The Washington Post just printed an article dubbed “The Power of Political Misinformation”. I found this article ironic and depressing.
I found it ironic because *perhaps* the last third of an article about the power of misinformation is misinformation itself. Of course being a sissy liberal, I am predisposed to take these printed words as correct. Ironic indeed.
“…a series of new experiments show that misinformation can exercise a ghostly influence on people’s minds after it has been debunked — even among people who recognize it as misinformation. In some cases, correcting misinformation serves to increase the power of bad information.”
“…a paper approaching publication…[suggests] that Republicans might be especially prone to the backfire effect because conservatives may have more rigid views than liberals: Upon hearing a refutation, conservatives might “argue back” against the refutation in their minds, thereby strengthening their belief in the misinformation. [Researchers] did not see the same “backfire effect” when liberals were given misinformation and a refutation about the Bush administration’s stance on stem cell research.”
I found it depressing because if this article is accurate, then it is just one more reason why our public discourse and debate is so abysmal and dysfunctional. I am tired of distractions such as flag lapels, bridges to nowhere, and secret Muslims running for office. Instead, give me spirited debate on real issues such as off-shore drilling, health care, taxes, the economy, terrorism, climate change, and education. I am tired of one-issue politics such as abortion, gun control, global warming, and Creationism in public schools. These are all important issues, but we should *not* take them so fundamentally that we sacrifice other equally important problems and lose sight of the greater contexts.
Unfortunately, too many Liberal *and* Conservative Americans alike have been displaced by the “creative destruction” of our economy, culture, and technology. Unfortunately, too many of the Displaced have turned to fundamentalism for solace, simplicity, and identity. Unfortunately, too many politicians, pundits, and preachers are more than happy to exploit and encourage the fundamentalism of the Displaced in self-serving so called “culture wars”.
Anyway, as pointed out in an article by the Economist this sordid affair is mostly the Republican’s fault.
“In the past two weeks, while banks have tottered and markets reeled, the contending Democrats and Republicans have squabbled and lied rather than debated. Mr. McCain’s team has been nastier, accusing Mr. Obama of sexism for calling the Republican vice-presidential candidate a pig, when he clearly did no such thing. Much nastier has been the assertion that Mr. Obama once backed a bill that would give kindergarten children comprehensive sex education. Again, this was a distortion: the bill Mr. Obama backed provided for age-appropriate sex education, and was intended to protect children from sex offenders.”
Now we have learned that the very debunking of these slurs by a fiscally conservative publication may actually reinforce them.
Depressing, ironic, and dysfunctional indeed.