Friday, January 28, 2011

What all of us should ask of all political parties

President Obama's State of the Union address was followed by two Republican responses, one from what purports to be mainstream Republicans, the other from the Tea Party.

Of course these speeches differed in political philosophy. But--they also differed in truthfulness.

Both and did fact checks on the three speeches. The President's was not totally truthful. It contained some spin, some best-case assumptions, some flat out wishful thinking. But the opposing speeches simply lied, according to the two fact-checking organization I went to--both of which have not hesitated to call out any and all national Democratic leaders on factual misstatement/spin.

The many Republicans I know tend, as a group, to be honest personally. Honest and trustworthy. Yet whenever I point out to them that their party's leaders are serial, mass liars, they defend the leaders and the lies, and impeach the trustworthiness of the avowedly nonpartrisan fact-checking organizations that say the Republican leaders are lying.

It's like Ray, a nice guy who's never touched a gun or hit anyone, but who drives the getaway car in a bank robbery where a guard was killed.

It the eyes of the law, that makes Ray a murderer.

Likewise, in their defense of lying liars and their lies, that makes my honest, trustworthy Republican friends liars as well.

This is not one sided. Anyone who says Obama said nothing but the truth in his speech would be an accessory to spinning and exaggeration at the very least.

And I have caught Democrats from the President on down in lies and rhetorical fallacies.

When I say as much to my Republican friends they say that the Democrats' lies are nation-threatening catastrophies, while those of the Republicans are necessary because the Democrats control the mainstream media and if the other side gets in the ring with brass knucks you need 'em too.

This is doubly false--first, the national media are controlled by for-profit corporations, which means that the national media are guided above all by ratings and sales figures--and as a consequence the national media has if anythiung been reduced to simply reporting what Democrat and Republican leaders claim rather than actually telling us who's lying and who's truthing. There's a little but not much.

It is an indisputable fact that the number of investigative reporters working for national media has dwindled over the past few decades, as corporate holding companies have discovered that they make more profit with fewer reporters assigned to basically turning political press releases into he said she said articles, while the rest of the medium devotes itself to Angelina Jolie, Michael Vick, crime and traffic accident reports, and puppies trapped in wells

I have certainly seen bias in reporting--especially as regards illegal immigration--but the overall amount is wildly exaggerated by Republicans.

It's like comparing some pickpockets with Bonnie and Clyde.

And the three State of the Union addresses exemplify this, with one side exaggerating a bit and indulging in some wishful thinking, while the other side opts for an emotionally compelling narrative that is factually incorrect (the nice way to say "lying") from one end to the other.

When did it become a part of being a conservative to lie all the time? Or to be honest personally but support public lying all the time? How is that conservative?

What I ask of any party is that it tell the truth and be true to its own principles. Personally I think any nation does best if its politics is an ongoing three-way dialogue between people who are liberal, in the basic, dictionary sense of the term, conservative, likewise, and centrist, likewise.

But you can't have a debate with someone who's lying about the facts you're arguing about. You have to get on the same page factually before you can argue. If you say the Antarctic ice cap is melting, as reported by scientists working there, and your opponent says no it isn't and them scientist guys are lying because they're part of a worldwide conspiracy of leftist scientists, you aren't going to have a debate--just a shouting match. And Republicans are very good at shouting--the red-faced, spittle-flying, choleric rage style of shouting iin particular.

And another key factor is angrily denouncing the Democrats for lying, to put them on their back foot, to make the conversation about Republicans claiming Democrats are lying and Democrats defending themselves, instead of dealing with whatever issue is at hand--and which any objective fact checking will say the Republicans are lying about.

If you watch TV debates you'll see that they do this by flying into an instant rage if a Democrat says anything critical of anything Republican. The Republican starts shouting and won't even let the Democrat finish his sentence, and the moderator is usually too cowed by these bully boy tactics to intervene. So in a debate the Republican usually gets most of the airtime, with the Democratic part consisting of half-sentences interrupted by Republican tirades. Voiced anger is a great tool for silencing people.

Here Republicans usually point to the shameful tactics of college leftists in silencing right wing speakers on campus. This complain is correct, and it's one of many examples why Democrats have to disavow their Sister Souljahs if they want any credibility themselves.

The Congressional Budget Office has been praised by the Republicans as objective, hard-headed, and financially trustworthy by Republicans--when it suited them. But what was said in the Republicans' State of the Union speeches contradicted what the CBO said. So now they say the CBO is just someone's opinion.

That's the sort of cherrypicking of facts that George Bush II did for eight years nonstop. It hasn't changed in his absence, so it's not a trait of him personally--it's a trait of the current Republican Party.

The last election showed that lying consistently, in ways that pander to people's fears and selfishness, in ways that link all the individual lies into a lying but internally consistent narrative, with enormous financial backing that floods the media with your lies, can win elections decisively. So we can't expect the lying to stop any time soon. We'll just have to see whether the Democrats can stand up to such a blitzkreig of coordinated lying.

1 comment:

Sean said...

I've also noticed this problem, and it really creates a big gap between otherwise sensible people. Predictably, I've had virtually zero success trying to point out political deceitfulness and outright lies to certain individuals that are particularly zealous. However, a foundation of lies can't always be broken by one earthquake-sized dose of reason. My approach tends to be to introduce topics from the rhetorical approach. Specifically, discussions on financial benefit on the part of politicians is an easy way to approach the subject. Maybe I'm just theorizing, but I'm quite sure that the web of lies that you addressed exist in the way it does simply to divert attention from the real issues.

Your blogging on the income disparity trends in the US seem to be a fun item to discuss with die-hard Glen Beck followers. It's hard to ignore the rich-poor gulf that's been forming for the last 40 or so years...