The more the American mainstream media deny that President Obama is a Moslem, the more Americans choose to believe that he is.
Apparently this belief is more prevalent among college-educated Republicans than the rest of the population. How Republicans Learn That Obama Is Muslim (New Republic, 27 August 2010) This raises some intriguing questions about the relationship between education and knowledge.
Jeff Poor suggests that the media are to blame. "By consistently using questions about Obama's faith and his citizenship as fodder to demean conservatives, specifically the Tea Party movement and thereby creating a general mistrust by saying vile things, have the mainstream media perpetuated the very allegations they are abhorred by (sic)?" (Newsbusters, 19 August 2010) At least on this point, Charlie Brooker seems to agree. "Seriously, broadcasters, journalists: just give up now. Because either you're making things worse, or no one's paying attention anyway." 'Ground Zero mosque'? The reality is less provocative (Guardian 23 August 2010). Brooker complains that the terms of the debate are grossly misleading, and grudgingly admires right-wingers for their ability to create snappy-but-misleading nicknames – like fun-size chocolate bars and the Ground Zero mosque. Buzzwords for blowhards (Guardian 30 August 2010).
Jeff Poor quotes CNN political analyst James Carville, who describes himself as "flummoxed" by this result, and claims that "the quality of information to people today is exponentially higher than it was in 19th century England". Now I wouldn't necessarily expect a political journalist to know what the word "exponential" meant, but I wonder whether the quality is higher at all.
Once upon a time, some people were bothered whether Disraeli was Christian or Jew, and some people were uncomfortable about electing Kennedy as a Catholic president. But they are now mainly remembered for what they achieved while in office, not their religious affiliation. Meanwhile, Mrs Thatcher's legacy is not feminism but Thatcherism. Obama will not be remembered for his birthplace, or the religion of his forefathers, nor even for being the first black president; he will be remembered for the successes and failures of his presidency. And perhaps one day, people will wonder why anyone cared whether he was a Moslem or not, and moderate Moslems will be as accepted in mainstream American politics as Catholics are now. (Let it not be forgotten that large sums of money were once raised from American Catholics to support Irish terrorism.)
John T. McGreevy and R. Scott Appleby Catholics, Muslims, and the Mosque Controversy (New York Review, 27 August 2010)
Adam Serwer, Build More Mosques (American Prospect, August 26, 2010)