Polling Belief In Conspiracy Theories

Public Policy Polling found that a substantial number of Americans believe in some conspiracy theories, but fortunately not many believe that lizard people are secretly taking power. The most significant finding related to current public policy is that a large majority of Republicans believe global warming is a hoax. A significant number of Republicans still believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Here is a summary of their findings:

-          37% of voters believe global warming is a hoax, 51% do not. Republicans say global warming is a hoax by a 58-25 margin, Democrats disagree 11-77, and Independents are more split at  41-51. 61% of Romney voters believe global warming is a hoax

-          6% of voters believe Osama bin Laden is still alive

-          21% of voters say a UFO crashed in Roswell, NM in 1947 and the US government covered it up. More Romney voters (27%) than Obama voters (16%) believe in a UFO coverup

-          28% of voters believe secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New World Order.  A plurality of Romney voters (38%) believe in the New World Order compared to 35% who don’t

-          28% of voters believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks.  36% of Romney voters believe Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, 41% do not

-          20% of voters believe there is a link between childhood vaccines and autism, 51% do not

-          7% of voters think the moon landing was faked

-          13% of voters think Barack Obama is the anti-Christ, including 22% of Romney voters

-          Voters are split 44%-45% on whether Bush intentionally misled about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 72% of Democrats think Bush lied about WMDs, Independents agree 48-45, just 13% of Republicans think so

-          29% of voters believe aliens exist

-          14% of voters say the CIA was instrumental in creating the crack cocaine epidemic in America’s inner cities in the 1980’s

-          9% of voters think the government adds fluoride to our water supply for sinister reasons (not just dental health)

-          4% of voters say they believe “lizard people” control our societies by gaining political power

-          51% of voters say a larger conspiracy was at work in the JFK assassination, just 25% say Oswald acted alone

-          14% of voters believe in Bigfoot

-          15% of voters say the government or the media adds mind-controlling technology to TV broadcast signals (the so-called Tinfoil Hat crowd)

-          5% believe exhaust seen in the sky behind airplanes is actually chemicals sprayed by the government for sinister reasons

-          15% of voters think the medical industry and the pharmaceutical industry “invent” new diseases to make money

-          Just 5% of voters believe that Paul McCartney actually died in 1966

-          11% of voters believe the US government allowed 9/11 to happen, 78% do not agree

Most of these beliefs are ridiculous, but a few do not really relate to conspiracy theories. Question 10 is “Do you believe aliens exist, or not?” The  question is regarding their existence (not whether they are visiting our planet) and, while we don’t know for certain, most likely there is life on some other planets, and therefore there aliens probably do exist.

Question 18 depends upon how it is interpreted: “Do you believe that the pharmaceutical  industry is in league with the medical industry
to ‘invent’ new diseases in order to make money, or not?” If you consider the marketing tactics used by drug companies. the National Institute of Health is promoting this “conspiracy theory.”

Question 9 is “Do you believe the Bush administration intentionally misled the public about the possibility of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to promote the Iraq War, or not?” The Bush administration was making statements which were blatantly untrue and which knowledgeable people at the time realized were false.  This leaves two possibilities. Either George Bush and people in his administration were utterly incompetent or they were lying. There is also good reason, based upon his actual statements and actions, that Bush had desired to invade Iraq even before 9/11, and used 9/11 as justification.  Granted there is no way to know for sure which is the explanation, but it is hardly believing in a conspiracy theory to believe that dishonesty is a more likely explanation for what occurred than the degree of incompetence necessary to rule out dishonesty. (This is not the same as believing that the Bush administration faked or was behind the 9/11 attack.)

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Obama’s Foreign Policy Successes

I was initially disappointed in how Obama handled US involvement in Libya. Its not that his failure to obtain approval from Congress was any worse than what we have become accustomed to, but that this was an area where I had hoped to see change under Obama. At least American involvement was limited, without loss of life and, at least so far, it doesn’t look like we are going to be involved in prolonged nation-building or antagonizing people in the region. Andrew Sullivan quoted a reader:

Bush and Saddam – One Trillion dollars and thousands of US lives.

Obama and Qaddafi – One Billion dollars and zero US lives.

There’s also this score card for Obama’s foreign policy:

To rid the world of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Moammar Qaddafi within six months: if Obama were a Republican, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now.

One reason for Obama’s success on foreign policy–the Republicans are not able to stop him for political gain as they have been able to do on the economy.

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Quote of the Day

“Dick ‘Kaboom’ Cheney has written a book, and he says he wouldn’t change anything. He feels strongly about this. He’d still invade the wrong country.” –David Letterman

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Fox Viewers Are Not Dumb As A Rock–But Come Close

Jon Stewart discussed the controversy over his recent statement that Fox viewers are, “The most consistently misinformed media viewers.” It turns out that Jon Stewart was not one hundred percent accurate if you use the bizarre interpretation of this statement used by PolitiFact to claim this is not true.

