Reality Bites Back

Exclusive: More than a Right-Left battle, the conflict for the world’s future is between empiricists and fantasists, those who are committed to reality and rationality and those who happily embrace propaganda as truth. It is a struggle with global implications, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The war for the world’s future – pitting people anchored in reality against others free-floating in make-believe – appears to have begun in earnest with the rationalists scoring some surprising early victories in what is sure to be a long and ugly fight.

In Israel’s recent election, Yesh Atid, a new party of secularists, surged to a second-place finish on a platform that challenged the power of the ultra-Orthodox who have sought to impose a fundamentalist version of Judaism on large swaths of the country, including forcing women to sit at the back of buses and driving secular Jews out of some neighborhoods.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Meanwhile, in the United States, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican presidential prospect for 2016, finally acknowledged the obvious, calling his GOP the “stupid party.” And Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, another Republican up-and-comer, signed on to a bipartisan plan for immigration reform that included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, what the GOP’s nativist wing has long derided as “amnesty.”

These various moves suggest some new respect for the real world. But the ugliness of what lies ahead was underscored at a legislative hearing in Hartford, Connecticut, on Monday when Neil Heslin, the parent of a child massacred in Newtown on Dec. 14, was heckled by pro-gun activists who claimed, falsely, that the Second Amendment guaranteed them the right to own assault weapons. (Not even today’s right-wing-controlled U.S. Supreme Court says that.)

Republicans also haven’t given up on their racist arguments about the need to rig election rules in ways to devalue or suppress the votes of African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and other urban dwellers and to exaggerate the value of ballots cast by rural whites. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Return of ‘Three-Fifths’ of a Person.”]

There is also no indication as yet that the Republicans will budge on other key elements of their “stupid” agenda, including their denial of the science on global warming, their pandering to pro-gun extremists and their resistance to pretty much anything that President Barack Obama is for.

Still, pro-rationalists have to take some encouragement from small signs that the anti-rationalism of the Republican Party is beginning to crack. Fox News parted ways with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a commentator. The GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2008 — known for her know-nothingism — went the way of the crazy Glenn Beck. It seems that even right-wing propaganda on Fox has its limits.

The even faster disappearance of the GOP’s chameleon-like 2012 standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, is another sign that Republicans want to forget the clown show of their last presidential selection process. It culminated in a national convention built on taking Obama’s “you didn’t build that” quote out of context. Any thinking person knew that Obama was referring to the broader national infrastructure of roads, bridges, etc., not to some individual’s small business, but Romney pretended otherwise.

The Republican Party had reached a point where it seemed to relish the process of ginning up its idiotic “base” around outright lies. If it wasn’t Palin yelling about non-existent “death panels,” it was mogul Donald Trump and Sheriff Joe Arpaio questioning the Hawaiian birth records proving that Barack Obama was born in the United States.

Treating Americans as Simpletons

Of course, the GOP’s decoupling from reality can be traced back many more years, at least several decades to the emergence of former actor Ronald Reagan who demonstrated how a casual relationship with the truth could work wonders politically. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “America’s War for Reality.”]

But the substitution of right-wing ideology for reason advanced dramatically last decade under the presidency of George W. Bush, who empowered a clique of clever intellectuals known as the neoconservatives. The neocons treated the American people as simpletons easily manipulated through techniques of “perception management.”

Aided by Fox News and abetted by a careerist mainstream news media, the neocons felt free to push any hot buttons that worked, scaring Americans with exaggerated stories of foreign threats and impugning the patriotism of anyone who got in the way. The invasion of Iraq to find non-existent WMD was one result.

Similarly, Republican presidents – from Reagan through the two Bushes – stocked the U.S. Supreme Court with ideologues who pretended to be “strict constructionists” on the Constitution but actually applied shoddy scholarship to reach rulings in line with their political preferences.

For instance, Antonin Scalia and the three other right-wing justices, in an angry dissent regarding the Affordable Care Act, cited constitutional Framer Alexander Hamilton in support of their concern about the alleged overreach of Congress in regulating commerce.

In their dissent on June 28, 2012, they wrote: “If Congress can reach out and command even those furthest removed from an interstate market to participate in the market, then the Commerce Clause becomes a font of unlimited power, or in Hamilton’s words, ‘the hideous monster whose devouring jaws  . . .  spare neither sex nor age, nor high nor low, nor sacred nor pro­fane.’” They footnoted Hamilton’s Federalist Paper No. 33.

