Links and Comments: The American Divide

Washington Post, Max Boot (a conservative who’s left the Republican party): No vaccine can end America’s pandemic of ignorance and irrationality

But the biggest divide in modern America, I would argue, is between those who are rational and those who aren’t.

The good news is that roughly two-thirds of the country inhabits the land of facts, where information comes from mainstream media. The bad news is that at least one-third live in a la-la-land of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” where the most trusted sources of information are Fox News and Facebook — or, heaven help us, Newsmax and OAN. There is plenty of irrationality on the left, to be sure, but it now appears much more prevalent on the political right, where so many deny both climate change and the coming change of administrations.

There is a vast, unbridgeable chasm that separates the brilliant scientists who came up with the coronavirus vaccines and the ignoramuses who believe that the coronavirus was engineered by Bill Gates to profit from vaccinations, or that it was created as a bioweapon by China, or that it is spread by 5G cell towers, or that it doesn’t actually exist, or that its dangers are vastly exaggerated, or that masks are either useless or harmful in stopping its spread. This pandemic of misinformation helps explain why the United States is among the countries with the highest covid death rates in the world despite having the most sophisticated medical sector.


Recently in the news: right-wing “news” organizations have been obliged, under threat of lawsuit from voting machine manufacturers, to disavow their conspiracy-theory-mongering about the election. Truth will out, maybe.

CNN: After legal threat, Fox airs news package debunking election fraud claims made by its own hosts

Slate: Fox Airs Segment Debunking Voter Fraud Claims After Legal Threat From Smartmatic

But wait–! A case of voter fraud has been found!

The Hill: Pennsylvania Trump supporter charged with voter fraud

…But it’s about a man who used his deceased mother’s name to cast another vote for Trump.


Some things never change. Except that, despite misinformation campaigns, certain diseases *have* been eradicated because of vaccines.

The Atlantic: Anti-vaxxers Think This Is Their Moment, subtitled, Society’s well-being depends on how well public-health officials and average internet users combat misinformation.

Social-media takedowns are not the right approach to addressing this content because they turn the propaganda into forbidden knowledge, often increasing the demand. Down-ranking and deprecating anti-vaccine content can minimize some of its reach, but it doesn’t address the underlying lack of trust in institutions, pharmaceutical products, or government. Restoring that trust requires far more work, but time has run out.

This reflects my conclusion, or change of mind, in recent years, that you can’t explain or reveal the facts to someone and expect them to change their mind. Humans rationalize away what conflicts with their emotional persuasions.

More to the point of these links: If the MAGA cultists think America needs to return to, or be kept at, greatness, why do they think nothing about America, its science, its government, its elections, can be trusted and must be corrupt or fraudulent?

Is it because their idea of greatness is to be belligerent, racist, and dumb as a sack of rocks, like Trump?

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