Smallmindedness in small towns

I rarely talk politics here, but I received this email from a cousin the other day:

According to the Book of Revelations the anti-christ is: The anti-christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent, who will deceive the nations with persuassive language, and have a MASSIVE Christ-like appeal…. the prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace, and when he is in power, will destory everything. Is it OBAMA??

The email itself, unfortunately, isn’t out of the ordinary; many of my family members believe we’re in the End Times. What made this one unique is that the Washington Post has an article up about my hometown (Findlay, Ohio, “Flag City USA”) discussing this phenomenon; more after the jump.

First, a few things about Findlay. As noted in the article, it’s a “Rust Belt town of 40,000″ in northwest Ohio, built up during the gas and oil boom of the late 19th century. Marathon Oil was long headquartered in Findlay, as is Cooper Tire and Rubber. It’s largely blue collar, and overwhelmingly conservative. Republican Congressman Mike Oxley was Findlay’s representative for almost 25 years, and rarely was a democratic contender even close to competitive. (Wikipedia notes that 2004 was the “most difficult reelection campaign of his career” wherein he won 59% of the vote. That same year John Kerry won only 34% of the vote in the district). It’s a tough place to be a progressive, and a tough place to be a part of the, shall we say, reality-based community when you’re faced with things like this:

On the television in his living room, Peterman has watched enough news and campaign advertisements to hear the truth: Sen. Barack Obama, born in Hawaii, is a Christian family man with a track record of public service. But on the Internet, in his grocery store, at his neighbor’s house, at his son’s auto shop, Peterman has also absorbed another version of the Democratic candidate’s background, one that is entirely false: Barack Obama, born in Africa, is a possibly gay Muslim racist who refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

“It’s like you’re hearing about two different men with nothing in common,” Peterman said. “It makes it impossible to figure out what’s true, or what you can believe.”

You might think that it would be easy to figure out “what’s true:” go to reputable sources and dig for yourself. The local newspaper–which is pretty right-leaning–has actually run articles discussing Obama and the rumors, but apparently that’s still not enough for some people when they’re bombarded with “evidence” to the contrary:

Does he trust a local newspaper article that details Obama’s Christian faith? Or his friend Leroy Pollard, a devoted family man so convinced Obama is a radical Muslim that he threatened to stop talking to his daughter when he heard she might vote for him?

While people like Pollard are, I’d wager, a minority even in conservative Findlay, they’re certainly out there in towns small and large across the US–and their voices are often louder than more moderate questioners trying to figure out what to believe, such as Peterman.

And of course, this struck me not only for the political aspect, but because it’s so similar to what I saw living there (and still see) when it came to science. It matters much less what any “reputable” sources say than what your friends and neighbors tell you. Yes, there will be many people–even in Findlay–who look up Obama’s record, who read his books as well as what others have written about him, and realize that their friends and neighbors are full of shit. Likewise, there are many who have looked at scientific “controversies” the same way, and come to the same conclusion. However, for that large chunk of the population that’s either too apathetic to examine the issue on their own, or whose “examination” of the issue consists of only finding sources who agree with their pre-ordained conclusions. The article describes one woman’s frustrations:

So far, those who have pushed the truth in Findlay have been rewarded with little that resembles progress. Gerri Kish, a 66-year-old born in Hawaii, read both of Obama’s autobiographies. She has close friends, she said, who still refuse to believe her when she swears Obama is Christian. Then she hands them the books, and they refuse to read them. “They just want to believe what they believe,” she said. “Nothing gets through to them.”

Students going door-to-door to talk about Obama were told they were “in the wrong town”–a sentiment I’ve been on the receiving end of previously as well.

I don’t think, however, that all is lost. While no amount of framing or contrary evidence is going to convince those who are so firmly entrenched in their beliefs that the facts no longer matter, my experience has been that there are more people who are open to a real consideration of the matter than articles like this one would suggest. However, researching a politician is one thing: at least many people believe that who they choose for office has a real effect on their lives. Whether evolution is true or not? Not so much…

Comments

  1. #1 NPD
    June 30, 2008

    How time flies. A few decades ago, wasn’t the Antichrist going to be Jewish?

