I want to follow up on something from a post about the educational failure committed by our political press corps (italics original; boldface added):
That so many people lack even a basic understanding of how government works and what it does–even among likely voters (keep in mind that your average Tea Buggerer spends a lot of time gathering ‘information’ and is a likely voter)–is a catastrophic failure of our news media.
The more I roll that around in my head, the more terrified I get. For those not familiar with wonky political terms, a low information content voter is a euphemism for someone who doesn’t know a fucking thing about the political issues of the day. Now, you might be thinking that I’m going to segue into a rant about the Tea Buggerers. That’s a fair assumption, but you would be wrong. Low information content voters come in two types. First, there are those who are just uninformed. If a pollster asked me what I thought about a particular baseball player (I’m not a big baseball plan), any answer I gave would probably be pretty stupid (or very lucky). And if I were asked a leading question, my answer could superficially seem informed (all that schooling and stuff). Actually, I probably would say “I don’t know”, since one advantage of scientific training is the discipline to say three very important words:
I love you I don’t know. And before you get too high and mighty, if you vote in local municipal elections, how much do you really know about each candidate?
But then there’s the other type of low-information content voter, the voter who really doesn’t grasp that the political system can actually make a difference–that is, do stuff:
But the very concept of the issue seemed to be almost completely alien to most of the undecided voters I spoke to. (This was also true of a number of committed voters in both camps–though I’ll risk being partisan here and say that Kerry voters, in my experience, were more likely to name specific issues they cared about than Bush supporters.) At first I thought this was a problem of simple semantics–maybe, I thought, “issue” is a term of art that sounds wonky and intimidating, causing voters to react as if they’re being quizzed on a topic they haven’t studied. So I tried other ways of asking the same question: “Anything of particular concern to you? Are you anxious or worried about anything? Are you excited about what’s been happening in the country in the last four years?”
These questions, too, more often than not yielded bewilderment. As far as I could tell, the problem wasn’t the word “issue”; it was a fundamental lack of understanding of what constituted the broad category of the “political.” The undecideds I spoke to didn’t seem to have any intuitive grasp of what kinds of grievances qualify as political grievances. Often, once I would engage undecided voters, they would list concerns, such as the rising cost of health care; but when I would tell them that Kerry had a plan to lower health-care premiums, they would respond in disbelief–not in disbelief that he had a plan, but that the cost of health care was a political issue. It was as if you were telling them that Kerry was promising to extend summer into December.
But neither of these archetypes explain the Tea Party. And that’s why it’s so damn terrifying.
Tea Buggers spend a lot of time acquiring misinformation. To hold the beliefs they do requires a lot of work, as does maintaining those beliefs. They read things on the intertoobz (just as you are right now). They watch faux news–and sometimes even actually news-like products. They regularly vote. They disproportionately attend rallies, town halls, and even actual government meetings (e.g., school board hearings).
They have filled themselves up with propaganda and falsehoods. Not been filled up. This was an active process.
I’ll stop now because this is getting depressing.