That’s How the Blight Gets In
December 13, 2007
Thomas Jefferson’s faith in the marketplace of ideas, including his belief that the truth will eventually triumph over lies, seems rather misguided after I read something like this:
I have now received three (3) student papers that discuss Iraq’s attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11. All three papers mention it as an aside to another point. I’ve had two papers on the virtue of forgiveness that argue that if we had just forgiven Iraq for the 9/11 attacks, we wouldn’t be at war right now. I just read a paper on the problem of evil which asked why God allowed “the Iraq’s” to attack us on 9/11. The thing that upsets me most here is that the students don’t just believe that Iraq was behind 9/11. This is a big fact in their minds, that leaps out at them, whenever they think about the state of the world.
Jefferson lived in a time when newspapers, the only mass media, were often savagely partisan and distorted the facts, yet he maintained his philosophy that an open, unregulated marketplace of ideas was the best course. I still agree with him, but I can’t pretend it isn’t upsetting to see how this administration’s toxic slurry of lies and distortions — enthusiastically promoted by an army of sycophants, enabled by the decaying corporate media — has so thoroughly polluted America’s intellectual environment that incoming college students (at least, I hope they’re freshmen) treat it as a given that Saddam Hussein masterminded the 9/11 attacks.
Ignorant college students are nothing new, but Jesus — these kids presumably took eight years of elementary and middle school instruction, then four years of high school. They can’t all have been home-schooled. Did they spend all that time huffing Redi-Whip cannisters behind convenience stores? What were they learning? What were their schools teaching? Has the wingnut dreamland become this pervasive? Just keep lying long enough and loud enough and the lies become background noise that filters into the mass mind like leachate from a Superfund site — is that all it takes?
Maybe England, France, Japan and China can take a page from the Bible-bangers and pool their resources to establish an intellectual missionary program that will reintroduce Americans to the concept of reality. Imagine small pockets of enlightenment, tucked away amid the Wal-Mart wilderness, where Americans can learn that no, weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq; that no, Saddam Hussein did not plot 9/11; that no, giving tax money to rich people so they can throw themselves a big party does not make things better for everyone else.
I’m open to other suggestions. Because while I still believe in the marketplace of ideas, I can see that the marketplace is being choked with crap merchandise from crooked merchants.