  2. #2 Wicky
    June 30, 2008

    I suggest people watch this week’s “30 Days”

    These people aren’t going to be changed by facts and words. Too many make the mistake of assuming you’re dealing with rational and logical people

    They understand fear, and a fist. That’s about it. Why do you think that’s the first tactic in the GOP arsenal to keep them in line?

  3. #3 Grackle
    June 30, 2008

    This is simply racism in disguise. Hatred in America is rife, not just in small towns or the back woods. Before the November elections, expect to be ashamed of a lot of your fellow Americans.

  4. #4 boomer0127
    June 30, 2008

    By this logic, shouldn’t everyone “dying” for the apocalypse vote for Obama? We’ve heard talk that the war in Iraq was a prelude to the final battle between good and evil – even Dubya said that God told him to invade Iraq.

    Perhaps it could be a new theme – “A vote for Obama is a vote for the rapture”. Or something like that, only catchier.

  5. #5 Markk
    June 30, 2008

    “This is simply racism in disguise”

    Absolutely – and not in much disguise.

    I know a lot of people with hopes for Obama but I just can’t see him being elected. I know personally far too many people who will not vote for him because he is black – period. And I live in a northern, state at risk. I’ll do my part and vote for him and have my hopes, but racist America is alive and well around me.

  6. #6 doubtingfoo
    June 30, 2008

    People seem to weight all information the same. Rather than give more weight to reputable sources and less to the village idiot, the idiot gets his word out just like CNN.

  7. #7 zy
    June 30, 2008

    The people taken in by this email don’t even read the Bible. They wouldn’t know what the Book of Revelations says if it sucked their brains out and ate them – which it has.

  8. #8 gwangung
    June 30, 2008

    Got forwarded this email by a relative several months ago. Responded with a very snarky comment which implied they were kinda stupid to be taken in by that.

    They haven’t spoken to me since.

  9. #9 MMOToole
    June 30, 2008

    And of course, none of the people swallowing this claptrap (or the ones writing it) have enough of a background in history to realize that Revelations says not one damned thing about Muslims…because it predates Islam by at least 500 years. Unbelievers, yes; but those “unbelievers” were either worshipping Zeus, Astarte, and Athena or were Jews who rejected the “Yeshua for Messiah” campaign. Which would kind of screw up their whole argument, except that then they claim, “Well, John was shown a vision by God of what was to come.” Where’s William of Ockham when you need him?

    But then, these are the same folks who, when you ask “Which translation of the Bible are you quoting?” will respond, “Translation?? I’m talking about The Bible.” They actually think that it was written in English, and usually Jamie’s Shakespearean English at that.

  10. #10 Braxton Thomason
    June 30, 2008

    According to the Book of Revelations the anti-christ is: The anti-christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent

    Clearly, the Bible is prophetic! It knew about Islam hundreds of years before Muhammed was born!

  11. #11 wheatdogg
    June 30, 2008

    Americans (the US variety, I hasten to add) are notoriously bad with other languages. Some are pretty bad with their own. So, I surmise that to lots of not-too-bright people, “Osama” sounds like “Obama,” and we know “Osama” is a Muslim bad-man. So, by association, Obama must be, too, somehow maybe …

    If the candidate in question had a less exotic name, say like Jerry Phelps, his so-called Muslim-ness would not come up as an issue, I suspect. In fact, if his name didn’t rhyme with a known Muslim “terrorist,” he would have an easier time.

    Or if he lived in a country with a lower population of idiots …

  12. #12 M Rajah
    June 30, 2008

    Hi Aetiology, long-time reader, first time commenting.
    The urban legend debunking site snopes.com has a good collection of Obama myths (thinly veiled attacks) that they’ve checked out: http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/obama.asp
    It’s funny to note that Islam, and hence Muslims, were not around at the time the Book of Revelation was likely written.

