What happened to Jeremiah Wright between his interview with PBS and appearance before the NAACP? In Essay on Jeremiah Wright, Bill Moyers has a few ideas worth considering.
During his performance last Monday, Wright elaborated on his government conspiracy theory regarding HIV: He said, “Based on the Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.” [emphasis and link added]
What people like Wright, Robertson, or Hagee will believe as literal truth doesn’t surprise me: An omnipotent father figure, a talking snake, a man living for days inside the belly of a whale, a zombie savior, Heaven and Hell, etc. Wright’s conspiracy theory about a government with a real history of secretly experimenting on it citizens seems like a small leap compared to such fantastical things.
I might suspect something like that if I didn’t prefer sheer ignorance, indifference, and incompetence as better explanations a la Occam’s Razor. Unfortunately we’re no longer a nation of thinkers ready to wield such tools. This latest national elevation of Belief over Reason started with Reagan selling out the Republican Party by pandering to fundamentalist Christians, but the political swing of the pendulum isn’t pushing us back towards Reason. The Democrats are adopting the same strategy, not refuting it.
The “Faith in Public Life” debate wasn’t more of the same Republican religious pandering; this was the Democrats trotting out their candidates in what feels like another chip out of the Establishment Clause, like a candidate’s Christian pedigree is a de facto requirement of holding the office. How many will vote based more on who is a better Christian than who has better policy? Consider that all-important code word in Obama’s campaign slogan: “Change You Can Believe In”. It raises my hackles every time I see it.
It’s safer as a candidate to say what you believe than what you think: There aren’t as many inconvenient arguments or facts to trip you up in the age of always-on media, and your base is inoculated against those same inconveniences, especially on their favorite “values” issues. How do you refute a more-plausible myth like trickle-down economics or McCain’s superiority on foreign policy issues to people who still believe in a 6,000 year old Earth?