Debunk This!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Transcript

This week, OTM talks about popular cultural myths that refuse to die. The first is seems to have staying power: the rumor that President Obama is a Muslim. A 2009 Pew study found that many Americans still believe it to be true, and many more simply don't know the President's religion. Political scientist Brendan Nyhan explains how misperceptions spread and says we can be incredibly stubborn in the face of facts.

Comments [24]

Tessie Crosby from San José, Ca

I am just so sad. Growing up in Venezuela we adored Americans for their forward thinking, and integrity, now my own religion, that one I chose instead of becoming a nun (if you can believe that) has let my family and I down. How can I possible educate my children in a religion that has become so political, and exclusionary, and plain as fanatic as those that kill in 9/11. I confess I am lost. I want love, understanding, acceptance, cooperation, unity, love, and instead I am finding myself thinking maybe leaving Venezuela was a mistake...and then again I think...It has not gotten too bad yet! I hope that makes sense. Where did all the white Americans, with beautiful hearts go?

Sep. 10 2010 05:25 PM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Ah, Glenn! He's the hook upon which to hang this "myth" that America is a Christian or Judeo-Christian (your spell-check doesn't even accept that) nation. That is, as opposed to a Muslim one or a pluralist one?

This national "call to God" is little different from a mullah or Ayatollah's weekly call to prayer. It is right-wing sectarianism that is, in the long run self-defeating, since those who promote it will eventually need to face the movements own division into sects.

Beck is reportedly a Mormon and Palin a Pentecostal. Without a pluralist framework to work within, they pose the threat of a sectarian civil war akin to the one we put an end to by buying off the Sunnis. Or worse, like the earlier Sunni/Shiite 8 year war between Iraq and Iran. Either religious tradition is viewed as little more than a cult by other sects.

They aren't as bad as the right-wing sectarians of the Islamic world, the Taliban & Al Qaeda, but they're getting there.

Sep. 02 2010 04:42 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Ah, Glenn! He's the hook upon which to hang this "myth" that America is a Christian or Judeo-Christian (your spell-check doesn't even accept that) nation. That is, as opposed to a Muslim one or a pluralist one?

This national "call to God" is little different from a mullah or Ayatollah's weekly call to prayer. It is right-wing sectarianism that is, in the long run self-defeating, since those who promote it will eventually need to face the movements own division into sects.

Beck is reportedly a Mormon and Palin a Pentecostal. Without a pluralist framework to work within, they pose the threat of a sectarian civil war akin to the one we put an end to by buying off the Sunnis. Or worse, like the earlier Sunni/Shiite 8 year war between Iraq and Iran. Either religious tradition is viewed as little more than a cult by other sects.

They aren't as bad as the right-wing sectarians of the Islamic world, the Taliban & Al Qaeda, but they're getting there.

Sep. 02 2010 04:42 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Ah, Glenn! He's the hook upon which to hang this "myth" that America is a Christian or Judeo-Christian (your spell-check doesn't even accept that) nation. That is, as opposed to a Muslim one or a pluralist one?

This national "call to God" is little different from a mullah or Ayatollah's weekly call to prayer. It is right-wing sectarianism that is, in the long run self-defeating, since those who promote it will eventually need to face the movements own division into sects.

Beck is reportedly a Mormon and Palin a Pentecostal. Without a pluralist framework to work within, they pose the threat of a sectarian civil war akin to the one we put an end to by buying off the Sunnis. Or worse, like the earlier Sunni/Shiite 8 year war between Iraq and Iran. Either religious tradition is viewed as little more than a cult by other sects.

They aren't as bad as the right-wing sectarians of the Islamic world, the Taliban & Al Qaeda, but they're getting there.

Sep. 02 2010 04:42 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

Ah, Glenn! He's the hook upon which to hang this "myth" that America is a Christian or Judeo-Christian (your spell-check doesn't even accept that) nation. That is, as opposed to a Muslim one or a pluralist one?

