This Salon.Com article attempts to draw all sorts of lessons over what is, to my mind, an obvious push poll. In January, Princeton Survey Research Associates asked 1,200 Americans this question,
To the best of your knowledge, how many of the September 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens?
Only 17 percent of respondents answered correctly that none of the hijackers were Iraqi. From this, the Salon writer concludes that the Bush administration’s plot to association with Saddam Hussein with Al Qaeda has been so effective, that less than two years after the most devestating terrorist attack in American history, Americans are confused about the basic facts of the attack.
This is ridiculous. The problem with this question is that many people who are asked it will simply assume that they are being told that Iraqi citizens were among the hijackers, and that they are simply being asked to supply the correct numbers of Iraqis.
I would be very surprised if the following two questions didn’t result in similar levels of misidentification,
To the best of your knowledge, how many of the September 11 hijackers were Libyan citizens?
To the best of your knowledge, how many of the September 11 hijackers were Palestinians?
To the best of your knowledge, how many of the September 11 hijackers were Afghanistan Citizens?
In fact, I’d guess that very large numbers would answer that at least one of the hijackers were Palestinian or Afghanistan citizens.
Salon.Com seems shocked that large numbers of Americans have not committed to memory the nationality of the 19 hijackers. But is it so surprising that 17 months later most people likely just remember that all of the hijackers were Middle Eastern men?
And from this poll we get a rehash of Marxist false consciousness,
It was Marx who described religion as the opiate of the people. Twentieth-first century Americans have television as a general anesthetic. Our collective attention deficit disorder — a disease of morbid intellectual laziness — has permitted the careful packaging of pseudo-information by Madison Avenue to assume an illusion of reality.
To the behavioral psychologist, the truth about the hijacker’s nationalities might seem a victim of a chronic state of inattention. Conditioning has rendered Americans hyper-responsive to emotional and sensory dynamics triggered by the news media, and relatively uninterested in intellectual content. Nobody understands this better than Rupert Murdoch, who has created an empire out of punchy anti-intellectualism. And few understand better how to use it to their advantage than the Bush White House. George W. Bush is, after all, the anti-intellectual’s president.
I’ve never understood why liberals and leftists resort to this argument since it is the classic elitist argument against democracy. If people are really as gullible as Salon thinks, then democracy is a hopeless project. We’d be better off asking the Salon.Com vanguard to rescue us from ourselves and the proletarian mobs.