Fact-Free Politics

Politicians as a rule are not known for being terribly honest and above-board, at least not since Lincoln went theatrical, but this year the Republican Party has made a furious effort to out-Guinness every other dishonest political campaign in history.

Now it hardly surprises anyone when a political campaign attacks the record of the opposition, or even when it indulges in a little spin and distortion to do so.  That’s what political campaigns do. That’s what conventions do. But the best the GOP could come up with this year was an actor debating an empty chair — and losing.  Other than that, their campaign surely will be remembered for its bold, unprecedented, ark-floating deluge level of mendacity.

When it comes to propaganda, Democrats are at kindergarten level, while the GOP has amassed a stack of doctorates. And this season, even by its usual standards,  the elephant parade has shattered the meter and blown the ceiling off.

Tweedledee But Tweedledumber

Many will “defend” the type of dishonesty the GOP has displayed by pointing out that Democrats lie too. Well, sure.  None of us will ever forget “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. But there’s a big difference between making a friend of fibbing and make a foe of fact.

To hear Republicans tell it, it was a major lie for The First Lady to characterize her husband’s grandmother as a “bank secretary”, as she eventually worked her way up to vice president.  (Whoa! Really broke Pinocchio’s nose on that one, didn’t she?) And then there’s the Democrats’ claim that the Obama administration has created 4.5 million jobs. That figure is indeed a bit misleading, because it’s not a net sum for his entire term. They started the meter after the horrendous economic downturn he inherited had bottomed out. So it does qualify as spin, but it’s by no means an outright lie.

It is an outright lie, however, to say that Obama is a Muslim. Or that he’s Kenyan. Or that he’s a socialist. Or that he “hates America”. Or that he “apologized” for America. Or that he has raised your taxes (unless you’re among the ultra-wealthy). Or that he wants to eliminate the work requirements for welfare. Or that he’s increased the deficit to an exceptional degree. Or that he wants to eliminate early voting for military personnel. Or that he bailed out the banks.  Or that he promised unemployment below 8 percent.

Yet these and many others have been repeated as fact by the GOP contenders and their allies; some of them have even been articulated from the convention podium —  from which Romney even threw a bone to the dopey fact-shunning cult that increasingly makes up the backbone of his party by taking a dig at the president’s expressed concern over global warming.  And in doing so, incidentally, he misquoted the president yet again.

Building Deception

You had an inkling the GOP was going to pile up the elephant manure sky-high when it adopted as the de facto slogan of the convention (if not the entire campaign) a deliberate misinterpretation of a quote from the president.  “You didn’t build that” has become the new “I invented the Internet” (a statement never made by another politician who was also the target of a massive no-holds-barred gotcha operation.)

Well, the president was indeed guilty of using a misplaced antecedent, which conclusively proves that he’s human (and that, contrary to another persistent right-wing myth, he isn’t hooked up intravenously to a teleprompter). But it’s a minor syntactical slip, not a major misstatement of ideology; the meaning is still clear enough to anyone who bothers to read the statement in its entirety.

But Romney’s Rangers aren’t interested in getting his real drift. They want something they can twist as grotesquely as possible and slap him in the face with — and hit the public over the head with — as often as possible.

Nor is the willful misrepresentation of Obama’s intent the only dishonest thing about the “We Built It” meme; the Republicans also tried to portray themselves as Randian superbeings who have achieved stunning success without benefiting from government programs or the efforts of other people in general — never mind that this contradicts Mitt Romney’s own previous comments, almost identical to President Obama’s, on that subject. They did this posturing in a government-owned convention facility built with tax dollars. The convention itself was financed with the aid of $18 million in taxes, and the Republican Party received $50 million in government grants for convention security.

