Why “Conservatism” Can’t Be Taken Seriously Anymore


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”.


    • However one may dislike feminists (and however, for that matter, one may define feminism) they are hardly major producers of propaganda.

    • Dirk, what a strange comment. Women who oppose attacks on their ability to control their own reproduction decisions are sometimes labelled feminists but the old feminism movement was much broader than just reproduction. Don’t you think you should give some examples? From my experience the anti-abortion crowd is far more prone to propaganda (e.g., abortion can cause breast cancer).

      • Quite so. They’ve pegged abortion as a cause of everything from cancer to mental illness to hurricanes to (I kid you not) “illegitimacy”.

  1. Links would be helpful (but their search function found them quickly).

    “Global warming terrorists” Wow! Is there any line these people won’t cross? Is regaining power or a big paycheck THAT important to these people? In my opinion, Ben Stein is the real terrorist in this case.


    • Actually, I intended to insert the Media Matters links, but somehow neglected to do so. Guess I’ll go ahead and do it after the fact.

    • Please do, Dirk, since such as statement is an admission that you do not have any examples which would stand scrutiny. After all, if you actually had them–you would/should produce them.

      • Its only an admission to someone who has been living under a rock for the past 25 years, or an “admission” to someone who isn’t interested in a true discussion. Either way, no sense in elaborating.

        Ok. I can’t resist perhaps the most prominent smear: “War on Women” Lolz

      • In other words, you don’t have anything to back up your statement.

        And your comment about the “War on Women” only demonstrates that you are ignorant.

        Women’s reproductive rights are being diminished.

        Or do you feel the government should dictate that a woman should give birth: whether she wants to or not?

      • You’re right. Here in Florida, men in uniform are going house to house, throwing grenades in the door of womens’ homes, rounding-up the women and putting them in prisoner of war camps, showing up at women’s meetings and firing automatic weapons into the crowd, tanks are rolling down the streets.

        Never mind. You’re all correct. My bad. Its all true – there’s a real war on women going on, as I admit right here in this message.

      • It can get very silly very fast if we start taking metaphors literally (as fundamentalists constantly demonstrate). War on Women is clearly a figure of speech, or at least it refers to a different type of war than that fought with grenades and rifles. And even if we assume that the metaphor is overblown and misguided, it’s still not as disingenuous as “pro-life” and “pro-abortion”. And it’s sure as hell not in the same league as deliberately distributing false information.

      • Dirk, props for providing a link to an interesting and well written paper about whether sex-trafficking claims are valid. Do you know what struck me as I read the study? It sounded like something P.O.P. would write.

        Did you notice that many of the claims in question were made by what the author labels Type 2 groups consisting of the religious right and some “radical feminist groups”? An interesting coalition, but one that is dominated by the religious right.

        Did you also notice that the Bush Administration was identified as pushing some of the unsubstantiated numbers?

        But it is a thought-provoking paper that I bookmarked because the topic is so poorly studied.

  2. Re; Dirk’s comment about the “War on Women”–he is ignorant of the statements made by “conservative” politicians about rape, which are rather well documented:

    I hope he will provide some documentation that these comments were never made–otherwise, as I have said, he doesn’t really have any facts to back up his assertion about “feminist propaganda”.

    In fact, it looks more like any propaganda is coming from the opponents to “feminism”.

  3. In Texas if a woman is raped and becomes pregnant the rapist has full parental rights meaning that the rapist is in the womans’ life for the rest of her life reminding her of that incident every moment of every day for the rest of her life. That’s psychological terrorism. I’ve been raped. I luckily did not get pregnant. I have epilepsy as well. I was on birth control when I got raped and also went to planned parenthood the day after for the day after pill to ensure I didn’t get pregnant as my epilepsy medication decreases the effectiveness of birth control to 88 percent instead of 99 percent. I wanted to be damn sure I didn’t get pregnant from that monster as he didn’t use a condom. I had PTSD for years after words and it took me a long time to acknowledge that’s what actually happened. I’m talking almost an entire year to fully face it. He also hit me in the face hard enough to make me bleed. It was my right to choose birth control and the day after pill to ensure I didn’t have his child or have him in my life ever again. Now you want to force psychological terrorism on women when you don’t have to even worry a hair on your head about the experience yourself? That is selfish.