  13. #13 tbtam
    June 30, 2008

    Ask you cousin to explain her email given that the book of revelations was written some 3-400 years prior to the birth of Mohammed…

  14. #14 deang
    June 30, 2008

    I was raised in a family with similar attitudes and there is this tendency among them to think that everything is just an opinion, a point of view, or a belief and that whoever has the loudest voice or the most unyielding fist will prevail, facts be damned (if there’s any such thing as a fact to these people). It would be great if there could be a nationwide campaign in the US to teach logical thinking, reason, evidence, and argument from an early age so that this problem is reduced, but of course those who think the most aggressive should prevail would derail any such effort in school board after school board.

  15. #15 beagledad
    June 30, 2008

    The people who believe this stuff would never vote for Obama in a million years even without these ridiculous rumors. While the rumors highlight a dismal gullibility and mean-spiritedness of a part of our population, I doubt they’ll have much real effect on the election.

  16. #16 gwangung
    June 30, 2008

    Know what I feel is the solution for this?

    Expose them. Tell the entire world about these people. And ridicule the hell out of them.

    Sure, there may be some blowback like we saw with the bozos masquerading as Republicans for the last two years, but if you keep the pressure on and show the stupidity for what it is, you make it untenable to hold such stupidity openly. And while the hardcore will never change, it leaves the field wide open for the slightly open minded and the young.

  17. #17 Umlud
    June 30, 2008

    tbtaum said:

    Ask you cousin to explain her email given that the book of revelations was written some 3-400 years prior to the birth of Mohammed…

    Did a little digging (you want to get your facts right, no?):

    68~98 AD: Period of time within which the Book of Revelation was written.

    570AD: Approximate birth year of Mohammad
    610AD: First revelation of Quran.

    In other words, the Book of Revelation was written 472-502 before Mohammad was even born, and another roughly 40 years before the Quran was revealed to him (512-542 years).

  18. #18 Tree
    June 30, 2008

    We can debate the historical meaning of first century, anti-Roman propaganda (or as others call it, The Revelation of St. John), or we can ask ourselves why anyone would find comfort in believing those sorts of lies about a political candidate.

    I think that the short explanation is that it’s easier to scapegoat and blame someone who can be easily labeled as an outsider than to admit that you were eager to suck up to an authoritarian daddy who sold out No Child Left Behind to family friends who peddle textbooks, sold out Faith Based Initiatives to the Moonies, sold out The War On Terror to Beltway Bandits and sold out our energy resources to those close family friends, the Saudis.

    How could you live with yourself if you realized that the good ole boy you thought you were getting was really a pansy cheerleader, and that his quirky style of speech was substance-abused induced aphasia? Sure, there are forces out there ready to destroy your family and fortune, but could you bear knowing that you’d brought the Forces of Evil (TM) on yourself?

    Nah. Must be those Muslims/Gays/Witches/Whatever.

    But if I’m really good and follow the rules, Big Brother will come to kick a$$ and Daddy will make it alright.

    At least that’s how the psychology of these movements have worked throughout history.

    So what works? Don’t bother refuting the lie, that only reinforces the lie. Tell the truth, and often.

  19. #19 Miss Cellania
    June 30, 2008

    One problem is that such emails rarely quote chapter and verse. It is “assumed” that the original author is a Bible scholar and knows what he’s talking about. I remember not too long ago when the antiChrist was assuredly European.

  20. #20 lylebot
    June 30, 2008

    I don’t know if it’s fair to label it “racism” without knowing any of the people. What’s more likely is that they are people who will simply never, ever vote Democratic, and will find any reason to justify that, no matter how outlandish, and no matter how strong the Democratic candidate is and how weak the Republican candidate is. This year the Democratic candidate appears so strong, and the Republican so weak, that of course the justifications are going to be much more insane than usual.

