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Dipping into PIPA

Reported by Nancy - October 30, 2004 -

The recent PIPA report has been widely discussed, both here on Newshounds (see http://www.newshounds.us/2004/10/23/pipa_report_bush_supporters_hold_false_beliefs.php, & http://www.newshounds.us/2004/07/31/propoganda_in_the_form_of_a_question.php) & elsewhere in the major media. But I think it's a subject that bears further discussion because it touches on so many other issues of vital importance.

To refresh your memory, the study found that Bush supporters are wildly misinformed. e.g.:


75% believe Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.
74% believe Bush favors including labor & environmental standards in agreements on trade.
72% believe Iraq had WMD or a program to develop them.
72% believe Bush supports the treaty banning landmines.
69% believe Bush supports the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
61% believe if Bush knew there were no WMD he would not have gone to war.
60% believe most experts believe Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.
58% believe the Duelfer report concluded that Iraq had either WMD or a major program to develop them.
57% believe that the majority of people in the world would prefer to see Bush reelected.
56% believe most experts think Iraq had WMD.
55% believe the 9/11 report concluded Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.
51% believe Bush supports the Kyoto treaty.
20% believe Iraq was directly involved in 9/11.

These findings square quite well with other equally appalling evidence of US citizens' general lack of knowledge (not just "book learning" but general knowledge you need to function on a daily basis) -- the following examples were all reported in 2004:

40% of graduating high school seniors think that the US fought with Germany against the Soviets during WWII
60% of Americans were unable to name the president who ordered the atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan
22% had no idea that such an attack ever occurred
29% of recent high school grads can't find the Pacific Ocean on a map & 11% can't find the US
66% of recent high school grads don't know who accepted the surrender at Yorktown
25% of recent high school grads think the Pilgrims signed Magna Carta on the Mayflower
70% of US adults said they did not know where the Vienna Philharmonic is based
12% of Americans, when asked who Herbert Hoover was, said he was director of the FBI, 4% said he built a dam & 3% said he designed vacuum cleaners
30% of Americans don't know how many stars are on the American flag
14% of American adults can't find an intersection on a map, total a deposit slip or determine the correct dose of a medication

There was the incident when singer Jessica Simpson, introduced to Interior Secretary Gale Norton at a White House reception, told her, "You've done a nice job decorating the White House." And Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) recently was quoted in a CBS news article as: "... saying he watches only Fox News for information and hasn't read a newspaper in six weeks..."

Many people have probably watched a recurring segment on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, called Jay-Walking, where Leno or a guest walks around a mall or down a street & asks random passersby the simplest questions. Respondents are stumped by these questions, & offer the most ridiculous answers you can imagine. I know I've laughed right along with the audience at the amazing stupidity people are willing to display on national TV.

But it's not really funny. It's not just that the PIPA numbers are appalling (though they are), or mystifying (though they are). They're dangerous. And the ignorance is certainly not unique to the US -- I'm using the PIPA study as a jumping-off point for discussion, but I'm sure there are equally horrifying results available for other countries.

People are dying because of these numbers -- tens of thousands of Iraqis, 1100+ US troops, an unknown number of other foreign nationals in Iraq, 200+ people in Madrid, 300+ people in Bali. The world really cannot afford to let this kind of (wilfull?) ignorance go uncorrected.

Readers: Why do YOU think the PIPA results are so abysmal? If there are interesting responses, I'll start another thread where we can discuss what (if anything) to do about it.