[FoRK] "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,
Stephen D. Williams
sdw at lig.net
Fri Aug 20 17:36:12 PDT 2010
but not their own facts." - Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Classic. The number of people with "their own facts" these days is frightening, if you're into that kind of thing.
> GOP knows Obama's not a Muslim, but what's a little misunderstanding?
> By *John P. Avlon*, Special to CNN
> August 20, 2010 12:07 p.m. EDT
> *STORY HIGHLIGHTS*
> * John Avlon says Pew poll found 18 percent of Americans believe Obama is Muslim
> * The misconception ranges across political spectrum. Why is this happening, he asks?
> * Political opponents are smart enough to know the truth, but like the controversy, he says
> /*Editor's note:* John P. Avlon is a CNN contributor and senior political columnist for The Daily Beast. He is the author of
> "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America." /
> *(CNN)* -- As the mosque debate dominates the summer spin cycle, a new Pew Research Poll
> <http://pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Growing-Number-of-Americans-Say-Obama-is-a-Muslim.aspx> shows that an increasing
> number of Americans believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim -- now up to 18 percent from 11 percent in March 2009. At the same time,
> only a third of Americans say Obama is a Christian, down from nearly 50 percent last year.
> And while the biggest jumps in believing Obama is Muslim come from self-described conservative Republicans -- from 18 percent to
> 34 percent -- the number of Democrats who describe Obama as Christian fell from 55 percent to 46 percent. Independents -- while
> being the group least likely to want professions of religious beliefs from politicians -- have also fallen in with the drift.
> I believe the American people are smart. So what can account for this slippage from common sense to conspiracy theory?
> Obama made the story of his increasing commitment to Christianity a central tenet of his campaign character narrative; whole
> chapters were devoted to matters of faith in his book "The Audacity of Hope." But in the radioactive wake of the Rev. Jeremiah
> Wright, Obama left his longstanding church and has not yet found a new congregation.
> Video: Obama's religious faith
> Video: What is Obama's religion?
> *RELATED TOPICS*
> * Barack Obama <http://topics.cnn.com/topics/Barack_Obama>
> * Pew Research Center <http://topics.cnn.com/topics/Pew_Research_Center>
> * U.S. Politics <http://topics.cnn.com/topics/U_S_Politics>
> The absence of Obama attending Sunday services regularly has been a repeated "just askin'..." talking point on right wing news and
> radio -- and indeed, the Pew poll shows that most respondents got their "views" about Obama's religion from "the media."
> The meticulous attention that some liberals paid to George Bush's golf game is now directed at Obama hitting the links -- with the
> added subtext that he's playing when he should be praying. In the eyes of his opponents, Obama is an elitist silently laughing at
> those bitter Americans who cling to their guns and religion. The fact that an icon of the religious right like Ronald Reagan
> rarely attended Sunday services is ignored.
> But these poll numbers are also an ugly proxy for the campaign to convince the American people that their president is somehow
> "other" -- an "Alien in the White House," as a Wall Street Journal editorial page headline called him recently.
> The birther myths build off this sense of Obama as a sinister fraud, casting Obama as not just anti-American in his beliefs but
> actually un-American and therefore not constitutionally eligible to be president.
> These conspiracy theories in turn build off chain e-mails that have been circulating since at least 2008, portraying Obama as a
> Muslim Marxist Manchurian Candidate determined to undermine the Republic from within -- a fright wing fantasy that has
> proliferated via the internet. Depressingly, a CNN poll
> earlier this month found that 27 percent of all Americans believe that Obama was either definitely or probably not born in the USA
> -- a belief shared by 41 percent of Republicans.
> "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion," the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said, "but not their own facts." But
> the rise of partisan media means that Americans are self-segregating themselves into separate political realities where we can't
> even agree on basic facts like the president's religion and birthplace.
> While no responsible Republican would ever explicitly encourage these beliefs, there are plenty who delight in these poll findings
> because it presumably points to partisan gain. Truth is not as important as the pursuit of power in professional partisans' eyes,
> and dividing to conquer is a time-honored trick.
> Each president since at least Nixon has faced a concerted effort to de-legitimize the duly elected president of the opposing party
> from day one. But with Barack Obama, the fact that he is the first African-American president with a middle name Hussein has led
> to a new level of ugliness and suspicion. Attacks that demonize the president are poisoning the civic well from which we all drink.
> /The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Avlon./
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