  21. #21 KL
    June 30, 2008

    Even though I’m not exactly clear on what Obama’s all about… this is ridiculous. It’s so sad that people have to resort to this type of tactic to try to bring him down. But then again I do live in America, and not really surprise at anything anymore.

  22. #22 K. Grohoske
    June 30, 2008

    Funny I’m from Findlay too and I sent an email and link to the story to everyone I know from Findlay with the title, “Findlay, the greatest example of ignorance they could find.”

    Sadly, I was back there recently and I did run into people who believe those urban myths. Of course I have heard the same from people in here Florida too. I’m just wondering if its not simply ignorance for the sake of protecting themselves from the coming potential political loss.

    All this reminds me of a politician (LBJ?) that once spoke of his opponent as a ‘confirmed heterosexual”. I am not an Obama cheerleader, but do spent a couple minutes to fact check emails when I get them, to the dissatisfaction of many.

    By the way when did you grow up there? I graduated from FHS in 89.

  23. #23 pat
    July 1, 2008

    “many of my family members believe we’re in the End Times.”

    are there no drugs for this condition? Cool Aid? Gauge 12?

  24. #24 philip urbanski
    July 1, 2008

    Ah, Findlay. Been through there. My father did a lot of work for refineries, so I believe he visited Marathon. I grew up in Toledo and often bigger cities voted more progressive(Cleveland, Cincinnati). I don’t know what the voting record was like in Yellow Springs though, that hot-bed of humanism! It makes me sad to think so, but Obama will have a very tough time overcoming the small-mindedness of small-town America.

  25. #25 Tara C. Smith
    July 1, 2008

    By the way when did you grow up there? I graduated from FHS in 89.

    I lived just on the outskirts of Findlay off of CR 313 and went to Cory-Rawson, so I never attended FHS proper–graduated in 1994.

  26. #26 Brian X
    July 1, 2008

    It isn’t necessarily limited to small towns. My dad’s side of the family is very Boston Irish and can be rather clannish, though they’re from Brighton (you might call it “West Boston” — Boston is shaped sort of like an electric kettle and Brighton is the handle). Brighton is actually pretty mixed these days, so if you want to find the real urban rednecks, go to South Boston or the whiter areas of Dorchester. Even otherwise decent people show signs of subtle (or not) racism and prejudice.

    Small town thinking is hardly limited to small towns — it’s pretty much a given in any type of insular/clannish community.

    /Tara’s a year younger than me? way to make me feel old…

  27. #27 Lorax
    July 1, 2008

    /Tara’s a year younger than me? way to make me feel old…

    If you are basing this on graduation dates, remember that Tara could have skipped a couple of grades thereby making her much younger than you OR she could have been held back a few years making her slightly older. Based on her posts I would favor the former hypothesis over the latter, however, the simplest hypothesis is that she is indeed a year younger than you, and that I am six years your elder. Now get off my lawn.

  28. #28 CLM
    July 1, 2008

    The end-of-the-worlders should be grateful that Obama is the anti-christ and vote for him. Because that means the Rapture™ will happen realsoonnow!. Barf!

    If you google Bush and antichrist you get 141,000 hits. Cheney and antichrist gets 222,000 hits. Clinton and antichrist gets you 548,000 hits. Obama and antichrist gets a whopping 643,000 hits.

    There’s been so much speculation even Snopes has to deal with the question: Is Barack Obama the Anti-Christ? Sigh.

    Of course we all know that Ronald Wilson Reagan is the Antichrist. He has six letters in each name 666. So once he reappears, we know it’ll be the end of the world. I expect that to happen realsoonnow.

  29. #29 cooler
    July 1, 2008

    When are you sycophants going to realize both candidates are shills who are leading us into a war with Iran. Here is Ron Paul grilling both parties on thier plans to slowly start a new Vietnam in Iran. No wonder this guy got a million votes, with little media support.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7354M1QmGYQ

  30. #30 SLC
    July 1, 2008

    Re cooler

    Since Mr. cooler has seen fit to hijack this thread, I will respond with bomb, bomb, bomb,bomb,bomb Iran.

