmongers.

Many people still have a confused view of Muslims, and the president seems unable to help navigate the country through its Islamophobia.

It is a prejudice stoked by Rush Limbaugh, who mocks “Imam Obama” as “America’s first Muslim president,” and by the evangelist Franklin Graham, who bizarrely told CNN’s John King: “I think the president’s problem is that he was born a Muslim. His father was a Muslim. The seed of Islam is passed through the father, like the seed of Judaism is passed through the mother.”

Graham added: “The teaching of Islam is to hate the Jew, to hate the Christian, to kill them. Their goal is world domination.”

A poll last week by the Pew Research Center tracked a strange spike in the number of Americans who believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Obama is a Muslim. And even the ones who don’t think he’s a Muslim don’t necessarily believe he’s a Christian.

The percentage of Americans who now believe that our Christian president is a Muslim has risen to 18 percent. It was 12 percent when Obama ran for president and 11 percent after his inauguration.

Just as some Americans once feared that John Fitzgerald Kennedy (who was a Catholic) would build a tunnel to Rome, now some fear that Barack Hussein Obama (whose name sounds scary) will build a tunnel to Mecca.

In “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds,” a history of such national follies as England’s South Sea Bubble and Holland’s Tulip Frenzy, the Scottish historian Charles Mackay observed: “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.”

He also concluded that people are more prone to believe the “Wondrously False” than the “Wondrously True.”

“Of all the offspring of time, Error is the most ancient, and is so old and familiar an acquaintance, that Truth, when discovered, comes upon most of us like an intruder, and meets the intruder’s welcome,” Mackay wrote, adding that “a misdirected zeal in matters of religion” befogs the truth most grievously.

You can have an opinion on the New York mosque, for or against. But there aren’t two sides to the question of whether Obama is a Muslim.

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

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