Sunday, April 4, 2010

there is no incentive not to lie ...

Greg Sargent:
* And here’s today’s installment in the Michele Bachmann chronicles, in which she accuses Dems of inciting Tea Partiers to racism, then promptly denies they ever said anything racist.
* Conservative media keep pushing nutty, self-aggrandizing BS meme that Dems hatched an elaborate plot to incite Tea Partiers to racism and violence. The sum total of evidence cited, quite literally, is that Dem leaders walked through the crowd to get into the Capitol.
* Time to form a new support group for all those Tea Partiers who are addicted to government handouts.


We talked the other day about one of the right's new favorite talking points about health care reform: the notion that the government will hire thousands of IRS agents to check up on Americans who may not want to buy coverage. It is, of course, a "wildly inaccurate claim," the latest in a series of demonstrable lies.

But it's proven to be popular with the fact-challenged crowd. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has repeated it, as has Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) insists it's true, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) suggested the threat of all of these new IRS agents "is a little scary."

And that's the key word: scary. The RNC conceded recently that the party will rely on little more than "fear" to win, even if that means deliberately deceiving as many voters as possible. All the network needs is a way to get the lie from Republican imaginations to voters who don't know better.

Enter Fox News, which just loves the bogus IRS claim. Reader B.G. sent me this email the other day, which I'm republishing with permission:

It often amazes me how these things get absorbed into polite society. At our Seder dinner on Tuesday night I had to convince my father that the IRS was not hiring tens of thousands of agents to enforce the law. He doesn't read blogs. He reads the Newark Star-Ledger, hardly a right-wing rag. The only place he could have gotten this "information" was via Fox News. He views television news, even Fox News, through a Walter Cronkite-like prism -- if the "news" is reporting it, it must have a basis in truth. Otherwise, how can they get away with broadcasting false information? This is the power of Fox News.

This may seem like an obvious point, but I think it's often overlooked. For many Americans, especially those over a certain age, there are certain assumptions about broadcast media. People who are accustomed to believing what they hear from television news aren't nearly skeptical enough about Fox News propaganda, because it's hard for them to appreciate the notion that an entire "news" network, right there on their cable dial, has no qualms about deliberately misleading its audience to further a partisan agenda.

Folks like B.G.'s father hear the nice man on the television making a ridiculous claim, and the claim seems easy enough to believe. There's little reason for skepticism. After all, why would the nice man on the television lie? Aren't there rules against something like that?

Fox News no doubt realizes this dynamic exists, and exploits it for all it's worth.

  • from the comments:
    We don't need no stinking fairness doctrine!

    The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, that required the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was (in the Commission's view) honest, equitable and balanced.

    In 1969, the United States Supreme Court upheld the Commission's general right to enforce the Fairness Doctrine...

    In 1987, the FCC abolished the Fairness Doctrine.

    Thanks to the Patron Saint of Reich Wing causes, Sir Ronald of The Raygun, we know that there is absolutely no justification for requiring broadcast license holders to present controversial issues of public importance in a manner that is honest, equitable and balanced.

    Don't need it. Fox Noise will tell us what is fair and balanced.

    Posted by: SadOldVet on April 3, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

  • For those who have to deal with family Fox viewers, use the Beck method. Simply tell them FOX is code for Satan.

    F=6th letter of the alphabet and 6 is 6
    O=15th letter of the alphabet and 1+5=6
    X=24th letter of the alphabet and 2+4=6

    There you have it folks, 666.

    Posted by: flyonthewall on April 3, 2010 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK


Dr. Jack Cassell, an Orlando-area urologist and part-time Republican crank, probably couldn't have imagined what he was getting himself into.

This week, Cassell's medical office posted a sign for patients and their families: "If you voted for urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your healthcare begin right now, not in four years."

The ethically-challenged physician told the Orlando Sentinel he wouldn't deny care to patients who support the president, but Casell wants those patients to feel unwelcome and seek medical treatment from doctors who don't care how they voted.

Since the Sentinel's piece was published on Friday morning, news of the doctor who puts his partisanship ahead of his patients spread very quickly. Over the last 48 hours, I've seen reports on Cassell's bizarre antics on CNN, Fox News, the New York Times, the LA Times, and elsewhere. Even in hyper-partisan times, medical professionals aren't supposed to cross lines of professionalism like this, and the story seems to have struck a chord.

But perhaps the most important coverage was an interview between Cassell and Alan Colmes on the radio Friday night. The host tried to get a better sense of why, exactly, Cassell hates the Affordable Care Act so much. The urologist specifically argued that officials, in light of the new law, are "cutting all supportive care, like nursing homes, ambulance services."

Colmes: What do you mean they're cutting nursing homes?

Cassell: They're cutting nursing home reimbursements.

Colmes: Isn't what they're cutting under the Medicare plan what was really double dipping; they were getting credits and they were getting to deduct them at the same time.

Cassell: Well you know, I can't tell you exactly what the deal is. [emphasis added]

Colmes: If you can't tell us exactly what the deal is, why are you opposing it and fighting against it?

What a good question. Cassell struggled to explain himself, saying he'd seen some things "online," and adding that the information he needs to understand the law "should be available to me."

Of course, the information is available to him, and has been for months. Cassell chose not to do his homework before driving patients away -- patients who, it turns out, may know a lot more than he does about the law he claims to hate.

