Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, two veteran centrists who disdain partisan labels, finally said what nearly everyone knows to be true. In April, they penned a Washington Post article entitled, “Let’s just say it, the Republicans are the problem.” Yet, the GOP “problem” goes even deeper, says Beverly Bandler.
By Beverly Bandler
The Republican Party has a free-floating relationship with truth. The party distorts, insinuates, misleads, and blatantly lies.
The GOP has deliberately exploited myths, misled or lied about: the Auto Industry Bailout, the Bible, the Budget, Climate Change/Global Warming, Conservatism, the Constitution, Deficit/Debt, the Democratic Party, the Economy, the Environment, the Founding Fathers, Gas Prices, the Government, History, Immigration, Income Inequality, Iraq, Jobs, Liberals, Medicare, the New Deal, Barack Obama, ObamaRomneyCare, Ronald Reagan, the Republican Party, Spending, Social Security, the Stimulus, Taxes, Women’s Bodies.
It might take less time to list what they haven’t lied about. They have not only been misleading and lying to the American public, they have been doing the same to their own members.
The GOP would probably lie about the definition of lie as well, since they have been trying to change the definitions of evil, socialism and fascism along with a few other words. (It has been suggested that we keep checking to make sure the word joy remains in dictionaries.)
Conservatives initiated their own Conservapedia in 2006, since they not only reject standard definitions of words, they don’t like the facts on Wikipedia they consider them “liberal.” So, they make up their own facts. They make up their own reality. They decide that a belief about an issue makes it true. That is today’s Republican Party.
Why do the Republicans make up facts? Because they cannot debate substantive issues with real facts. They cannot govern (how can a party that hates government govern?), so they must mislead and lie.
The one real talent the Republican Party has demonstrated is the production of misleading propaganda. Why are their lies so successful? Because they know they can count on most voters being uninformed and gullible, and likely to remember the lie in the headline or TV sound bite, and be too tired, too busy or unskilled to question or search further.
American voters are particularly vulnerable to “tailored disinformation.” As Mark Twain famously said: “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” GOP pollster Frank Luntz has noted that: “A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth.”
Today’s version of the Republican Party heeds the Luntz recipe and draws upon voters’ emotions through disinformation and lies because, as Rick Perlstein pointedly writes: “The mortal fear of the Republicans is that if government delivers the goods, the Republicans have no future.”
Unfortunately for those of us in the “reality-based” community, the anti-democratic right-wing (i.e. regressive reactionaries) can count on help from the Democratic Party that is so dependent on corporate financing. Well-meaning progressives who have not been able to effectively respond nationwide to the Republican Attack/Noise Machine.
No matter how many articles George Lakoff and other communications experts write over the years, Democratic leaders do not get the concept of presenting hard-hitting facts and explanations that the public can grasp with ease.
In spite of their accomplishments and sound reasoning, they appear to be easily intimidated and defensive, and tend too often to be timorous and tepid, always reacting to a bullying GOP attack and a lie. They seldom anticipate and embrace the importance of principled and timely attack. And as one writer puts it, the Democrats demonstrate “continued fecklessness in clearly communicating the coherent moral values at the heart of the progressive worldview.”
The failure of the corporate media (also dependent on corporate monies) to call out the lies, is another issue altogether. The corporate media is also particularly adept at ignoring what Larry Beinhart calls “fog facts,” facts that are out in the open, but “invisible” in the sense that no one acts on them.
Have Democrats ever been guilty of misleading or lying? Yes. But: 1) the list is shorter than that of the GOP by several orders of magnitude. 2) For the most part, the consequences have not done serious long-term damage to the nation (though admittedly there have been a couple of notable exceptions, i.e. the Vietnam War). 3) Lying is not part of a formalized political strategy among Democrats designed to fool the American people into buying into an “agenda.”
But let’s deal with the latest egregious example of Republican insinuation or “untruth,” or if you will, lying: The Crossroads TV ad. First, a pertinent and indisputable reminder in this “age of forgetting”:
“The fact is that Obama inherited a disaster of a federal budget. Eight years prior, when President George W. Bush took the oath of office, there was a $281 billion surplus. By the time Obama was sworn in, he was facing a $1.2 trillion deficit. Inconvenient though it may be for conservatives (especially those who are running for president), the truth is that spending, taxes and the deficit are all lower today than when President Obama took office.” – Michael Linden
The Republican Party and Crossroads, the GOP’s deep-pocketed Super PAC, would have you believe that something called the New Majority Agenda is a legitimate movement that is working for the good of the American public. Joseph Goebbels would applaud their using an appealing term.
The “Moral Majority,” it should be noted, was an appealing term, too, but it was never the majority, nor, it can be easily argued, was it moral. The so-called “New Majority” isn’t what it says it is either, unless Crossroads means a majority of billionaires.
The radical right wants the public to buy into this “new majority” concept and its purported constructive agenda to distract from the real GOP agenda that they do not reveal: a ruined Obama presidency, a weak Democratic Party and ideally, a one-party system, and a radically conservative United States.
