Two posts on Media Matters’ website caught my eye recently, as they were very telling about contemporary political discourse and propaganda, and the politico-social movement known as “conservatism” (though in fact it’s anything but conservative).
One involved right-wing pundit Ben Stein, who declared in an interview that “the science is not clear on global warming”. That in itself is not particularly unusual; there are many people who are convinced they know more about science than scientists do, and they have every right to make fools of themselves by saying so in public. “The science is not clear” is often a handy circumlocution for “scientists are part of a sinister conspiracy to pervert the truth, which only Glenn Beck is qualified to utter.” But what really made my ears stand at attention was his reference to those scientists as “global warming terrorists”. Apparently, our species has devolved to the point that research is considered a weapon of mass destruction; and providing facts that contradict right-wing dogma is tantamount to launching an attack on America itself.
The other item involves Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who gave a speech in which he lamented “Washington’s ongoing assault on free speech”, which is part of a “coordinated assault from groups on the left that don’t like the idea of anyone criticizing their aims” that tries to “harass” and “intimidate conservatives with the goal of scaring them off the political playing field…a grave and growing threat to the First Amendment.” Phew.
And what evidence did McConnell provide in support of his vast left-wing conspiracy theory? The existence of Media Matters itself! By meticulously researching and politely publishing instances of right-wing misinformation, Media Matters supposedly is trampling all over the First Amendment. He seems to be taking his cues from Fox “News”, a frequent target of Media Matters. Fox loves to brand Media Matters as a “left-wing smear site”, though it can’t be bothered to produce a single smear to back up that label. Apparently, our species not only has devolved to the point that supplying inconvenient facts is un-American; it has devolved to the point that correcting untruths, even in a supremely civil manner, is un-American.
These are singular incidents , but they are all too representative of the right-wing mindset these days — a combination of arrogance, myopia, contempt, divisiveness and disinformation that spell out why “conservatism” is far beyond being taken seriously. Sure, you’ll also sometimes find left-wingers who are loose with their facts and even hostile toward those who challenge them. But they generally don’t regard fact-checking, however misguided, as a threat to the First Amendment; and they’re much more likely to embrace science than trash it.
With right-wingers, however, these aren’t just occasional occurrences; they’re standard policy. It’s easy to dismiss Stein as a fringe figure, (and he is in fact far less arrogant and venomous than the average right-wing propagandist). But McConnell has served in the Senate for nearly three decades, and has been the Minority Leader for several years. And Fox, lest we forget, is the most heavily viewed “news” network, and the de facto voice of “conservatism”.
Given all of this, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the focus of this blog is mostly right-wing rather than left-wing propaganda. It’s not just a matter of personal “bias”.