Disbelief is No Excuse for Ignorance

Mark Laluan

While cynicism is deeply rooted in the American character, the outright disbelief in factual evidence displayed by a wide-range of the population is most troubling.

On May 1, Osama bin Laden—that bugbear of freedom of democracy—was brought to justice at his palatial hideout in Pakistan. Upon hearing news of Bin Laden’s demise at the hands of US Navy SEAL’s, spontaneous celebrations broke out all across the country and the internet.

In what has been jokingly referred to in some circles as “Osama’s last act of terrorism”, news feeds on Facebook were “blown up” with news of the al-Qaeda leader’s death, links to the patriotic melody “God Bless the U.S.A.” and shows of genuine patriotism, both tasteful and untactful.

For the briefest of moments the usual icy political atmosphere of America’s public universities seemed to thaw through the warmth coming from a shared sense of triumph in the blow dealt to al-Qaeda.

As an example, Cal Dems President Daniel Osborn and Berkeley College Republican President Shawn Lewis were on hand at a small rally celebrating the efforts of American armed forces in the action which brought Bin Laden down.

One is welcome, even encouraged, to question these sentiments expressed in those taking joy in Bin Laden’s death. We do not suggest this national consensus of one part relief and one part triumph is for everyone.

However, we do vehemently oppose the willful ignorance of facts that has lead to a rash of conspiracy theories taken as common currency throughout the nation. A healthy distrust of government does not equate to being given carte blanche to challenge establish fact or warp the fabric of reality at whim.

Already many have blogged or mused about how “Osama actually died in 2002, was put on ice and has now been wheeled out to justify [insert government conspiracy] or how “The announcement of Osama’s death on the same day Adolf Hitler’s death was announced proves that this is an orchestrated act to boost public confidence in the powers that be to ensure that [insert government conspiracy] can happen.”

These acts of mental gymnastics are no different than billionaire Donald Trump’s attempt to legitimize the “birther movement”, accusing NASA of faking the moon landings, the 9/11 “truther movement” or the myriad other half-baked concepts accepted at face value by many.

This willingness by large segments of the population to replace reality with constructs of their own creation is by-and-large one of the primary reasons for the decay of American democracy. A government of the people and by the people cannot function if the people are willfully ignoring facts that can be used to build consensus.

We are not suggesting that individuals do not have the right to believe in whatever they want to believe. Rather we are suggesting that there is a fine-line between constructive doubt and merely making things up.