  31. #31 nowhere oh
    July 1, 2008

    I’m an independent voter living in Findlay.People get their nonews from the Courier,Fox and WFIN. The Toledo NPR station plays mostly classical music. Ann Arbor NPR is too far away.Most people here have no idea what is going on in the real world.
    The Findlay library is one of the best in the country.The info. is here.Smart people grow up here and then move away.
    The Washington Post got us into this war,so it isn’t one of the good guys.
    The most important story right now is that most suicide bombers in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia.The rest are from other friendly countries.
    Khalid Shaikh Mohammed the guy who will take the fall for 9/11 was born in Kuwait.Yet all we hear is lies about Iran.
    Will people connect the dots with most 9\11 hijackers from Saudi Arabia and the rest from our other friends.Will the liberal media ever tell the real story.

  32. #32 Brian X
    July 1, 2008

    *snarfs beer through nose* Cooler is a Paultard?! Wow, I am… surprised yet not surprised. And profoundly amused.

    Lorax:

    If you want to get technical, she’s probably less, since I was on the younger side of the curve all through school. Still makes me feel horribly inadequate.

  33. #33 Kalia's little brother
    July 2, 2008

    Will the availability of Teh Interwebs put an end to the insularity and backwardness of such isolated communities?

  34. #34 Adele
    July 2, 2008

    Yeah they used to say the antichrist would be Jewish alot of USA fundies said it was Henry Kissinger. Later it was Gorbachev. Alot of talk about dragons and crowns and bears from the north and stuff.

    But people this is a religion. It is not rational. They believe the Bible predicts the future. Why does it upset every body here so much, I do not understand. Nutty stuff is what religions do, it is their thing. Get used to it. A person that says a book predicts the future will believe anything they want, I am surprise they do not say Obama is a evil space alien that turns into a dragon at night!!

  35. #35 Wes
    July 2, 2008

    And here I thought the Pope, the President of the European Commission and the UN Secretary General were the prime candidates to be the Anti-Christ.

    The wack-a-loons need to get their idiotic superstitions straight if they ever hope to organize.

  36. #36 TomJoe
    July 3, 2008

    I wonder how long it’ll be for the Pope to be labeled the AntiChrist again. Does this game work in cycles? Does anyone know?

  37. #37 writzer
    July 3, 2008

    doubtingfoo
    Re: reputable sources v. village idiot

    In his essay “The Braindead Megaphone,” George Saunders weaves an interesting analogy: You’re at a party, sipping a drink, nibbling at canapes. You’re involved in an interesting conversation about politics, art, or science with several other party goers. Around you similar groups are likewise engaged. Suddenly the front door is flung open and a crazed looking stranger holding a megaphone steps into the room and begins shouting, to no one in particular, about how he loves spring mornings. Conversations stop as everyone turns to listen. After a while, the conversations resume, but megaphone man won’t shut up. He continues bellowing about his love of spring mornings. As this goes on, more and more conversations in the room turn to the subject of ‘spring mornings.’ It rapidly becomes the most important topic of the evening.

    Irrelevancies, shouted loud enough and long enough soon take on the patina of relevance.

  38. #38 Sock Puppet ofthe Great Satan
    July 3, 2008

    “According to the Book of Revelations the anti-christ is: The anti-christ will be a man, in his 40s, of MUSLIM descent”

    Bit fucking hard for St.John the Divine (or whoever actually wrote the Book of the Apocalypse) to make that assertion given that Islam wouldn’t come until six centuries later.

    However, St. John scored a blinder when he wrote:
    “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”

    The Russian for Wormwood? Tschernobyl. (Yeah, it’s just a coincidence, but my spine still tingled when I learned that.)