This national "call to God" is little different from a mullah or Ayatollah's weekly call to prayer. It is right-wing sectarianism that is, in the long run self-defeating, since those who promote it will eventually need to face the movements own division into sects.

Beck is reportedly a Mormon and Palin a Pentecostal. Without a pluralist framework to work within, they pose the threat of a sectarian civil war akin to the one we put an end to by buying off the Sunnis. Or worse, like the earlier Sunni/Shiite 8 year war between Iraq and Iran. Either religious tradition is viewed as little more than a cult by other sects.

They aren't as bad as the right-wing sectarians of the Islamic world, the Taliban & Al Qaeda, but they're getting there.

Sep. 02 2010 04:42 AM
scott from south america

I can't believe you did a whole show on this subject without mentioning the Glenn Beck rape story:http://bit.ly/8Y9gWF

Aug. 31 2010 04:40 PM
Mark Richard from Columbus, Ohio

Some enduring myths, and a few newer ones, widely believed among chattering-class people.

- FDR's fiscal policies ended the Great Depression. Heard this one a lot in advice to Obama on inheriting the current recession.
- Anti-communist hysteria after World War II is attributable to the demogoguery of McCarthy. There was no Soviet espionage threat.
- Edward R. Murrow took the lead in denouncing McCarthy in his famous 1954 broadcast, thus ending McCarthy's influence.
- 'Brown vs. the Board of Education' resulted in the racial integration of American public schools.
- Rosa Parks . . . oh, you've read that one.
- Eisenhower was a 'do-nothing' president, during whose term American life was conformist and stagnant.
- Nixon said during the 1968 campaign that he had a 'secret plan' to end the war in Vietnam.
- Public opinion on the Vietnam war turned against the government and in favor of the 'doves' after Walter Cronkite said the war was unwinnable.
- Yoko Ono broke up The Beatles.
- 'Overpopulation' causes mass famine and is depleting the world of its resources.
- Public opinion always 'catches up' with the 'progressive' rulings of the federal courts.
- The press uncovered 'Watergate'.
- There was a genuine public health hazard from gooey waste at Love Canal.
- Carter would have been re-elected in 1980 if it hadn't been for the Iran hostage crisis.
-AIDS is going to spread into the mainstream heterosexual population of the United States. (Well, time has taken care of that one, but it took awhile.)
- Proposition 187 in California, passed in 1994, eventually turned the voters of the state against the Republican Party, and is a template for what will happen to the GOP if it continues to oppose illegal immigration.

Aug. 30 2010 05:31 PM
JS

I love the show and don't begrudge you folks a vacation in the slightest. But I'm pretty sure this is at least the fourth time you've aired the Rosa Parks story. I think it can be safely shelved now until the centennial of her protest.

Aug. 30 2010 02:43 PM
Constance Wiggins from Berkeley

I kept waiting for an example of Michael Moore's lies and never heard them. Maybe the website has them but if Nyhan is going to mention Ann Coulter and Michael there should be examples on the radio. I don't believe Michael Moore propagates misinformation, Coulter nothing but.

Aug. 30 2010 02:14 PM
Jim Van Der Pol from Minnesota

I was disappointed in your interview. Would it not be possible for Rosa Parks to have tired feet and be an activist both? Would it not be possible that a lifetime of being pushed down would make one tend to listen to the empowering uplifting rhetoric of Malcolm X? Have you READ Malcolm X??

And I am so sick of the phony goal of "balance" in news stories that evidently made your guest reach for Michael Moore as a "balance" to Ann Coulter. Forty years ago, in the middle of the cold war, many mainstream Democrats sounded a lot like Moore does today. Do your research. The reason Moore sounds radical to you is that he speaks up for working people. Your lack of understanding of working people is why you got the Rosa Parks story wrong too.

Aug. 29 2010 07:06 PM
Chrisco

I always wondered about the myth of the spat upon veteran in airports, namely, who would have the nerve to do that?! Or I've wondered about at least since I read an article in The Nation some years ago by a researcher who said he looked into this for years and could not corroborate a single incident.

