I found the following two articles interesting. Polls Show Many Americans are Simply Dumber Than Bush by Paul Craig Roberts, Jan 29, 2006
The American People Are Pretty Sharp (And Other Leading Myths of Democracy) The Daily Howler, Jul 26, 2006
Thanks to Jake for pointing me to the first one. Once you get to "Part 2" of the second one, you can stop if you want. The author gets kind of ranty.
What we have here is a major crack forming in the keystone of democracy. People are sheep, whether we like it or not. Everyone feels more comfortable when they are doing what everyone else is doing, wearing what everyone else is wearing, and walking like everyone else is walking. It's in our nature. It's an invaluable evolutionary strategy to not stand out from the herd.
As young children, we question everything. "Why is grass green?" "Why do I have to go to bed?" After attempting to answer a few of these, depending on the patience of the parent, eventually the child arrives at "Because it just is!" and "Because I said so!" This is completely natural. It'd be inefficient to seek a full answer to every little "I wonder" thought that occurs to a developing child. And so, in the interest in gaining more knowledge more quickly, a child has to accept some things as true.
Throughout school and church, children are fed information that they are told to process as the authoritative truth. Asking too many questions or pointing out contradictions is frowned upon and ridiculed. We are taught not to question authority. Not only that, but the line between fact and myth is horribly blurred. How many American children (and adults for that matter) believe that the Pilgrims actually sat down at a long table and had a feast with some Native Americans or that George Washington really cut down a cherry tree? Facts are interspersed with myths, all coming out of the teacher's mouth.
Once you reach adulthood and you have a job and children of your own, not only are you so used to assimilating what you hear as fact, but you don't have the free time to check up on what you hear. If the nightly news anchorman says that there are WMD in Iraq and that Saddam has elaborate secret plans to annihilate your country, and then you hear the same thing over and over again on other news channels, the radio, the newspaper, etc., you're going to accept that as fact. We have a blind faith that the journalists are doing their research and reporting facts accurately. And this faith is necessary if we are to believe anything at all about the world, because we have no other sources of information.
I think that the blame the current state of political America and, through its actions, the entire Muslim world, rests almost entirely on the shoulders of the journalists. It's one thing for the rest of us to act like sheep and accept information given to us as fact, but it's the journalists' job to do the investigating for us! We're too busy making money so we can buy their newspapers and the products advertised during their broadcasts to pay them. How can we be expected to elect a decent leader if all the journalists just parrot each other without checking facts or interviewing Constitutional experts that will explain to us why these "anti-terrorism" laws are bad for us?
A democracy is only as good as the information its people are given.