That sounded pretty authoritative. After all, Hamilton was one of the strongest advocates for the federal powers in the Constitution and here he was offering a prescient warning about “Obamacare” from the distant past of 1788. The only problem was that Scalia and his cohorts were turning Hamilton’s words inside out.

In Federalist Paper No. 33, Hamilton was not writing about the Commerce Clause. He was referring to clauses in the Constitution that grant Congress the power to make laws that are “necessary and proper” for executing its powers and that establish federal law as “the supreme law of the land.”

And Hamilton wasn’t condemning those powers, as Scalia’s opinion would have you believe. Hamilton was defending the two clauses by poking fun at the Anti-Federalist alarmists who had stirred up opposition to the Constitution with warnings about how it would trample America’s liberties. In the cited section of No. 33, Hamilton is saying the two clauses had been unfairly targeted by “virulent invective and petulant declamation.”

It is in that context that Hamilton complains that the two clauses “have been held up to the people in all the exaggerated colors of misrepresentation as the pernicious engines by which their local governments were to be destroyed and their liberties exterminated; as the hideous monster whose devouring jaws would spare neither sex nor age, nor high nor low, nor sacred nor profane.”

In other words, Scalia and the three other right-wingers not only applied Hamilton’s comments to the wrong section of the Constitution but reversed their meaning. Hamilton was mocking those who were claiming that these clauses would be “the hideous monster.” [For details, see Robert Parry’s America’s Stolen Narrative.]

Legal Wording to Go

Though Scalia is typically hailed by the Washington press corps as a brilliant legal scholar, he really is more of an ideological hack who reaches his conclusions based on what he wants the outcome to be and then picks out some legal wording to wrap around his judicial activism.

He did the same in using the Fourteenth Amendment’s “equal protection under the law” principle to prevent a recount in Florida in Election 2000 and thus hand George W. Bush the presidency. He and four other Republican justices settled on their desired outcome and then went searching for a rationalization, no matter how ludicrous. [See the book Neck Deep for details.]

One of the motivations for the five partisan justices to make Bush the president – despite the people’s electoral preference for Al Gore – was that Bush would then appoint more right-wing Republicans to the high court and thus perpetuate their ability to redefine the Constitution.

Thus, in 2008 and 2010, the right-wing majority reversed longstanding precedents regarding the interpretation of the Second Amendment as a collective right of the states to organize militias. By a narrow 5-to-4 majority, the Republican justices made it a personal right, albeit one that could be restricted by local, state and federal laws.

In 2010, the right-wing court – also by a 5-to-4 vote – unleashed the power of wealthy individuals to dominate the U.S. political process through unlimited financing of TV ads and other propaganda. The underlying motivation was that right-wing billionaires could then, in essence, buy elections for Republican candidates.

So, the nation’s predicament in 2013 is that the Republican practice of using sophistry and spin to control the American political/media system is deeply rooted – in the judicial, political and media structures. Millions of Americans – having watched too much Fox News and listened to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck – believe strongly in a faux reality and get angry when their illusions are challenged.

Of course, it’s not just the Republicans and the Right that are to blame for this mess. They, after all, have been doing simply what works for them politically. It is also the fault of the Democrats, the Left and the professional news media for largely abandoning this field of battle over reality, retreating in the face of well-funded propagandists and angry right-wing activists.

Yes, there also have been cases in which some elements of the Left and the Democratic Party have opted to fight fire with fire, i.e. making up their own fact-free conspiracy theories to discredit Republicans. But the preponderance of this behavior has been on the Right.

Indeed, the emerging backlash against right-wing fantasists could represent an important turning point in the fight for the world’s future. If thoughtful people will plant their flag in the firm ground of rationality and empiricism, they could create a rallying point for a new brand of politics, one based on pragmatism, realism and mutual respect.

Within such a political framework, there would still be vigorous debates over how best to address the world’s problems – including how big a role for government versus the private sector – but those discussions would be based on facts, not nonsense. To build that future, however, rationalists must be as tough and determined as the ideologues.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

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17 comments on “Reality Bites Back

  1. Rehmat on said:

    Yesh Atid may be a secularist Jew – but when it comes to Jewish occupation of Palestine and hatred toward Arabs and Muslims – there is no difference between the so-called “Orthodox” or “secularist” Jewish parties. They only differ on women and gay rights or more illegal Jewish settlements and social benefits.