This is painfully common -- some of the loudest, angriest critics of the Affordable Care Act are also some of the least informed, most confused, embarrassingly ignorant observers anywhere. In this case, Cassell has become a national joke because he's repulsed by a health care reform plan that he fully admits he doesn't understand.

It'd be funny if it weren't so pathetic.

Post Script: For the record, Cassell's rhetoric about "cutting nursing homes" notwithstanding, the National Association of Home Care and Hospice praised the Democratic plan.

Some rare pushback against lies, on Fox of all places ...

Earlier today, the Labor Department released its employment report for March 2010, which found that “employment in the U.S. increased in March by the most in three years.” In the report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised its January total from
-26,000 to +14,000, and February’s from -36,000 to -14,000. President Obama called the report “encouraging” while his economic adviser Christina Romer said it “shows continued signs of gradual labor market healing.” Paul Krugman described the job numbers as meaning that “the patient is in stable condition.”

As ThinkProgress noted earlier today, conservatives have sought to rain on Obama’s parade, falsely claiming that the numbers are a “disappointment” because they were “mostly” due to hiring Census workers. On Fox Business today, former Bush labor secretary Elaine Chao attempted to spin the numbers negatively. But host Stuart Varney, who has been cynical about the administration’s economic policies, wouldn’t buy her spin, telling her that “this is not a blip up on a one month basis, there is a trend”:

VARNEY: I’m sure you’ve heard what I’ve just been saying, that we have indeed reached a turn, this is my judgment, a turn from job destruction towards very limited job creation. Would you agree with that?

CHAO: Unfortunately, I don’t. I think this is still a very mixed report and this is only one month. So, we need to see a trend, not just, you know, an uptick perhaps in one month. The unemployment rate stayed steady even though there were jobs created primarily because the labor participation rate is still very low. And…

VARNEY: You know, Ms. Chao, I’ve got to interupt for just a second, I’m sorry, I hate to interrupt.

CHAO: Sure.

VARNEY: But look, we did create jobs in November of last year. And we’ve just had a revision in the January and February numbers for this year, showing a net job gain in those months and we’ve also gained jobs in March. This is not a blip up on a one month basis, there is a trend. Four of the last five months we have seen job creation. Now, I know it’s very slow and it’s not enough. We got that.

CHAO: Yes.

VARNEY: But it is an uptrend. It is a job creation trend.

Chao did not argue with Varney’s pushback. Watch it:

Earlier today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a chart demonstrating Varney’s point that the economy is moving from job destruction towards job creation:


Dartmouth economic professor Andrew Samwick wrote today that March’s employment report shows “what the labor market looks like when it starts to bottom out and slowly recover — overall job growth turns small and positive, cyclically sensitive sectors like temporary help services grow more rapidly than most, and it is tough to make progress against the unemployment rate because the number of job seekers may go up in tandem with total employment.”

Sometimes, a headline can tell us quite a bit: "Not satisfied with U.S. history, some conservatives rewrite it."

The most ballyhooed effort is under way in Texas, where conservatives have pushed the state school board to rewrite guidelines, downplaying Thomas Jefferson in one high school course, playing up such conservatives as Phyllis Schlafly and the Heritage Foundation and challenging the idea that the Founding Fathers wanted to separate church and state.

The effort reaches far beyond one state, however.

In articles and speeches, on radio and TV, conservatives are working to redefine major turning points and influential figures in American history, often to slam liberals, promote Republicans and reinforce their positions in today's politics.

The Jamestown settlers? Socialists. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton? Ill-informed professors made up all that bunk about him advocating a strong central government.

Theodore Roosevelt? Another socialist. Franklin D. Roosevelt? Not only did he not end the Great Depression, he also created it.

Joe McCarthy? Liberals lied about him. He was a hero.

It's not especially surprising, of course. Reading this, it's hard not to think of the Ron Suskind classic when a senior adviser to then-President George W. Bush dismissed those who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.... That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."

If today's conservative Republicans reject reality, it stands to reason that they'll reject history, too.

But it's nevertheless a reminder of why conversations with those immersed in a right-wing ideology tend to be rather frustrating, if not futile, experiences. In order for political discourse to have any meaning or value, there have to be certain agreed upon facts that serve as a foundation for the dialogue. But as the McClatchy piece notes, that foundation is no longer stable -- conservatives frequently choose to believe versions of events that aren't real, because the make-believe version makes them feel better.

The result is an American history in which every era can be distorted to satisfy the far-right ego. Indeed, it continues to apply to more contemporary events -- tell the typical Republican that Ronald Reagan raised taxes in six of his eight years in the White House, and he/she will probably look at you as if you've lost your mind. That is, in fact, what happened, but the right chooses to reject this history, because they don't like it. (Tell these same Republicans that Barack Obama's health care plan is in line with what moderate Republicans have supported for years -- and that the individual mandate was actually a GOP idea -- and you'll get the same reaction, even though it's true.)

For all the talk about getting reasonable people with different ideologies into a room to find common ground on a host of complex issues, it's worth remembering that for many political actors in 2010, there isn't even agreement on the basics. When dealing with a large group of influential conservatives who believe FDR created the Great Depression, Theodore Roosevelt was a socialist, and Joe McCarthy was a hero, what's there to talk about?

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