09 November 2012

How conservatives and bigots delude themselves - and their followers - about history

I don't normally get political here, but the reaction of some conservatives in the US to the re-election of Barack Obama has been absolutely astonishing, sometimes even to the point of being hilarious. And there's something worth reflecting on about the extent to which a strong belief and identification with a brand like conservatism can completely change the way someone looks at the world. Even undisputed facts, history and science.

As commentator Rachel Maddow puts it, the conservative movement is "stuck in a vacuum sealed, door locked, spin cycle of telling each other what makes them feel good, and denying the factual, lived truth of the world".

Conservative political pundit Pat Buchanan claimed this week that Obama's re-election has "killed White America". And then, in support of that contention and acknowledging that "of course" he thinks whites are better than other people, he claimed that "Anything worth doing on this Earth was done first by white people." Buchanan then cited examples that prove exactly what Maddow says - conservatives are living in some kind of "truth bubble" of their own making.

"Who climbed Mount Everest?" Buchanan asked rhetorically. "White people."

Er, maybe half right at best. Tenzing Norgay (a Nepali Sherpa) was right there on the summit with Hillary, and numerous Sherpas were an integral part of the team that made the first successful ascent.

"Who invented paper?" asked Pat. "White people."

Wrong again, Pat. Papermaking was invented in China and spread through the Middle East to medieval Europe in the 13th century.

"Who discovered algebra? White people."

Sorry, Pat. Strike three and you're out. The roots of algebra can be traced to the ancient Babylonians and the word comes from Arabic. There's even a clue in that the word starts with "al".

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