Hardball | January 25, 2013
>>> can see the snow behind me here at the white house is like one of those things you turn upside down. how about conspiracy theories ? it turns out it depends on your party affiliation whether you believe in them. you're probably not surprised to hear more republicans than democrats are birthers, but a new poll shows nearly two-thirds of republicans , 64%, believe the president is hiding some specific information about where he was born. how about fixing elections? more than a third of democrats think george w. bush 's supporters probably rigged the election in ohio back in 2004 through voter fraud , including a majority of african- americans . about the same number of republicans , 36%, think obama's supporters did the same thing to win last november although there was no evidence of any cheating or anything, even a machine foul up. think back to nen. more than a third of democrats are part of truther crowd, people who believe president bush knew about the attacks before they happened, as do nearly 60% of african- americans . the difference in the parties is the knowledge base. republicans who know more about the news are actually more likely to believe conspiracy theories fueled by right wing media like fox. danica see know is a political science professor at fair li dileigh dickinson university. michael , you brought this to our attention. i want to get you as a generalist like me, what do you think this told you that surprised you, this poll?
>> well, it reinforced what i have suspected all along, which is that the business model at the far right is predicated on fear. that they scare the crap out of people. there's never any accountability. for some reason, chris, people don't remember six months later that they were told there was another catastrophe looming and, therefore, hold those members of the meeting accountable. they still stay tuned in whether it's talk radio or fox or some other oracle that's on the right.
>> yeah. it's almost like an addiction to being afraid. let me ask you, mr. casino, our professor, help me out on this, what did you decide you learned here as just a person doing this kind of clinical study. what do you think was surprising in terms of brain soup here, different brain soup, the way people's brains work, right and left?
>> the big deal here is that there really does seem to be something of an asymmetry. both sides tend to believe in conspiracy theories . the right and left are embracing them. the big difference is these informational effects. that's really what was most interesting to me. when generally we expect the more you know about the world, the less likely you're going to be to believe in these conspiracy theories . we find that's just not the case for everyone. and i think that is something because of the informational content of right wing media. if you're a republican, you search out more information on these conspiracy theories . if you turn on fox news, you are going to wind up not getting more corrective information. when fox news covered this very poll, it was tucker carlson talking about how absurd it is that there was all this belief in conspiracy theories and asking why president obama hadn't released his college transcripts. so there is something with the informational content on the right.
>> that's called -- what's it called, fair and balanced . you always have allowance for the crazy people as well as the sane people. you know, michael , you're enjoying this because i got a couple things here. let's start with this thing about birthers. the president released his official birth certificate. he had to go through the humiliation, i believe, of going to honolulu and asking them to release the documents that normally aren't released. he got it over with. why wasn't that enough? why didn't any sane person at that point forward have any questions. what more could you ask? did you have to believe everything was cooked no the to buy the facts?
>> there are masters at taking kernels of truth and wrapping them in tremendous fiction and then weaving it together in a way that sounds like it could all make sense. there's never any sort of drill down moment where people say, wait a minute, time-out, let's analyze this and think about all the things that would have had to take place and all the people who would have had to be involved for any of this to be true. the great example i think recently is benghazi, and we just came through those hearings yesterday. instead of legitimate concern about the death of four americans and making sure that we're protected, it was all about what did ambassador rice say when she went on those shows, why was she out there. it was crazy.
>> let's go over the african-american piece of this. how do you explain that, professor? i know we have so much segregation still in our society where people don't have access to maybe centers of power as much as other people do. is that it? you don't know anybody that works in the state department ? you don't know anybody who works in city hall . how do you explain this differential between white and black on this thing?
>> i think there are two big things going on.first, the people that are generally out of power who feel like the center of powers are more distant, are more likely to believe in conspiracies. they don't feel they have any control. the second thing going on with african- americans is they have been the subject of conspiracies in the past. we had the syphilis he can pairments, tuskegee.
>> so the worst case scenario turned out to be true.
>> absolutely. the third thing that's happen something we do see the african- americans have much stronger differential in terms of how much they're like republicans and democrats . essentially african- americans like democrats way more than they like republicans . african- americans are to the democratic party what the entire republican party is to the republican party .
>> i thought that was well-said. michael , this didn't start, so we don't think we're the only people on the planet, this generation, my dad worked in navy intelligence in south philly all through the wor. he was an enlisted guy. chef petty officer. near the end of his life, he would still believe roosevelt had something to do with pearl harb harbor. that he knew it was coming because he wanted to get in the war against the nazis. your experience of talking on the radio with people, do you sense this idea that there's always some liberal in washington doing something and horrible to the country like letting us get attacked and lose losing our pacific fleet on purpose, which would have been not only grounds of impeachment, but excuse if he got caught something something like that, i don't care if he was roosevelt.
>> chris, i'm always willing to give a good ear to a conspiracy theory . they're entertaining, but what's different is now they're being presented in a cohesive fashion for a political purpose, and they have never let up on this guy. listen, if i only relied on drudge for my news, i'd hate him, too. it's remarkable to me that the level of coordination and how the echo chamber is all functioning as moving parts of the same machinery these days, and the danger is that there are some among us who only get their news from these outlets. and they were totally blindsided in the election. it was like a truck hit them because they didn't believe that there were other americans out there who weren't listening to the same sort of things that they were. that's the danger of it.
>> i think that's great. we know republicans are a self-selecting group who tend to congregate together but nothing summed that up better than the former chairman of the main republican party who was stunned to hear blacks had voted there on election day . let's watch this bit of whatever.
>> in some parts of rural maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted election day . everybody has the right to vote, but nobody in town know anybody who is black. how did it happen? i don't know.
>> what do you make of that, professor?
>> well --
>> that testimony by a republican that blacks showed up in the voting booths and nobody had seen blacks before, therefore, they must be from somewhere else. it could be they live in a segregated community, just a guess.
>> people on both sides tend to believe there's some sort of conspiracy, that that a stolen election because they don't know anyone that votes for the other party. on both sides, when we talk about politics, are pretty homogeneous. democrats tend to congregate with democrats and republicans with republicans . we don't know anyone who voted for the other guy and as a result we don't know how this possibly could have happened.
>> i think there's so much hiding within your political network, people live in their own world so much they don't even know the larger country. michael smerconish , thanks for giving us that great story, and professor thanks for joining us from fairly dickinson. up next, seamus roll over . another politician with a dog story. seamus keeps giving, the dog on the roof all the way to canada. it's cold up