Let us remember, Nixon was elected in 1972. Are we to believe that hippies at the airport would spit upon returning military veterans, (i.e. trained fighters)?! Spitting is beyond fighting words, this would lead to automatic fights. The anti-war movement was probably not even half the population. We know of the construction worker assaults on peace protesters. The point is, am I to believe everyone sat around at the airports while scraggly, "peace-loving" hippies had their way assaulting veterans? It does not make sense.

Aug. 29 2010 05:40 PM
sophia

How about the bias of those like your guest who desperately search for false equivalencies in order to claim neutrality?

Ann Coulter and Michael Moore?

The site claims Moore contradicts himself by citing Cananda's superior safety net as a reason for lower rates of violence when the poverty rates are similar. The point is that the poor in Canada receive far more benefits than the poor in the US leading to a less desperate population.

A recent book criticizing the US for their lack of respact for science, similarly equates the right wing denial of evolution with the belief that organic produce is more healthful, citing the idea that organic farmers objection to big Agro to incorporate natural pesticides into their crops is somehow irrational, when the theory of evolution is perfectly consistent with their objections.

Those who like to claim the mantle of referee have a bias towards this sort of equivocation and are rarely called on it.

Aug. 29 2010 03:37 PM
Chip from Pine Mountain, GA

My Daddy served 22 years in the Army and one tour in Vietnam 1969-1970. He was spat at and called baby killer in San Fransisco coming home for leave and when he came back for good. The irony is he NEVER killed anyone, much less a baby, He was a medic and actually gave medical attention to wounded and captured Viet Cong. The people who did these things can lie and say it never happened but the truth is they did it and it was organized. We, our entire family, saw them "protesting" at the airport when we came home from Japan in 1969 (before he went to Vietnam), he saw them again when he flew out to Vietnam, again coming home on leave, and finally on his last trip home. They did it and now they have the gall to try and take the moral high ground! It is too late for that tactic. They have the right to protest the war, any war, but to treat scared young men doing their duty is immoral.

Aug. 29 2010 12:07 PM
Anita Feldman from East Village, New York City

Eric Rollnick and Mark Pascente are both right, I think. Myths can "contain a truth far deeper and more powerful than that which is literally true" and "lies repeated loud and long enough become accepted as truth and become a myth." The trouble is, myths like the ones accounting for the defeat of Germany in World War 1 were accepted, under Hitler, as deep, powerful truths; and the true intent of mythmakers is hard to discover, even by the mythmakers themselves: self-deception, in addition to outright fraud, sometimes figures in "propaganda to change the past." It's true that journalists, historians, and social scientists are subject to deception and self-deception, but they're also trained to detect and counter these forces and to distinguish between truths and myths, no matter how unwelcome the truths are, and how "symbollically true" the myths. Unfortunately, in a culture where money is seen as an agent of free speech, their work is difficult. I'm grateful to NPR for continuing to make that work known and to support rational discussion of both history and myth.

Aug. 29 2010 11:41 AM
eric rollnick from New hampshire

The word "Myth" as used in the context of this program is very slippery. Some myths are based in truth and some in lies. The difference is important. Lies repeated loud and long enough become accepted as truth and become a myth. A true event can change over time and become a myth. The intent is also important. Does the myth intend to create an allegory for actual events, or is it created as propaganda to change the past? For that matter most "history" that people believe is a myth.

Aug. 29 2010 11:07 AM
Marc Pascente from Bronx New York

As I listen to your interview with Tim Tyson regarding the "myth" of Rosa Parks her "tired feet", you miss a very salient and vital part of this "myth". The myth serves an important symbolic truth, representative of more than one person. That Ms Parks was not simply tired, but was a civil rights activist is not important. What is vital is that she represented with her "tired feet" all of the men and women in Montgomery and beyond that were simply tired of the circumstances of life in the segregated Southern U.S. When you search for the literal truth in myth, you miss the beauty of myth which can be to transmit symbolically a truth that resonates deeply and purposefully. In your efforts to debunk, never forget that myth can contain a truth far deeper and more powerful than that which is literally true.