  39. #39 Denis Loubet
    July 3, 2008

    Within the framework of these idiotic beliefs, all the Devil character has to do to screw up the god character’s plans is sit on his thumbs. No anti-christ, no armageddon. The Devil wins.

  40. #40 Badger3k
    July 3, 2008

    Denis – nah – you got to realize that the Devil has no free will, only people do. Thus he is forced to act out this sick, twisted, and depraved fantasy so that he can be beaten like a red-headed stepchild and thus prove what a bad-posterior this Yahweh fellow is. Well, that and have a bunch of white people get thrilled as the nasty brown people (and “others”) get what’s coming to them.

    Fricken sick.

  41. #41 rarus.vir
    July 3, 2008

    I thought the anti-Christ was suppose to be Javier Solana.

  42. #42 Kevin
    July 3, 2008

    A person that says a book predicts the future will believe anything they want, I am surprise they do not say Obama is a evil space alien that turns into a dragon at night!!

    Hey Adele…what on Earth would you know about predicting the future? Still think the housing crisis is no big deal? ;-) Furthermore, it’s fairly clear by now that “religiosity” comes in many forms…bible-thumping morons are perhaps less dangerous than the kind to which you belong, Adele…dogmatic pseudo-intellectuals.

    *snarfs beer through nose* Cooler is a Paultard?! Wow, I am… surprised yet not surprised. And profoundly amused…Still makes me feel horribly inadequate. –Brian X

    Hate to break it to you, but Cooler is right about Obama and McCain being nothing more than shills. As I first pointed out on this blog a couple years ago, the political corruption in this country has reached a critical level of saturation and our public institutions are basically collapsing all around us. Isn’t that right, Adele? Ron Paul is far from perfect, especially given his penchant for legislating morality on social issues, but he is the only candidate (besides Kucinnich) who is willing to speak the truth about the most important issues facing our nation, i.e. massive financial corruption and our impending energy crisis.

    Regardless, you should feel horribly inadequate, Brian, since you’ve obviously have failed to become an educated citizen. Is it because you fear appearing uncool or is it that you prefer to be anesthetized by through profound amusement?

    Kevin

  43. #43 eddie
    July 3, 2008

    “about 278,000 for eddie antichrist” – google

    Not bad going fer a beginner ;¬)

    doubtingfoo wrote;

    “People seem to weight all information the same. Rather than give more weight to reputable sources and less to the village idiot, the idiot gets his word out just like CNN”.

    I kinda agree but there also seems to be a strong amount of believing anything you hear by word of mouth, or face to face, over any form of media.

    Hey! didn’t someone recently mistake this blog as being about psychology?

  44. #44 Gary
    July 3, 2008

    I once heard a famous man say something which has stayed with me and help me understand quite a few things: “People are stupid. They believe what they want to believe”. Not always true, but true often enough to make it worth remembering.

  45. #45 Monado, FCD
    July 3, 2008

    Oh, dear… they just make it up out of the whole cloth, don’t they? Muslim?

  46. #46 Brian X
    July 4, 2008

    Kevin:

    I’m well aware that the current candidates lack a lot of what is necessary for this country to get out of the current rut. I’m also well aware that Ron Paul is a right-wing loon who happens to be a stopped clock. I am also acutely aware that his supporters, or at least those who talk at length about it, betray a mindboggling ignorance of basic economics and human nature.

    In any case, it seems to me your idea of “educated citizen” equates to “more or less agrees with me”. You don’t know enough about my knowledge of the world or my personal political opinions (“left libertarian-socialist” would be a pretty good way of putting it, especially as it crumples the Nolan grid up and throws it in the wastebasket) to judge whether I’m an educated citizen or not. So I’ll give you a friendly hint: I’m educated enough to be pretty cynical about the whole process. Do not presume to judge me just because I think most Paul supporters are self-absorbed morons.

  47. #47 Kayleene
    July 5, 2008

    those anti-christ statements are purely assumptions only, we may really never know who is it.