  4. Also the Ice Caps are melting. Go to them and see. There are photos showing them melting. That is Global Warming. The polar bears are dying because they are running out of places to live. The only reason you are saying any of this is money. Citizens United. The KOCH Brothers. People are paying you off to be ignorant. Or you are naturally that ignorant. Even the Vatican acknowledges Global Warming.

    • It’s just the simple fact that the vast majority of these people are so xenophobic that they never leave the United States, so have no way to see it for themselves. A few years ago, I went to Germany. We had plane trouble and had to land in Iceland and change planes, and we flew over Greenland on the way to Dallas. There was NO ice. Everyone on the plane got really quiet. It was scary.

  5. I do agree that forcing ultrasounds on victims of rape who desperately do not want to have a rapist’s baby is clearly an act of psychological terrorism–if the right wing truly had empathy for victims of rape, then at least they could just offer a free test, but not make it mandatory. And, they should get some sense in their heads
    about permitting women to take the day after pill. Such hang ups are coming from the old school of sexual awareness, and, conservatives have punctuated this bias, based on old misconceptions and, unyielding religious narrow-mindedness.

    As to a “war on women,” I have to say that this phrase is a kind of propaganda used by liberals who are eager to demonize what is primarily a backwards and uneducated group of men, who really do not thrive on deliberately belittling women.

    I have never met a conservative who deliberately abuses and represses women out of sheer conscious meanness, and, that is what they would have to do, if they really waged “war” on women.

    Unfortunately the characterization of all conservatives as women haters, who can’t wait to exert brutal control, is a political strategy used to discredit conservative men who suffer from ignorance, more than anything else. If one looks into the statistics concerning abusive relationships and men who brutally assault their mates, I am pretty sure the numbers would cross over every border, and would implicate abusers from all walks of life–conservatives, liberals, educated, uneducated, white, black, old young. So to accuse conservatives of being nothing but rampant misogynists is not at all accurate nor sociologically valid.

    Although I agree that the lunatics running the Republican party must not only be deliberate liars and schemers in order to manipulate reason so brazenly, or, remove it from the process of political progress entirely, but they are probably fired up on the abortion issue because, after all, their objections do make use of a certain amount simplistically valid reasoning. i.e. Children are living things, and when terminated, this act could be considered as being fundamentally murder. Of course the issue of abortion involves many different shades of morality, and family planning in general is offered at many of the clinics which, may be forced to shut down in response to new and restrictive regulations. But one can see that the use of religious fervor about preserving life, is a little bit valid where cases involving wilful abortions are concerned. Of course what they don’t see, is that little, or any abortions, are EVER desired based on frivolous reasons. Rather, they may involve preventing a tiny bundle of cells from developing fully, which may grow as result of violent sexual assaults and, they even may have to be done late term, in order to spare the life of the mother. So basically conservatives are contradicting their own philosophy by letting the government call the shots in cases which should only be decided by the victims and their families.

    In so many ways, I agree that conservatives and radical right wing groups are holding the political process hostage, and all too often, spread willful political madness, because, by being the ones that desire to control the keys to the insane asylum, their madness is quite arbitrarily implemented. God help us all!

    • “…Of course what [conservatives] don’t see, is that little, or any abortions, are EVER desired based on frivolous reasons.”

      From my many years of observation, conservatives are incapable of empathy, and thus anyone who wishes to do something a conservative doesn’t think is right must be prevented from doing it, regardless of the circumstances. There is no gray in their b&w morality palette.