They were meeting in Tampa to nominate a presidential candidate who has amassed a fortune with a helping hand from government subsidies and grants, and a vice presidential candidate whose family for several generations actually was involved in building those roads the president spoke of…under government contract.  The convention also featured a prominent speech from Delaware business owner (and Republican political candidate) Sher Valenzuela, touting the virtues of independent enterprise, free of all government influence, that Obama allegedly loathes and wants to squelch. Not only has Valenzuela accepted some $17 million in government funds, she has urged other small business owners to do likewise.

Meanwhile, in nearby Louisiana, GOP governor Bobby Jindal also joined in the “conservative” mantra of “government evil — give me money”,  complaining because the Obama administration supposedly didn’t deliver enough in government handouts (as these folks like to call them when somebody else gets them) with the onslaught of Hurricane Isaac — even though the administration in fact followed all appropriate protocols, earning praise from the state’s two senators (one a Republican) and corresponding almost exactly to the response George W. Bush gave to Hurricane Gustav — without complaint from Jindal. Obama is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

Lying on Auto Pilot

One of the more egregious and head-scratching comments from the candidates came from V.P. nominee Paul Ryan, speaking at the convention about an automobile factory in Wisconsin:

Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you … this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008.Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

He’s clearly suggesting that the plant’s closure was due to the president’s failure to deliver on a “promise” he never made, even though the decision to shutter the facility was made before Obama was even elected. (And Ryan has made similar claims about this on at least one previous occasion.) Hey, if  Obama can travel back in time 50 years to plant a phony birth announcement in a Hawaii newspaper, he certainly can rescue an auto plant retroactively.

When he was called on this later, he defended himself by saying:

What I was saying is, the president ought to be held to account for his broken promises. After our plant was shut down, he said he would lead efforts to retool plants like the Janesville Plant. It’s still idle. My point was not to lay blame on a plant shutdown, but this is yet another example of the president’s broken promises.

Oh. So it really wasn’t (then) Senator Obama’s fault, but it’s still an example of his “broken promises”. Got it. But wait a minute. Surely Ryan isn’t suggesting that the prez should offer some kind of government assistance to private industry. Whatever happened to “We built it on our own, by god, without any stinkin’ guvmint”? What Ryan wants you to believe, in other words, is that his statement was actually intended to undermine the leitmotiv of his entire party’s convention. Ryan, by the way, also requested funds for his district made available by the Affordable Care Act (you know, “Obamacare”), which he has vowed to demolish.  Obama is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. And damned if these people even know the difference.

But it isn’t just that Republicans are spinning lies and distortions and hypocrisies in record numbers; they’ve also developed an arrogant rejection of fact, and an utter disdain if not downright loathing for anyone who tries to set the record straight. Responding to one of the Romney camp’s lies, one of his pollsters said “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” And their actions indicate that they very much mean it.

And they have plenty of media defenders who will stand up for their right to ignore facts. Rush Limbaugh, in commenting on the criticism of Ryan’s convention speech, referred to the “bogus fact-checkers”  and “drive-by media”.  Breitbart.com (the man is gone but his brilliant legacy lives on) declared, under the heading “Era of Media Fact Checkers Intimidating Republicans is Over” that “It’s official; the term “fact checker” is now a punchline.” Anyone who challenges GOP whoppers is obviously “shilling for Obama” — never mind that the same fact-checkers critique statements made by Democrats.

Even the more mainstream media (you know, Rush’s “drive-by” gang) tends to use weasel words in challenging the falsehoods: “perceived inaccuracies”, “factual shortcuts”, “questionable claims”, “some say”, “according to the fact checkers”, etc.

Welcome to the brave new world envisioned by Republicans where reality is negotiable and facts are disposable. One shudders to contemplate a Romney administration as contemptuous of truth as his campaign has been.

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6 thoughts on “Fact-Free Politics

  1. Great post except one minor mistake:

    “Not only has Valenzuela accepted some $17 in government funds, she has urged other small business owners to do likewise.”

    I think you mean 17 Million here!

    You can cite to this page for backup : http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/rnc-primetime-speaker-gave-extensive-powerpoint-on

    I have to admit that Romney is a total weasel saying that he likes to fire people then going on to say he has no sympathy for those who have lost their jobs.