  48. #48 nowhereoh
    July 6, 2008

    I forgot to mention Wfin is Rushradio. You hear him all over town.
    The suicide bomber study was done at West Point.
    Findlay and Hancock county voted for the losing black republican-
    Ken Blackwell- in the last governor race. Bush might owe 2004 win to
    Ken’s work as Oh.Sec. of State or how not to let demos vote.
    The College St. where the WaPo article covers-has lots of foreign students.Lots of nonwhite faces.The U.ofF.- I prefer the old name-
    F.U. Not on any cool hip lists.
    This is not a failing rust belt town.Lots of places to get sushi-but
    nowhere to shop or go- no bookstores.
    The area always floods-the local republican thinking seems to be that
    End Times don’t require flood control money.
    The worst newspaper ever- Findlay Courier- my fave headline- Mother
    Teresa is made a saint.The local Repubs and the paper are pushing
    a building project in the flood zone that may bring them all down.
    I floodproof my basement.My car gets 30 plus mpg.Use a pushreel mower
    and hate both parties. I do what I can.Everybody Knows This is Knowhere.

  49. #49 Sepideh
    July 8, 2008

    A smart friend of mine also received this email. Her response was that it is the Book of Revelation and not the Book of Revelations. She also said, “This passage says nothing of a Muslim in his forties. I looked up the word ‘antichrist’ in my Bible’s concordance, and read the three times also that that *actual* term is used. No mention of a Muslim there, either.”

  50. #50 DN
    July 10, 2008

    I grew up in a fundamentalist baptist family steeped in the endtimes mythology. I’m turning 43 and I still cannot have a single conversation with my father without him mentioning “the end times” at some point with the same urgency and purported imminence he gave it when I was a kid. In church youth groups we were shown the left behind movies and warned about accepting the mark of the beast. Back then, I remember people telling me in church that Jimmy Carter was probably the antichrist. The antichrist changed every couple of years and no one even seemed to notice. Despite growing up in a family and church like that, I have no understanding of why people think that way. I didn’t get it as a kid and I don’t get it now. It is just bizarre.

  51. #51 David Harley
    July 10, 2008

    It’s easy to say, “Ah, it’s those racists / rednecks / fundamentalists, OVER THERE.” For their part, those thus stigmatized will say, “It’s those atheists / liberals / terrorist-lovers, OVER THERE.”

    Firstly, people tend to associate with “Folks Like Us.” Inevitably. Everyone does it. If anyone can honestly say that they “just treat people as people” and make no assumptions about skateboarders, sociologists, rap artists and accountants, they simply don’t know themselves.

    The problem arises when ignorance or bigotry erects a prejudicial stereotype to replace the generalizations by which we all live.

    Secondly, most Americans have a very limited framework into which to place new information about policy proposals and current events. There are a few basic plotlines, to which all narratives must conform. New knowledge vanishes if it cannot be accommodated. Even readers of the Weekly Standard and The Nation only read sources that confirm their view of the world.

    Consider the large number of people who thought they would be liable for the “death tax”. Consider how few can name all the countries that border on Iraq or Afghanistan. Consider the senior administration officials unable to differentiate between Sunni and Shi’ite.

    If talk radio or cable news is the source of current affairs information for most voters, they won’t know much. But it isn’t.

    Look at the viewing and listening figures for news shows. Look at how few Americans read ONE magazine or book in a year. Look at how few 4-year college graduates, from any decade, can compare two newspaper editorials critically.

    How many college professors can give an accurate and evenhanded summary of both sides of more than one or two current policy debates and cultural conflicts?

    So, given the natural tendency of all humans to associate with people like themselves, however that is defined for them, and the dire lack of both information on policy and analytical ability to assess the data, all American elections at all times are primarily about electing “someone like us.” All that matters is persuading a small number of people in key states.

