I’ve been keeping track of events in the Arab world only from a distance. There’s been a lot of excitement on twitter and Facebook. Since I’m not an unalloyed enthusiast for democracy I’ve not joined in in the exultation. But I’m very concerned at what I perceive are unrealistic assumptions and false correspondences. This is a big issue because the public is very ignorant of world history and geography. For example, I was listening to a radio show where Roger Cohen was a guest. Cohen covers the Middle East, so he is familiar with many of the issues to a much greater depth than is feasible for the “Average Joe.” In response to a caller who was an ethnic Egyptian American and a Coptic Christian who was concerned about possible persecution of religious minorities Cohen pointed to Turkey, which is ruled by Islamists, and has “many” Christians. His tone was of dismissal and frustration. And that was that.
Let’s look more closely. About 5-10% of Egyptians are Christian, with most estimates being closer to 10 than 5. In contrast, the non-Muslim minority in Turkey numbers at most a few percent, with ~1% often given as ...
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I have a post up at Secular Right which expresses some cynical skepticism about the popular revolutions in North Africa. I’m especially skeptical of Egypt, though I would be happy to be proven wrong by history. Democratic governance is better than the alternatives, all things equal, but all things are not equal. Tunisia is in many ways a more “Western” society than Egypt, so I have more hope that a conventional Western form of governance in liberal democratic form will emerge there. Additionally, unlike Egypt Tunisia has no minorities to oppress.
Because of the power of democralotry in the American mind we often can’t conceive of the possibility that populism abroad may not shake out in a direction conducive to our own “national interests.” Or, further other values which we putatively cherish, such as individual liberty and tolerance of dissent and diversity. But it is no coincidence that we were founded a republic, and not a democracy.
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The 800-Pound Mama Grizzly Problem:
Ms. Palin, in fact, draws almost as much search traffic worldwide as the man she would face if she wins the Republican nomination: Barack Obama. And her name is searched for about 30 percent more often than the President’s among Google users in the United States.
Some members of Ms. Palin’s family also draw as much attention has the other Presidential contenders. Todd Palin, her husband, gets about as much search traffic as Mr. Pawlenty. Bristol Palin, her daughter (and a finalist on “Dancing With the Stars”), gets several times more than any of them (as does her former boyfriend, Levi Johnston).
I thought of this News IQ Quiz from Pew. I got 12 out of 12, which apparently places me in the top 1% of quiz takers? The only question I hesitated on was #11 for what it’s worth. Check out how different demographics do in the aggregate and by question:
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