The czar of Beliefnet is on fire, right now, when it comes to analyzing the mix of religion and rumor that is dominating American politics at the moment (even while the stock market rages on). Your GetReligionistas have been wrestling, of course, with the big ABC News error about Gov. Sarah Palin, Iraq and the will of God. However, readers have -- accurately -- noted that the big rumor before that one focused on Sen. Barack Obama and Islam. Of course, GetReligion has taken that rumor down several times and the powers that be of the MSM have done the same. Bravo.
But Waldman has a commentary up that asks a terrifying question: What if the facts don't matter? What if this culture is, well, post-news? Who do we blame then?
So you think you can live with the Internet alone? You think that you don't need mainstream newspapers and wire services? Blogs are enough. Right?
Waldman says, "Wait a minute." Here's the top of his piece, which is must reading for journalists and news consumers.
Last March when polls reported that 10% of the population thought Barack Obama was Muslim, I counseled calm: Obama is a new character on the scene. As people get to know him, that percentage will decline.
Instead, it's gone up. The newest poll from the Pew Research Center showed that 13% now believe he's Muslim -- and a staggering 19% of McCain supporters believe him to be Muslim. Only 48% of Republicans say Obama is Christian (the balance is unsure).
This is truly frightening -- not so much because of the implications for Obama but because of what it says about how we as Americans consume information. With more time, and more information swimming about, the public has become progressively less well informed.
So what we need is "European journalism," right? We need more news outlets that openly display their biases. That way, consumers know what they are getting. They can choose the bias that fits their biases. That's the ticket.
But Waldman doesn't slam the conservative media, because that would be too easy. The reality is more complex. Why?
... (The) percentage of independents who think Obama is Muslim also rose from 8% to 14%. Then I noticed this: the biggest increase in the percentage who think he's Muslim was among young people. Only 8% of people from 18-29 believed he's Muslim in March. Now, 17% do. By contrast, among those 65 and older, the percentage who thought he was Muslim actually dropped during this period.
What's the biggest differentiator between those groups when it comes to news consumption? The internet. Younger people get their information online. Older people still use print.
Read it all. By all means read it all.