    Policy proposals are necessary hostages to fortune, so they need to be kept vague. Policy wonks and politicians like to think that policies matter, but it’s actually how the policies are presented that matters.

    Is Al “Internet” Gore a pointy-headed elitist who talks about books and tells lies? Is John “Swift Boats” Kerry a rich elitist who looks French and uses sailboards? Is Barack “Hussein” Obama an uppity elitist whose wife and pastor hate America? These Ivy League types can’t hold a candle to Good Ol’ George from Texas or Straight Talkin’ John the War Hero.

    The rhetoric, both verbal and symbolic, of the candidates is compared with the core values of the audience, and rejected if it is found wanting. They just aren’t “Folks Like Us,” are they? EXACTLY the same thought processes went into the decision that various Republican candidates for President weren’t to be trusted.

    Kennedy didn’t have a five o’clock shadow but he did have the foreign policy of a drunk flagwaver.

  52. #52 nowhereoh
    July 12, 2008

    Kang or Kodos
    Anybody remember two Yale vs Yale elections.
    Kerry’s $8000 roadbike vs bush’s $4000 mtn. bike.
    How about no mention of Gore’s connection to Occidental oil co.
    Or bush 2 the oilman -never made any money on oil. No mention of his
    sweetheart Tx. Rangers baseball deal $14 million profit – borrowed the $600,000.Sales tax passed for new stadium- some land taken by
    eminent domain. Runs for gov. as no tax,less govt. interference.
    Seems like he was a lousy baseball gm-perfect guy to command wars.
    The media did go after Nader and how well he picks stocks.They found
    the phony guy. Anybody remember Nader asking for hijack proof cockpit
    doors.
    I’m still waiting for high speed crosscountry trains and the get tough on China promises of soulbrother Bill in 1992.
    Anybody remember how the first gulf war started. Senate hearings about Iraq troops throwing Kuwait babies on floor of hospital. Bush
    Sr. making speech after speech about the babies. Never happened.
    Brought to you by Hill and Knowlton pr. firm working for Citizens
    For A Free Kuwait. Like listening to Sloth by Fairport Convention-
    “just a roll on your drum and the war has begun”
    How about Bush 2 demanding a timetable to pull troops out of Kosovo
    in 1999.And he didn’t want to do nation building.
    I hope everybody reads Boots on the Ground by Dusk:The Remarkable Life and Death of Pat Tillman by his mom Mary Tillman. Him and former
    Stanford U. dj Daniel Pearl- the cool guys die.
    Not much mention of Laura Bush running a stop sign and killing a guy
    when she was 17. If H.Clinton did that we would still be hearing about it.
    Morgellons is real.

  53. #53 kai
    July 12, 2008

    Oh, dear… they just make it up out of the whole cloth, don’t they? Muslim?

    Don’t you mean muslin?

  54. #54 Texas Reader
    July 16, 2008

    This post brought back memories for me of growing up in Southern Baptist churches in Florida. I remember one “revival” at our church in which the speaker suggested that Henry Kissinger was the Antichrist. I went to Baylor University where I learned that the rapture and other apocalyptic concepts were just one interpretation of Revelations and not well regarded by biblical scholars who saw the book as a coded commentary on the Roman Empire. I also learned that not all Christians took the Genesis creation story (actually, stories) literally and that evolution was legitimate science.

    Clearly a lot of Southern Baptists and christian fundamentalists in general believe what they do because they have not been exposed to a variety of perspectives. There’s nothing wrong with living in a small town if you make an effort to expose yourself to ideas outside of your town. Unfortunately, that concept is not pushed by a lot of parents and educators in small towns.

  55. #55 jack17475259
    July 21, 2010

    Clearly a lot of Southern Baptists and christian fundamentalists in general believe what they do because they have not been exposed to a variety of perspectives. There’s nothing wrong with living in a small town if you make an effort to expose yourself to ideas outside of your town. Unfortunately, that concept is not pushed by a lot of parents and educators in small towns.