The Crossroads PAC has not correctly identified the majority of Americans as some new major movement. Rather, Crossroads promotes a false front for the roughly 20-30 percent who represent the Republican base who support their ultra-right agenda.
The 70 percent of the American public, at various points on the political continuum, from liberal to moderate is still grounded in reality. The real majority simply needs the truth so it can support sound policies and vote as responsible citizens.
Truth is not always easy to find, but a society that no longer seeks it has jettisoned its self-respect. American voters need to fight to get back self-respect and challenge what has become a culture of lying.
They need to be more discerning and less interested in “balance” and being “fair” to two-sides of the story, when one side speaks to intellectual integrity and truth, or simply makes sense.
Voters need to understand the difference between an opinion and a supported argument. They need to hold all politicians and the corporate media accountable. They need to recognize the Republican radical right-wing propaganda for what it is: propaganda.
All misinformation and lies from any source need to be recognized and condemned. Spin should be distinguished from substance. Attention needs to be paid to “fog facts.”
We’re not talking about weight and age, or people’s feelings, and we’re not selling soap. We’re talking about the future of the United States and ours.
“The Republican presidential campaign is about a lot more than the campaign for the presidency. It is about guaranteeing a radical conservative future for America.” – George Lakoff
“Lies are often much more plausible, more appealing to reason, than reality, since the liar has the great advantage of knowing beforehand what the audience wishes or expects to hear. He has prepared his story for public consumption with a careful eye to making it credible, whereas reality has the disconcerting habit of confronting us with the unexpected, for which we were not prepared.” – Hannah Arendt
Beverly Bandler is a public affairs professional whose career spans some 40 years. Her credentials include serving as president of the state-level League of Women Voters of the Virgin Islands and extensive public education efforts in the Washington, D.C. area for 16 years. She writes from Mexico.
For more information on the economic stimulus: Matthews, Dylan. “Did the stimulus work? A review of the nine best studies on the subject.” The Washington Post, 2011-08-24. http://tinyurl.com/3opf8tr
Arendt, Hannah. Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on Politics and Revolution. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (1972).
Beinhart, Larry. Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin. Nation Books; 1 edition (August 4, 2006).
Benen, Steve. “The best lies money can buy.” Maddowblog, 2012-05-22. http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/22/11814765-the-best-lies-money-can-buy?lite
Berlet, Chip and Matthew N. Lyons. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. The Guilford Press; 1 edition (November 1, 2000).
Berlet, Chip and Margaret Quigley. “Theocracy and White Supremacy: Behind the Culture War to Restore Traditional Values.”
Bouie, Jamelle. “Hate It or Love It, the Stimulus Worked.” The American Prospect, 2012-05-15. http://prospect.org/article/hate-it-or-love-it-stimulus-worked
Bovard, James. “How the Media Enables Government Lies.” The New York Times, 2009-11-6 to 8. http://www.counterpunch.org/bovard11062009.html
Cannon, Carl M. “Untruth and Consequences.” The Atlantic, 2007 January/February. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2007/01/untruth-and-consequences/5561/
Irwin, Neil. “Aughts were a lost decade for U.S. economy, workers.” The Washington Post, 2010-01-02. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/01/AR2010010101196_pf.html
Lakoff, George. “Why the GOP Campaign for the Presidency Is About guaranteeing a Radical Conservative Future for America.” Alternet, 20120-03-12. http://www.alternet.org/story/154516/
Linden, Michael. CHART: “Spending, Taxes, And Deficits Are All Lower Today Than When Obama Took Office.” Think Progress, 2012-05-15. http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/05/15/484767/obama-budget-chart/
Matthews, Dylan. “Did the stimulus work? A review of the nine best studies on the subject.” The Washington Post, 2011-08-24. http://tinyurl.com/3opf8tr
Mooney, Chris. “Diagnosing the Republican Brain.” Fact: Conservatives deny science and facts. But there’s a reality check that liberals need too. Mother Jones, 2012-03-30. http://motherjones.com/print/169876
Perlstein, Rick. “The Fascinating Story of How Shameless Right-Wing Lies Came to Rule Our Politics.” Mother Jones, 2011-05-26. http://www.alternet.org/teaparty/151109/the_fascinating_story_of_how_shameless_right-wing_lies_came_to_rule_our_politics/
Political Research Associates. “Studying the U.S. Political Right.” The Public Eye. http://www.publiceye.org/study_right.html
Robinson, Sara. “State of the Union: A Status Report on the Far Right.” Campaign for America’s Future,
Schechter, Danny. “The Politics of Mythology.” Consortium News, 2012-05-23. https://consortiumnews.com/2012/05/23/the-politics-of-mythology/
Shorris, Earl. “Ignoble liars: Leo Strauss, George Bush, and the philosophy of mass deception.” Harper’s Magazine, June, 2004.
Weaver, Paul H. News and Culture of Lying. Free Press (October 1, 1998).