    Israeli-born author and blogger, Gilad Atzmon, says there are no “Left” or “Right” political ideologies in Israel. All Israeli Jews believe in their Tribal racism.

    “In Israel there are no hawks or doves. Instead, all we have is a mild debate between a few interpretations of Jewish tribalism, nationalism and supremacy. Some Jews want to be surrounded by towering ghetto walls – they like it, it’s cosy, it feels safe – others prefer to rely on the IDF power of deterrence. Some would support the excessive use White Phosphorous, others would like to see Iran wiped,” wrote Gilad on January 23, 2013.

    http://rehmat1.com/2013/01/24/bibi-loses-election-but-israeli-fascism-stays/

    • gregorylkruse on said:

      I would have written much the same thing, but to add that Ultraconservative Jews just want to be left alone to study the Torah.

      • AbcXyz seems like a strange name. Robert Parry seems like a much more reasonable name and indeed a person with this very name has done a lot of other very worthwhile writing in the past.

        ABCXyz, if you were proud of your words you would identify yourself. But I concur, there is precious little to be proud of in your words.

    • I will dog this Jew hatred w/all my breath. He represents all of the twisted illogic against Israel and all things Jewish. Show me how the arab states have human rights for women, free speech, etc.

  2. AbcXyz on said:

    I was going to disparage this man savagely for his erroneous thinking but I will instead attempt a short refutation of him (yes, of the man himself).

    Against the right of citizens to defend themselves against tyranny.

    The monstrocity called the federal govt follows the orders of a cabal that has murdered millions over the last century or so. This man would have the American people disarmed before these criminals. Mark my words for they are prophetic: the only reason that the deindustrialization and destruction of America has not proceeded at a faster pace is because they fear 300 million armed citizens in revolt.

    Conspiracies, fantasies, or “realists”.

    This man is so uninformed as to be a danger to his readership. The abuse of secrecy by the monstrocity called the fed govt is completely out of control. Keeping in mind that elements of the USA govt had to be complicit (NORAD comes to mind) in order for 9/11 to occur, and furthermore keeping in mind that the Constitution-destroying “patriot act” was written by the perpetrators of 9/11, this man is completely insane in thinking he can discern between reality and disinformation.

    Robert Parry: since I know you will delete this comment because it doesn’t fit into your (paid for?) version of reality, I’d like for you to know that I’m spreading the word about you everywhere online.

    incognito says:
    January 29, 2013 at 10:46 am
    Take a look at what the establishment stooges are writing these days:

    Exclusive: More than a Right-Left battle, the conflict for the world’s future is between empiricists and fantasists, those who are committed to reality and rationality and those who happily embrace propaganda as truth. It is a struggle with global implications, writes Robert Parry.

    What a stupid mother. With so much hidden going-ons and quiet weapons for silent wars going off, this idiot thinks he can discern between reality and disinformation. He also features JESUIT stooge Ray McGovern all the time.

    Robert Parry: Stooopeedo Extraordinaire!

    Reply

  3. rosemerry on said:

    Abcxyz seems to have escaped from some facility. Thanks Robert for the article. I find it rather frightening that so many people in the USA, as in Israel, seem divorced from reality and determined to live their lives by forcing their ideas on others. Chris Hedges’ latest post on the White Man Rising Up in Truthdig and elsewhere, is quite chilling. Memphis Tennessee celebrates with statues, park and holidays, the cruel confederate leader Forrest, ansd there are new branches of the KKK starting there. Black heroes are denigrated. No attempt at historic truth is considered. Repugs’ bizarre beliefs on global warming, reproduction, economics become laws and cannot apparently be stopped by genuine knowledgeable caring humans.

    • gregorylkruse on said:

      I think that facility must be in Monstro City.

    • Ahhh, merry rose, you are the one divorced from reality. I have researched the many crimes of the “elites” for almost a decade. I know the monstruos nature of the people who run the “government” and I know that they have been preparing for a true police state with no more “democratic” facade (NDAA). Your comment comes to as a loud and clear BAAAAH (sheep).

      Here you go, Parry:

      “And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand? … The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If … if … We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”

      I imagine you fancy yourself a minion of these thugs so you’ll be one of the last they’ll kill. Sellout.

