For Media, 'Birthers' Are Big News; Socialists, Not So Much

Which is crazier: believing President Obama was not born in the United States or is actually a Muslim, or believing in total state control of the economy? If you answered the latter, you are probably not a journalist.

The mainstream press went absolutely nuts over an August Pew poll showing that 18 percent of Americans believed that Obama was a Muslim. There was also considerable media chatter over a CNN poll that same month, which found that 27 percent of Americans thought Obama was "probably" or "definitely" born abroad.

But so far, reporters have been eerily silent on a Rasmussen poll showing that 27 percent of Americans believe the federal government should "manage the economy" - as distinguished from simply providing services like Social Security or unemployment insurance.

The partisan trends are also interesting. According to the two aforementioned August polls, 41 percent of self-identified Republicans think Obama is probably or definitely not an American citizen, while 31 percent of GOPers think he's a Muslim.

Wild as those theories are, a full 42 percent of Democrats believe that the government should manage the economy completely. As NB executive editor Matthew Sheffield wrote at the Washignton Examiner:

Democratic politicians have repeatedly stressed to the public that they are not socialists and do not believe in socialism. They may want to have a few words with some of their voters, according to a poll released over the weekend by Rasmussen Reports.

In that survey of 1,000 adults, nearly half of all Democrats, 42 percent, indicated that they believe the government should "manage the economy completely."

That viewpoint is not exactly socialism—there's a different between managing and owning after all—but it's a far cry from the free market ideology that non-Democrats favored in the poll. Just under 25 percent of independents favored government completely managing the economy.

Is this view - that the state should completely manage the economy - not just as divorced from reality as the wild theories regarding Obama's religion and nationality?

Perhaps some perspective is needed. Sure, views about the president's religion or even his eligibility for office can spark some vitriolic debate. But total economic collectivization is responsible for millions of deaths (how many millions is not definitively known) throughout the last century. Is an endorsement of that same ideology not far more repugnant than any opinion on Obama's religion or heritage?

The mainstream press doesn't seem to think so. Just in terms of the sheer volume of coverage, the two August polls absolutely dwarf the most recent Rasmussen survey, indicating that most news outlets consider doubts about Obama's citizenship or religion far more newsworthy than a quarter of the nation's endorsement of total economic statism.

Indeed, in stark contrast to the waves of coverage garnered by both the Pew and CNN polls, the mainstream press has been completely silent on the Rasmussen poll.

Which position is crazier? Well, certainly the view that Obama is a Muslim or that he is not an American citizen is completely divorced from reality. The president's birth certificate has been released publicly [Update: at a reader's request, I'll note that what was released was Obama's "certification of live birth," which is the official, notraized document sent to anyone who requests  proof  that an individual was born in Hawaii. As a matter of policy, the state does not release actual birth certificates.]. Rumors about his religion seem to have been based in anonymous email chains that made provably false claims about the president - such as the bizarre assertion that he took the oath of office with his hand on the Koran.

But clearly there is ample evidence, both academic and historical, that economic collectivization is, has been, and forever will be a total failure of an economic model. And remember that the Rasmussen poll differentiated between people who want simple government services, and those who favor total economic planning. While the level of government intervention in the economy is of course still a topic of heated (and mainstream) political debate, few intellectually honest people still claim that total state control over the economy is desirable (well, maybe not so few, if Rasmussen is to be believed).

But this is not the forum to discuss political philosophy. What is clear, however, is the general media attitude towards these beliefs. If these polls are correct, roughly the same number of Americans believe that Obama is not an American citizen as believe that economic planning is the preferable macroeconomic model. Far fewer believe that Obama is a Muslim, yet those Americans, not the ones endorsing an economic system responsible for so many millions of deaths, have received the press attention.

And as long as the press is concerned with the mainstreaming of fringe views, why is it so concerned with some Republicans' views on Obama's religion, but not some Democrats' ideas about economic planning? As wild as the former are, they're certainly far less destructive from a historical perspective.

Polling Double Standards Conspiracy Theories Media Bias Debate