  6. Trakker,

    Agreed, but even black and white theologies attract people that really do believe in such “absolute,” aspects of faith, such as feeling that aborting any fetus, however small or newly begun, is an act of vicious murder. Of course many liberals do not draw such a stark line in the sand, but if we insult those we disagree with us by making up slogans like, the “right-wings war on Women,” we are bound to polarize conservatives and only strengthen their feelings of being “righteously” persecuted. I believe the real war is typically about clinging to traditional moral myopia and uninformed ignorance–instead of enlightened understanding. I have never heard conservatives openly exhibiting misogyny—except perhaps goobers like Rush Limbaugh, and many other fox news conspirators. But, the average person with conservative values, does not really Hate women, he just wants to preserve the traditional thinking of the past.

    I think constant exposure to factual information and non-superstitious ways of thinking, eventually will change society. However, religious convictions are hard for anyone to change, and we may have to continue to fight “the good fight” in favor of real knowledge, for quite a lot longer.

  7. Peter, under normal circumstances I would agree with you 100% – treat those who disagree with you as decent people who love our country and only want what’s best for it. That’s the way both sides used to be, until Reagan.

    The Republican Party has morphed into a party with just one major goal: to reduce government to the point where it is impossible to regulate and oversee corporations, leaving them free to do whatever they want in their frantic never-ending scramble to increase profits. As an added bonus a tiny government is also no longer be able to provide support for the poor, forcing them to choose between working long hours with no benefits and low pay…or starve.

    I’m not overstating the situation. If Republicans really wanted to make America better for ALL Americans they would work with, and compromise with, the party that represents the other half of America’s people. But they won’t. In fact a majority of Republicans in Congress refuse to compromise AT ALL. And states where Republicans control the government are currently engaged in a feeding frenzy of ramming some of the most extreme bills in recent memory through their state houses, completely ignoring Democrat’s objections. No compromise. No prisoners. And if Republicans loved America, they wouldn’t threaten to destroy our economy and risk a global meltdown every time the debt ceiling must be raised unless the Democrats meet their demands.

    Sadly, we are engaged in a political war for the future of America. If the Republicans win, they will dismantle most of our safety nets and privatize what is left. We will have a small, ineffective government with a huge military and a huge intelligence capability which they will completely control. There will be few if any protections for workers, and less and less health care for the (shrinking) middle class. Look at how much money the Koch brothers are investing in destroying Obamacare. These guys have never known poverty, they have always had great health care and everything else they want, and yet they are spending millions of their own dollars to sink the only hope the uninsured poor and middle class have of getting non-emergency health care! This is the Republican Party. They are not patriots, they are nihilists, and I’m not at all worried that my harsh words might hurt conservative’s fee-fees. They will never support us, and most of them already have a permanent case of acute persecution syndrome (I know, I was once one of them).

  8. Thanks tracker,

    I appreciate your comments and also do not have a great deal of respect for Republicans, particularly the mad–hatter tea party types. But the use of basically simplistic political slogans to motivate voters, is usually lacking in any real substance. phrases like, “the Republican war on women,” are just part of the political scenery, and, do not accurately portray all the people that occupy the homes in those scenes. Hardened politicians like Boehner and McConnell (just to name a few) may really not give a damn what they do–if it will divert wealth and power to those who incessantly lobby for them. However, aren’t there also a lot of ordinary Republicans who believe in the credible idea that perhaps government CAN be too big, and that taxes don’t always solve every problem–I’m not saying Democrats don’t also believe in mundane political ideas–just that fundamental conservative philosophy also appeals to those who are sitting on the thrones of power— and these are the people who might take offense at the suggestion that they are fighting a “War on women.”

    But even in my own State of Wisconsin, Barrett blew a perfect opportunity to defeat Walker, in my opinion, because he deliberately harped on Walker’s “divide and conquer remarks.” And, even though I gladly voted for Barrett, I feel that I wasted too much time using—-petty slogans instead of engaging in relevant debates— particularly about the many faults in Walkers economic views–as well as his faults concerning private moral issues. I really believe that Barrett himself effectively portrayed himself as being at least equally petty, by repeating catch political phrases–there are so many other worthwhile criticisms of Walker that should really have been debated, but were easily dismissed!

    While all of this many not mean a hill of beans to higher ups in the Republican party, it is the relatively few reasonable Republicans who could make a big difference if they decided to vote for Democrats. Even Reagan was a far cry from the Republican thugs seeking to paralyzes the political process, in order to control it!–not to mention the gut less Democrats who admittedly caved in to pressure and voted against improving background checks for gun sales at gun shows and on the internet.