While PolitFact has done a lot of good work to debunk Fox lies (some of which are demonstrated in the video above), they ignored the types of facts which Stewart was referring to and appeared to be unaware of several of the polls which back up Jon Stewart. Sometimes fact checking organizations appear to try to put out an occasional report attempting to show inaccuracies from the left to balance the far more frequent reports which often show outright lies from the right in order to look objective.

As Chris Mooney explains in greater detail, the criticism of Fox raised by Stewart, and measured in the polls he was referring to,  is based upon politicized, contested issues:

What Stewart obviously meant—and what I mean—is that when it comes to politicized, contested issues where the facts have been made murky due to political biases, it is Fox viewers who are the most likely to believe incorrect things—to fall prey to misinformation. A quintessential example of such an issue is global warming, or whether Saddam Hussein’s Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or was collaborating with Al Qaeda. There are many, many others.

PolitiFact, ignoring the many polls which showed that Fox viewers are misinformed on such issues, looked at matters of general knowledge such as, “who the vice president is, who the president of Russia is, whether the Chief Justice is conservative, which party controls the U.S. House of Representatives and whether the U.S. has a trade deficit.” In cases such as this, people who watched no news at all wound up being even more misinformed than Fox viewers, which is hardly a surprise. I’m sure Fox viewers are more likely than someone who watches no news at all to know who the vice president is. The problem is that any “news” reports from Fox are likely to be biased in a positive manner when the vice president is a Republican and in a negative manner when a Democrat is a vice president.

In conclusion, if we are looking at basic information, then Fox viewers are only the second most misinformed. They are not dumb as a rock, but come pretty close. If we are looking at politicized issues, which there is no doubt Stewart was talking about, multiple polls show that Fox viewers are the most misinformed.

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God Giving Mixed Messages To Republican Candidates

We’ve often been told that Republicans are receiving their instructions directly from God, but now he is sending mixed messages. In the past, things were much clearer, such as when God wanted George Bush to be president and  told Bush to go to war in Iraq,. This plan for Iraq has also been confirmed by Sarah Palin. New York Magazine reports that (based upon comments from the candidates) God wants three different Republicans to run. God appears to be backing Rick Santorum, Michele Bachman, and even Herman Cain. Strangely, God does not want Mike Huckabee to run. Maybe it was because of the heresy when Huckabee argued that it is not really necessary to pray in school (unless a tough math test is coming up). God, who did want John McCain to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, also remains undecided as to whether he wants Sarah Palin to run for president, or to make millions as a right wing media whore.

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Quote of the Day

“House Speaker John Boehner says President Obama should have clearly outlined his exact plans before bombing Libya. Apparently it’s only Iraq where you don’t have to do that.” –Jay Leno

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Bob Woodward Accuses Donald Rumsfeld of Distorting History on Iraq

Bob Woodward has often been frustrating in recent years as he repeats the establishment line far too often for someone who once helped force a corrupt president from office. If he had investigated the Bush administration as vigorously as he investigated Richard Nixon, perhaps recent history might be different. The lies of Donald Rumsfeld in his new book are too much even for Woodward, who has a column at Foreign Policy exposing many of them. Before getting to the specifics, Woodward wrote:

Rumsfeld’s memoir is one big clean-up job, a brazen effort to shift blame to others — including President Bush — distort history, ignore the record or simply avoid discussing matters that cannot be airbrushed away. It is a travesty, and I think the rewrite job won’t wash.

The Iraq War is essential to the understanding of the Bush presidency and the Rumsfeld era at the Pentagon. In the book, Rumsfeld tries to push so much off on Bush. That is fair because Bush made the ultimate decisions. But the record shows that it was Rumsfeld stoking the Iraq fires — facts he has completely left out of his memoir.

What a shock–Rumsfeld lied. It looks like both Bush and Rumsfeld (along with Cheney) are responsible for what is one of the most vile acts imaginable by a government–going to war unnecessarily based upon lies. I still don’t understand why the Tea Party people weren’t out on the street protesting this one. (Oh yeah, its because they are a far right wing movement which has absolutely nothing to do with the ideals of the American Revolution.)

I am glad to see Woodward exposing several of Rumsfeld’s lies. It is a shame that his lies, along with those of Bush and Cheney, cannot be investigated more thoroughly by a war crimes tribunal.

