American Mythology

This spring several national polls painted a stark portrait of an American public deceived.

This spring several national polls painted a stark portrait of an American public deceived. Absolute majorities of Americans said they believed that Iraq provided substantial support to al Qaeda before the Iraq war (including 20 percent who believed that Iraq participated in the 9/11 attacks); they believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or an active WMD program just prior to the war; that Iraq posed an immediate threat to the safety of the United States; and that most other nations supported the U.S. position in Iraq.

Political support for President Bush was directly tied to these myths. People who believed them tended to support the president; others did not. If the American people believed only what is demonstrably true, it seems, President Bush would not be re-elected.

Why do so many Americans believe what can be easily and irrefutably shown to be false? While one can well point to the administration’s manipulation of the media, to the power of the conservative media itself and its "news by sound bite," or to general American ignorance, there are more fundamental reasons why we accept these myths.

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Sojourners Magazine September 2004
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