    The main tool available to Republicans is the opportunity to repeat lies and platitudes, over and over, until the public begins to believe them. Why should Democrats also become petty by chanting hollow slogans that are already correctly perceived as being hollow and trite?

    One thing I do is to contribute letters to the opinion pages in local newspapers and also to the opinion pages in major publications like Time Magazine.

    If Capitalism is ever to be based on compassion and respect for human lives, instead of engaging in small minded political mantras which are designed to take advantage of uninformed voters, we need a to establish another kind of social awareness that is careful not to engage petty mud slinging, but instead, on the respected inclusion of all voters who may alter our political future as a result.

    Don’t get me wrong! I still have a 2008 elect Obama and Biden sticker on the bumper of my car. I am also proud to say that I have not removed my 2012 recall Walker slogan either. since I loath political pettiness no matter what it originates from!

    • “Why should Democrats also become petty by chanting hollow slogans that are already correctly perceived as being hollow and trite?”

      Um, maybe because those tactics are effective? I really don’t know just how effective slogans are, but I know some former Republicans that became Democratic supporters in 2008 and 2012 partly because of these hollow and trite slogans. Voters today do not think deeply about politics. It is confusing to most, and one must first get their attention, which good slogans do.

      I would love to live in a country where people are smart, pay attention to the things that affect their lives, and research complex issues and form opinions based on facts. I would love to live in a community where people spend as much time debating issues as they spend on Facebook. When I post something political on Facebook I get silence. When I post about my cats I get a great response. Go figure (well, they ARE cute cats)…

      You write, “If Capitalism is ever to be based on compassion and respect for human lives,…” I think you misunderstand capitalism. Capitalism is all about the bottom line, and if enslaving citizens and making their children work 10 hour days would enhance the bottom line, corporations would do it in a heartbeat if they could find a way to get away with it without creating a backlash of negative publicity. That’s where Fox News comes in, It’s Fox News’s job to convince people that capitalism’s excesses are good for America. As an economic system, capitalism is amoral. The humans who run the corporations might have morals, but if they are too compassionate they run a high risk of succumbing to competitors who have fewer morals, or none at all. This is a sore point with me. Sorry.

      • Trakker,

        Firstly to correct myself in the second paragraph of m most recent post–“HE wasted too much time using petty slogans,” not “I wasted to much time,” etc. I hope this is not a precursor to alzheimer’s.

        I am aware that Republicans and their friend ALEC are busy brainwashing Americans to think, not only that corporate greed is good for America, but that we will perish if those damn liberals don’t stop being “Nazi’s” by expecting us to support affordable medical care options for the impoverished–Just like Hitler! Wouldn’t The Republican promotion of social engineering cause uncontrollable laughter if it weren’t so damn serious and really trying to hold us by the throats!

        I was giving my impressions of Barrett’s campaign in Wisconsin, where i feel he chose a petty form of campaigning instead of a direct and factual one. In this case I think many other voters were really not impressed by his fist pumping repetitions of useless slogans. i also think most Wisconsinites are intelligent enough to want substantial discussions of issue–not a bunch of Senator Blowhard Fogright’s, who endlessly pontificate in an attempt to rally the support of the masses. Even working men are hip to disingenuous and shallow oratory.that is constantly dished out to the masses. I grew up laughing at overplayed political speeches full of fluff and no substance, and most of my friends and neighbors did too.

        If politicians don’t begin to earn the respect of the public by speaking honestly and intelligently, then when is that ever going to happen? I guess that I have more faith in the innate intelligence of a pubic that can’t all be fooled.
        “all of the time– “all of the time”. but Democrats for mostly financial reasons I guess can barley spend enough to expose the GOPs many forages into Bizarro land–all of the time!

        Most voters are more intelligent than we might think–they are just scared and able to be fooled by exploitative politicians. I think if one values respectable an honest debate, in time, most of us will respond favorably. My most important role is to write about my feelings and criticize the “wonderful people who want to do our thinking for us”…or however the POP puts it.