      As for the rest of the fools disparaging my comment, you are sheep headed for a slaughter. The same people who murdered 40 million people in Russia and Ukraine under “communism” ARE THE ONES RUNNING THE SHOW HERE. I know that the paid propagandist left my comment to “prove his point” about these “deranged conspircists”. You fall for the psyop because you are a fool who knows not what’s really going on.

      From all the signs it looks like soon we shall see who’s correct.

    • Hillary on said:

      rosemerry “Abcxyz seems to have escaped from some facility.”

      Your ad hominem attack and insult should not be allowed on C.N.

  4. Michael Caddell on said:

    And you write “comments” under “abcxyz”?

    Spare the spam, pass the roast.

  5. Michael Caddell on said:

    Here’s a quote from Wendy Gittleson’s latest at Addicting Info that all my under funded web publishers should relish:

    “The Fox News contract, which was signed during the height of her popularity, earned her a reported $1 million a year. Some analysts at Smart Politics earned their salaries by recording every single word Palin uttered on Fox News, whether it was in the studio, over the telephone, by satellite or taped. All in all, they found that during her three-year contract, which began January, 2010, the network aired 189,221 words. For each of those words, they calculated, she made a whopping $15.85. To put that in a bit of perspective, writers typically get paid by the word. Most are lucky to be paid $1.00 per edited, published word. Most writers are also able to communicate their messages with about (oh, I don’t know) a quarter or fewer of the words that fall out of Palin’s loquacious head.” – http://tinyurl.com/aphx8mp

  6. Morton Kurzweil on said:

    The First Amendment separates the government from opinion and belief. The GOP, the God Offal Party, is convinced that any false and malicious idea must be respected as “free speech” when the Founding Fathers intentionally removed ‘stupid’ from government. Belief is not a form of knowledge. Certainty is an impossibility. Why anyone should deserve respect for prayer or print or the desire to die in defense of lie is beyond understanding.
    It is just recently that ‘stupid’ has come out of the closet to describe what is a polite word for feebleminded, unintelligent, irrational, dense, mentally deficient. It is one thing to be ignorant. It is quite another to believe that ignorance is a virtue.

  7. Michael Collins on said:

    Great column and it points to very good news. The country and world cannot bear the simple but dangerous ignorance of the extremist Republicans. But I think the celebration may be starting a bit soon. The next time an Imhoff spews his wackiness, there must be another there calling him out. Will we see that? I doubt it. The same forces that buy Republicans buy Democrats as well, they’ve bought the academy, and they use the media as their PR shop. I’m referring to the permanent rulers, The Money Party (formerly known as The Property Party).

    While the Republicans enjoy a big lead on irrationality, both parties are mired in the same immorality and sociopathy with regard to foreign affairs. It’s not, ‘Will they kill innocents to achieve the objective?’ it’s just ‘How many innocents will each party be willing to kill?’ The death toll for Iraq is stunning while that for Libya and Syria may be 10% to 20% of the Iraq total. However, if you’re a dead Libyan or Syrian, you’re just s dead as those Iraqis who suffered the ultimate sacrifice to receive democracy.

    We’re being sold Hillary Clinton as beloved Secretary of State throughout the world and the highly capable leader who is ripe for the nomination in 2016. The election of this neoconservative, war monger is every bit as harmful as the know-nothingism you described on the right.

    Ultimately, that’s the test. If we’re to survive, all of the lunatics must be returned to the asylum. Her ghoulish execution of massively deviant policy in Libya and Syria places her right alongside Imhoff, a world killer, and exceeds any harm Palin has done.

    • F. G. Sanford on said:

      Nicely put. Hillary flies under left cover, but a neocon by any other name smells as…sweet? People fail to realize that her hubby was no liberal, but center right, and aside from a little progressive lip-service, the current administration has served to advance the neocon agenda.

  8. elmerfudzie on said:

    Sarah, she still looks sexy, it’s magic or something because it ain’t the makeup. What is it?

    • Matt Palmer on said:

      I think michelle bachmann is the better looking of the two dim-witted bimbo’s. Slags. They should team up, and, and,…ooh, yeah, they should team up, and make a video. Oh, yeah.

  9. Matt Palmer on said:

    I read some time ago, that after the 2008 election, and her subsequent forfeiting of the governance of Alaska, palin had made about 15 million dollars from speaking fees. She made $15,000,000 from “speaking”. If she is worth $15 million, then I am worth a hundred million dollars! What an outrage!