Aug. 29 2010 10:28 AM
toni from nyc

must you speak in that cutsie high pitched voice its so annoying so early in he morning especially.

Aug. 29 2010 10:12 AM
Bort from Syracuse

It is very silly to think that you can teach people that President Obama is not a Muslim. How could you ever prove it to their satisfaction? Rightwingnuts think he's lying when he says he's a Christian, and they trust Rush/Beck/Palin when they say he's not. They even have their own set of "facts" (see Julie, above).

Aug. 28 2010 05:10 PM
Julie

Obama is a Muslim. It was proven that he has a small mosque in the White House. Look up information before talking on it please.

Aug. 28 2010 04:28 PM
Kathy from Ohio

I happen to know a VietNam vet who was, by his account, spat upon upon his return. So now he needs to drum up witnesses to the event to be believed?

Aug. 28 2010 04:20 PM
Anita Feldman from East Village, New York City

Myths may contradict or discount factual accounts, but they may also spin the facts in ways that are hard to disprove, because, thøugh they may seem, at first, to confirm our fears, they end by satisfying our desires. In the sixties, first-year college students in my English classes were vaguely aware that American citizens of Japanese descent had been interned by the Federal government, but they suppressed the disturbing implications of this fact by asserting that this was done for the benefit of the interned Japanese-Americans, to protect them from public wrath over the bombing of Pearl Harbor. American leftists I knew insisted, despite the Socialist reformism of Dubcek and the other Czech leaders, that the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 was a response to a counter-revolution, and that, despite the extremism of the Cultural Revolution in China, it was a necessary completion of the work begun under Mao in 1949. They also ignored the murderous policies and acts of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Even when we have access to facts, their meaning is not self-evident. If we believe that it is, we're at the mercy of bought spin doctors and blind ideologues. "On the Media" has shown me, at least, why and how we need to resist both.

Aug. 28 2010 10:48 AM
Matt W. from Arlington, VA

This public opinion survey is deeply flawed and does not measure what any American believes on the issue. Even if a person is 100% supportive of the President and correctly understood him to be a Christian, if they had read the New York Times article that discussed the theologic implications of then Senator Obama's father's religion they would not have been able to answer Mr. Nyhan's survey question correctly.

Such is the problem when an academic irresponsibly uses a campaign narrative to test the knowledge of all voters. I feel it is appropriate to use similar wording to the description Mr. Nyhan has no problem applying to those he disagrees with especially in his June 24th 2009 blog post about a health care Op-ED.

Looking at the guts of this survey it is clear that Mr. Nyhan is not an expert and has no credibility.

This research asks an impossible question and then marvels that the response is nonsensical. Definitely not good social science.

Aug. 28 2010 08:23 AM
Bob Worsley from Stamford, CT

I was serving in the Coast Guard during Vietnam, 66-70, and never saw anyone in uniform spat upon or even called names. However, we were instructed by our senior non-coms and officers not to go ashore in uniform just in case. I was living in NYC and serving on Governor's Island at the time and we took this very seriously - the rumors were flying.

Coming back from overseas in '68 into San Francisco I was given the same instructions. We had to travel in uniform, but changed ASAP after landing.

It's interesting to hear this take on the whole thing, and the fact that the military was reinforcing it is something you didn't bring up.

Aug. 28 2010 08:20 AM
Just a Thought

Before all good open minded progressives start "tossing people out of polite society" and "shaming elites" remember it is the magazine the "New Yorker" that put that cartoon on it's cover and now OTM focuses on this Orwellian obsession about thought policing people who may have impure political opinions and not even realize it. Very creepy.
Funny how in just 21 short months Americans went from being the enlightened people who voted in Obama to the unworthy idiots who will soon return Congress to the Republicans as the President's approval ratings decline. "Polite society" is an elite club that is getting smaller all the time. Thanks


Aug. 27 2010 06:34 PM

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