WMD Delusion Disorder

A new Harris poll finds that:

Despite being widely reported in the media that the U.S. and other countries have not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, surprisingly; more U.S. adults (50%) think that Iraq had such weapons when the U.S. invaded Iraq. This is an increase from 36 percent in February 2005.

As Theodore Sturgeon said, “It aint what you don’t know that kills you. It’s what you know that just aint so”. And apparently about half of U.S. adults think they know that Saddam had WMDs. Whose fault is that?

Certainly the Bush administration bears some responsibility for its aggressive and fallacious claims as they tried to scare America into its first preemptive war. But even BushCo no longer peddles those lies. The real culprit is, of course, the media.

Harris begins its report saying, “Despite being widely reported in the media…” But that imposes a much too narrow view. The media, as a whole, has indeed reported that WMDs were not found, but we need to be more specific. The number one cable news network is Fox News. It is fair to say that their reporting is not particularly balanced. In fact, studies have shown that Fox viewers are far more likely to believe things that are demonstrably false, than are viewers of other networks. The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) report says in summary:

“Those who primarily watch Fox News are significantly more likely to have misperceptions, while those who primarily listen to NPR or watch PBS are significantly less likely.”

These poll results are more evidence of how dangerous the media can be. If, after three years, the public can still exhibit this scale of ignorance, we obviously have a lot of work yet to do, both in correcting the public record and reforming the media.


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