Saturday, March 21, 2009

Pick a Side, Any Side

Does it matter what we believe, as long as we believe something? That's what a television news commentator would urge us to do:

Believe in something! Even if it's wrong! Believe in it!

-- Glenn Beck, Mar 2009

The video is in this Comedy Central clip, around time 3:10:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
IndigNation! Populist Uprising '09 - The Enragening

OK, you might argue, this is just a typical opinion
on one of the several "news" networks, trying to
fill up on of the 24 hours the network is on the air, every day.
Let's even excuse the fact that Beck seems to believe all of what
he is saying, down to the teary-eyed professions of love for his
country and the little guy (see video above). Is there something
to what he says?

As it turns out, perhaps. A recent survey by Anthony Leiserowitz asked television viewers which of several "news" shows they watched before the general election in 2008, and about their general beliefs. Of those who watched the specific shows of interest, they broke down approximately evenly between left-leaning (such as Olberman, Colbert and Stewart), and right-leaning shows (such as O'Reilly, Hannity and Limbaugh).

What fascinated me was this question,

We should always be willing to fight
for our country, whether our country is right or wrong.

A whopping 70% of those who watch right-leaning shows agree
with this statement. Which means if our country is wrong, no
matter how egregiously wrong, 70% of these viewers would still
support military action? The left-leaning shows are really not
much better, with 30-40% of viewers responding that they agree
with the statement. Of the respondants that didn't watch any of
the specific shows, about half agreed that we should be willing
to fight no matter what.

Note that the question was not about whether we
should "support the troups," although that phrase has it's own
moral ambiguities. No, the question was whether we should
support our country, in military action, even when that action is
something we know to be wrong. I wonder if the right-leaning
watchers still agree with this statement, now that a Democrat
holds the presidency.

I'm a little taken aback by this philosophy. It basically
says that a large number of citizens place country above
morality. Or rather, that our nation creates its own
by virtue of its existence. These respondants are
willing to hold and support beliefs that they know to be wrong,
simply because the name of their country is attached to it. I
guess I would prefer it to go the other way: that our country
earns the respect of the righteous by actually doing the right
thing in the first place.