        Capitalism is a hotbed of greed and corruption but there are millionaires and billionaires who are aware of the human needs of the less fortunate–usually because they have been there, done that. Some of them leave their businesses and the money they make, to their employees. So one does not have to be puffed up and insensitive, as the result of having great wealth.

        Capitalism produces many valuable products for our lives, and often provides needed employment. But, I refuse to believe that this cannot be accomplished without giving up all personal ethics and responsibility!

        But it’s getting late and that’s all I got right now. Thanks for the discussion,and, stay close to the AC!

  9. Peter,

    I think we’re in agreement on far more than we disagree. I was born in Wisconsin (but grew up in Indiana) so it is a special state to me and I’m sad to see the Republicans (try to) ruin it.

    I’m a big fan of capitalism in a country with a government that protects consumers and workers. I hate capitalism where it is allowed to run amok and screw consumers and workers with impunity, which is where we are at today in this country. I don’t want a socialist state, just one where the government provides needed safety nets and the basic necessities to those who need it. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir.

    Thanks. Enjoyed our discussion.

    • Trakker,

      I am in complete agreement but, I began my comments trying to expose campaign phrases like, “The Republican war on women,” as the same type of vacuous rhetoric so often used by Politicians turned cheerleaders. I really hope that someday the pubic will want to decide elections based on real knowledge about meat and potato issues, not as part of some call to arms by the use of specious and trivial arguments.

      I also admire Wisconsin’s heritage as a progressive State, and am completely wary about Walkers manipulation of its voters. The guy does actually have a degree of charisma, although not all of us are impressed!

      i believe that the recall failed basically because the Governor convinced Wisconsinites that not allowing a governor to serve out his elected term was unfair and rude.But, I think eventually many of Walker’s supporters will be disillusioned for trusting him to begin with—and we did help elect Obama!

      Have a great evening!

  10. To the POP,

    I know you have often mentioned New stories which are harped upon and taken advantage of by the GOP so that Republicans can paint Democrats, as being given too much approval as the favorites of the LIBRUL Media. You have also been very specific about what stores the press has really focused on. I guess most of their subterfuge revolves around proving how unfairly the press is treating Democrats. I think it would be great if you did an article dealing with the fact that Republicans actually gain more gain much more useful press exposure for their ideological statements.

    There are so many specific claims by Republicans that Democrats are given preferential treatment by journalists, that it would please most of we (commenters) I think, if you to dedicate one specific article to debunking that claim.

    thanks Peter W. Johnson

    • Just to clarify,

      The first paragraph shouldn’t include the phrase, ” I guess most of their subterfuge revolves around proving “how ‘unfairly,’ the press is treating democrats” It would be better to have said instead–“proving how the press unfairly “favors” Democrats.

      It’s getting late for my 60 year old mind. Time to go night night!

  11. Great post! What’s weird now, with the “change” in the Republican party is this: before if you were running for local office, you would just put “Democrat” or “Republican” under your name. There’s a new trend for conservatives where instead of just “Republican” they now put “Conservative Republican” under their name when running. If someone tells me they’re a Republican, I immediately know a FEW things about them, and he or she and I may get along. If someone tells me they’re a Conservative, I immediately know enough about them to know he or she and I will NEVER get along on a very fundamental level. There used to be diversity in the Republican party and the last vestiges are pretty much in John McCain, Bob Dole, and Chris Christie, and that’s about it. Everyone else has gone so far to the right that you couldn’t pay me to vote for them. When I hear the word “Republican” I think “a few different political beliefs than me.” When I hear the word “Conservative” I think “uneducated person with spelling problems who is racist and doesn’t even realize it despite the fact all evidence points to it” along with either “rich jerk” or “person who loves rich jerks and votes against their own self interests.”

    • I’ve known people who called themselves conservatives (usually Libertarian rather than Republican) who were quite educated, articulate and seemingly intelligent. Yet they still bought into the “global waring is a myth” credo, and others even more absurd.

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