“I saw on Facebook ….”
This phrase is consistently responsible for more chaos and confusion than any other in America. It begins most dining room table arguments and launches just as many workplace spats.
It is why an embarrassing percentage of Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya and why just as many think terrorists might be infiltrating Syrian refugees.
“I saw on Facebook …” is killing the business of providing accurate information. And it is causing a boom in the business of partisan, sorta-true information websites.
It struck me just how important Facebook has become during Tuesday night’s Republican Primary debate, when a follower on Twitter mentioned to me that a certain Voldemort-like candidate is connecting to voters because he addresses their fears.
“Perception is reality to the masses. If people felt safe (he who shall not be named) wouldn’t still be a factor,” the tweet from @matt_cone read.
To be clear, he wasn’t trying to justify the people’s fears, merely point them out.
But he’s right. People are scared, they are fearful. Mostly of terrorist attacks that might be committed by Muslims in this country.
And that fear has the unique distinction of being both understandable and insanely stupid.
How is it possible that Americans are more afraid today than they were seven years ago, when Obama took office? Because that’s the mantra of the Republicans — from the guys running for president all the way down to Gov. Robert Bentley, who issued a rebuttal for some reason to the president’s national address a couple of weeks ago.
People are inundated with that message — that Obama has made us less safe.
Than who? The last president?
Because I hate to break it to you all, but George W. Bush, a Republican who governed in the same bomb-everybody-all-day fashion that seems shockingly popular among today’s right wing, was president during the country’s worst terrorist attack. And he then lost 5,000 more Americans with a disjointed and misguided plan for war in two countries.
So far, under Obama, there have been two terrorist attacks — the Boston Marathon bombing and the San Bernardino shooting. In neither case did the people responsible have any regular contact with known terrorist organizations, but were instead “homegrown terrorists.”
Such attacks are nearly impossible to stop with existing monitoring. They might be a bit more stoppable if the federal government could monitor ammunition purchases and if private firearm sales required a background check. But then, the Founding Fathers would be plenty upset, because they absolutely intended for it to be unconstitutional for law enforcement to know when a guy buys a 50-gallon drum of bullets.
But this is what a steady flow of carefully worded misinformation does.
It leads good people — busy people who don’t have the time to sort through and find the most accurate source for every single news event that comes along — to believe terribly wrong things. It leads them to be fearful at a time when they’re actually the most safe they’ve ever been.
Seriously. Check the stats. Crime is down. Car accidents are mostly down. Even gun violence has dropped. There have been two terrorist attacks in this country in seven years.
If you aren’t getting bad information from sources that rely on your fear to keep generating revenue, then answer one simple question: Why are you scared?
And after you settle that one, answer this one: Why do these GOP guys keep saying the country is so awful?
Again, I take you back to the days of 2008, when Obama took over for a guy who was mostly governing the same way these guys want to govern. We were on the verge of financial ruin, with an economy that was losing 850,000 jobs per month and poised for a second depression.
In the years since Obama has been office, the economy has rebounded, there have been a record number of consecutive months of private-sector job growth, consumer confidence is through the roof, the deficit is at its lowest point in a decade, there are fewer uninsured people than at any point in the last 20 years and those two bungled wars have been ended.
Don’t get me wrong, Obama has not been a perfect president, and the country could be doing much better if there was a modicum of partisan cooperation and compromise.
But this country does win. It’s in much better shape than seven years. We are safe.
And I don’t care what you read on Facebook.
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