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Michael Kinsley’s Review of Decision Points

Michael Kinsley has reviewed George Bush’s book Decision Points for The New York Times Sunday Book Review. At times I felt Kinsley was going soft on Bush, considering how much damage the former president did to the country. I imagine it is acceptable to point out that there were two things Bush tried to do right:

While George the elder talked a good “kinder, gentler,” but did little about it, George the younger has two real achievements along those lines: first, his many efforts, only partly successful but starting immediately after 9/11 (and therefore, it seems, instinctive) to prevent an explosion of anti-Muslim prejudice; and his leadership in the fight against AIDS in Africa.

Seeing the degree of Islamophobia being spread by the right wing, it is notable that Bush was preferable on this issue to the current conservative position.

Bush did concede two errors on the war, but Kinsley was far too soft on him here:

Which brings us to Iraq. Bush admits to just two errors in prosecuting that war. One was to have been unprepared for the “contingency” of a law-and-order breakdown in Baghdad after the Hussein government was toppled. This surely was closer to a certainty than a contingency. “Saddam had warped the psychology of Iraqis in ways we didn’t fully understand,” Bush says. But what country’s capital would not descend into chaos and anarchy if it had no government and a steady rain of bombs was destroying its infrastructure?

Bush’s other error, of course, was those weapons of mass destruction. His defense is that virtually everyone — including his predecessor, Bill Clinton, and his 2004 rival, John Kerry — also believed there were such weapons, or the ability to build them. Bush is enraged by the slogan “Bush lied. People died.” He wasn’t lying! He honestly believed that Hussein had these weapons hidden away somewhere — believed it just like everyone else. Furthermore, Hussein was a stinker whether or not he had W.M.D. He deserved his fate. And wasn’t bringing freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq reason enough for our actions?

So if Bush wasn’t  lying, he was utterly incompetent for going to war based on such flimsy evidence. Saying that others such as John Kerry thought there was WMD at one time is hardly justification for going to war considering that in the run up to the war Kerry repeatedly urged Bush not to rush to go to war. Kerry insisted on only going to war as a last resort, and argued it was not necessary at the time. Kerry even called for regime change in Washington at the onset of the war–something Kerry unfortunately came just a little short of accomplishing in 2004.

Kinsley did far better in discussing Bush’s opposition to stem cell research:

There is one big issue during Bush’s presidency that he not only got wrong, but seems to have totally misunderstood. That is stem cells. “At its core,” Bush writes ponderously, “the stem cell question harked back to the philosophical clash between science and morality.” He announced to his aides that “I considered this a far-reaching decision,” and “I laid out a process for making it. I would clarify my guiding principles, listen to experts on all sides of the debate, reach a tentative conclusion and run it past knowledgeable people. After finalizing a decision, I would explain it to the American people. Finally, I would set up a process to ensure that my policy was implemented.”

To call this a question of science versus morality is to stack the deck. Obviously morality wins. But what is immoral about stem cell research? Bush talks about how “new technologies like 3-D ultrasounds” will help “more Americans recognize the humanity of unborn babies.” He seems to think an embryo is like a fetus — a tiny human being — rather than what it is: a clump of a few dozen cells, invisible without a microscope, unthinking and unfeeling. Nature itself — or God himself, if you’re a believer — destroys most of the embryos it creates every year in miscarriages (usually before a woman even knows she’s pregnant). Thousands more are created and destroyed or frozen in fertility clinics — which Bush has no problem with and may even have used himself. (He and Laura, he says, tried unsuccessfully to have a baby and were ready to adopt when suddenly they had twins.) A very few of those surplus embryos from fertility clinics are used in stem cell research. By what logic do you bar the use of those few to do some real good, while ignoring all the others that come and go without doing any good for anyone?

Although President Obama lifted the ban on ­government-subsidized stem cell research, Bush’s policy continues to do damage by leaving the impression that stem cells are controversial and require some sort of compromise between science and morality. They don’t. And Bush seems to think that the advent of adult stem cells offers a morally uncomplicated alternative that vindicates his policy. It doesn’t. You don’t shut down one promising area of research just because another one has opened up.

The stem cell decision came early in Bush’s presidency. It would be nice to say that Bush grew in office — like Henry V, the wastrel youth and son of a famous father to whom he was often compared. But judging from this book, it didn’t happen. Although Bush is admirable for stopping, he probably was more fun when he drank.

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Bush Admits No WMD

George Bush is on a book tour talking about how he still believes invading Iraq was the right decision, even though no WMD was found. While I disagree with his handling of the war and his premature cessation of the diplomatic efforts at the onset of the war, I’m glad he is saying this. Will this shut up any of the right wingers who still claim that WMD was found?

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Media Matters Expands On My Earlier Argument On WMD

Earlier I had a post noting that the reports of WMD from old programs noted in the latest batch of Wikileaks documents does nothing to support Bush’s argument to rush to war. Media Matters makes this argument in far more detail.

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