Originally published at Gatestone Institute.
We must face up to it. The Western democracies have a great and serious problem which appears only to be growing: the general public are developing views highly questionable to those in positions of power. Larger and larger swaths of people, when asked their opinion of certain matters, keep coming back with the wrong opinion. Whether it is opposition to the EU in Europe, or to Obamacare in the U.S., or to a hopeless deal with Iran to keep it from producing nuclear weapons, something, surely, must be done about this!
Take the latest example, a different matter that came to light with a school in Glasgow, Scotland. The institution was recently forced to call in a crack-squad of head-scarf wearing Muslim women to help correct what the school felt was a “racist” view of Islam held by some of their students.
When the school asked the pupils to say which which words came to mind when people talked about Muslims — and the response included “terrorist,” “oppressed,” “a threat” and “scary” — re-educating the pupils was found to be necessary. Some pupils even, outrageously, said “9/11.”
After the BBC and other media promptly picked up this disturbing story and asked what more can be done to “educate” Scottish youngsters, the school apparently corrected this problem.
But what to do about the recognition that problems like these may well be more widespread?
The reaction to the Glasgow story was reminiscent to that which followed the publication of a poll carried out by BBC Radio 1 in June of this year. When it was released in September, it transpired that of 1,000 young people polled, 27% said that they did not trust Muslims, with 44% saying they thought Muslims did not share the same views as the rest of the population. On that occasion, too, the BBC and other media went into overdrive to work out what had gone wrong and how Britain could better “address” the problem that so many people thought this way.
Conversely, when the same poll showed that 15% of young people did not trust Jews, 13% did not trust Buddhists and 12% did not trust Christians, those facts were not deemed figures of significance.
As so often is the case today, a poll is carried out on public opinion and when it turns out that the public have the wrong views on whatever is the Dictate of the Day — the question then is asked, ‘What can people in positions of power do to ensure the public are made to think the right way?’
What is striking, is that despite the attempts to re-educate and otherwise alter the attitudes of the majority of the population, the population continue to understand — in ever larger numbers — that the problems lie not with them but with what is happening around them. As Daniel Pipes pointed out recently, for example, across much of Europe, Islam appears not to be growing as fast as negative perceptions of it.
As Pipes also cited, in Germany last year, a poll revealed that only 7% of Germans associate Islam with “openness, tolerance or respect for human rights.” 64% connect it with violence; 68% with intolerance towards other faiths, and 83% with discrimination against women. A poll in France earlier this year revealed that 67% of people believe Islamic values to be “incompatible with those of French society,” 73% view Islam negatively and 74 % consider it intolerant. If the problem of perception of Islam were limited to Dundee, that would be one thing. But the Dundee schoolchildren clearly perceive something which a growing number of people across Western Europe also perceive — as other people do about other problems surrounding them.
Of course, as some of us continue to try to point out, there are really only two ways to tackle these “problems.” The first is to change the opinions of all of the public. This could be tricky. It would require suppressing stories, misrepresenting events, possibly covering over the occasional beheading, the nuclear cheating, the circumvented law, the cancelled doctor, the terminated insurance policy, the high-handed directive, the repeated deception, the unequal application of the law, the unworkable economic model, the contorted cover-up, the inferior product, the false accusation, and generally trying to ensure that the general public stop noticing what is happening in the world around them.
Except that there is the internet of course, which is a nuisance. Although it is possible that some way could be found to shut down all social-networking and news sites and also persuade Google to bring up “daisies” and “recipes for apple pie” whenever anyone types “beheading” or “redistribution” or “uranium enrichment” or “Greece” into his search engine.
That is the start of one option. The other option is to de-link Islam and violence by ensuring that people stop carrying out acts of violence in the name of Islam; or to create ways for people actually to receive quality healthcare at affordable prices; or to seriously prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb, or to stop those in power from ‘making up the rules as they go along’, which as Daniel Hannan puts it, “means, in short, that there is no effective rule of law.” Those options are not easy either, but they are far easier than the first option, and ever less frequently tried.
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