    Sort of like Republican comments about rape. These people were lazy who lost their jobs.

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  3. Somehow I failed to comment on this thread back in 2012, but the subject matter is just as pertinent today, after electing a shyster billionaire, who received a “King of the Whoppers,” award, from FactCheck.org and then lied his way into the Presidency! He also had the help of Russian hackers who obtained choice emails from the DNC which were then selectively leaked to give the impression that Hillary Clinton and her campaign were full of reprehensible people, making reprehensible remarks—when in fact, most of the burning scandals being pushed by Trump seem to me, like the normal banter one would expect from any group of people or from any organization, that has to constantly deal with lies, misinformation and fact free strategies!

    Mr. Trump was aided in his lying by focusing on all things Hillary—which have constantly been used along with his lies, accusations, and nasty portrayals her, as being an unethical person! But my opinion is that no matter what anyone believes about Clinton, she certainly does NOT need to be falsely perceived as public enemy number one!

    The Presidency is now filled by a billionaire real estate mogul whose chief advisor is the former editor of Breitbart’s, who now specializes in sensationalistic dogma and supermarket-like fantasies, about those whom it considers dangerous to conservative dogma.

    This is now happening throughout the country as the end result of leaving the nature of reality up to moral psychotics who need to portray facts only as they want them to be portrayed. And that apparently includes that idea that facts no longer exist!—all of which is bolstered by a motley crew of millionaires, billionaires, and expert surrogates, who are willing to spin Trump’s night into day attitude, as legally necessitated! Notice also that many of the supposedly patriotic gems in his cabinet are really filthy rich, while Trump has appointed as his head of the EPA, someone who is diametrically opposed to the fact that our climate is dangerously changing due to human industrial activities?–Will wonders never cease?

    Those of you who have constantly been accused of drinking the Kool-aid, while trump’s devotees are busy mixing arsenic and sulfuric acid right under your noses, and who know the frustration and lunacy that has become the byproduct of the fact free world we now live in. And that is what the POP is trying pointing out!

    This is no longer some trivial political trend that has little effect on the masses—in fact, it has been successfully convincing even reasonably intelligent people that the outrageous crap we are told to swallow is not only real, but is also good for all “real Americans?”

    Normally I’d be called a chicken little or a hysteric, when insisting that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of our Democracy as we know it while trusting the safety of our hens to the foxes that guard them. But I now believe that, the current political Zeitgeist is truly sinister and has revealed signs that Orwell’s “1984” and his “Animal Farm,”are right around the bend. They’ve “sort of” been here for a long time, but are now beginning to boil the frog swimming in the bowl of their own slippery slope treachery.

    I know that the standard propagandistic response to my concerns would be for those who want to rewrite reality, to simply accuse me of being the real dogmatist and the real “Big Brother,” But I ask them to please explain why liberal journalists and publications, often retract their statements and willingly apologize for being wrong, when I have not heard a truly conservative website, or a single Tea Partier admit to the same?—instead, claiming that they aren’t wrong, without really proving that most of our words do not align with real facts. BUT THAT WILL NO LONGER DO!

    The best strategy for the rest of us to take, includes taking special care that our fact checking politicians DON’T RUIN THEIR FUTURE CAMPAIGNS!

    What makes this blog so good and so vital, is the fact that it regularly calls out those whose glorious minds are busy telling us what to think, because unfortunately, the worst abuses of facts and of truths are already among us!

    To those of you who take glee in being masters of dogma and propaganda, I say–no more fact free statements, no more deceptive arguments dependent on bogus facts!. As Al Franken said, we have the right ot our opinions but not the rights our own facts.

    So, bravo Mr. Trump! and too all your poison Kool Aid mixers! I’m not giving up my mind and my spirit just to humor a madman who expects me to sacrifice morals convictions for the mere sake of outright deceptive and unethical schemes!

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