Turns out we brought a knife to a gun-fight, and an irrelevant press corps is handing out bullets

I bet I’m not the only one who has noticed that right wing Americans have gone nuts lately.

I started noticing it before the election last year, when barely-under-the-surface racial slurs relating to Obama were spread, mostly anonymously, through the Internet.

Those who thought things would settle down after the election were sorely mistaken. Slurs have been substituted with a level of policy attacks, distortions, and outright lies, the likes of which I cannot remember.

It seemed to start with a thousand different versions of “Bush’s bank bailout is good, but Obama’s economic bailout isn’t.”

Then, suddenly, Republicans were citing a study from MIT that said the cap-and-trade legislation would cost every American over $3,000. The study’s author promptly explained why that was a outrageous lie.

Most of the recent lies surround the debate over health insurance reform. First, they said The Evil Gu’ment was going to institute “death panels” to decide who lives and who dies. When that was quickly discredited, they introduced the concept of the “death book,” which I guess they wanted to claim set the guidelines for the “death panels.” Of course, not true.

Then they said the “public option” would put private insurance plans out of business. This one confounds me the most. These are the same people who have been saying for years that private business is more efficient than government, yet suddenly if government gets into the insurance business, private businesses won’t be able to compete? When reporters started pushing back on that one, at least one Republican in Congress then claimed that the reform bill would just outlaw private insurance plans altogether.

They also threw into the mix the lie that Obama’s plan would cover undocumented aliens. That’s always a favorite; is there any debate which Republicans can’t figure out a way to throw in “the illegals” somewhere?

Fresh from the holiday weekend, we now hear from the right wing that Obama’s plan to address the school children of America (just like several former Presidents have done before – and remind me, wasn’t Bush reading to school children in a classroom as 9-11 broke?) is an evil insidious plot to convert them to his diabolical socialist agenda. Some parents threaten to keep their kids home from school just to avoid this travesty of justice, and many risk-averse school districts have decided to duck, and not carry the speech in their classrooms at all. Heaven forbid that some gullible child should buy into Obama’s stupid idea that studying hard and staying in school might be a good plan. That’s bound to turn some innocent child into a pregnant commie pinko hairy-legged tree-hugging drug addict with body odor.

This would all be laughable, except that its dead serious. I call it the Aunt Mimi syndrome.

Aunt Mimi was a former in-law of mine, and she believed. Every. Single. Thing. She. Read. Trouble is, Aunt Mimi only read the National Enquirer. Therefore, Aunt Mimi believed a lot of crazy-ass stuff, which simply wasn’t true.

“It’s a proven fact!” she would screech, whenever anybody tried to push back on her latest whacked-out claim and explain to her that aliens from outer space had not, in fact, secretly invaded the planet.

There are a lot of Aunt Mimi’s out there. And all that must happen in order for them to believe a lie, is for them to hear it on TV, or read it in a newspaper, from somebody who seemed like he aught to know. And while there’s nothing evil about all those Aunt Mimi’s (they’re just repeating what they’ve been told), they can do a ton of damage. If anything, the Aunt Mimi’s of the world are among the victims. Those who start the lies, and those who fail to effectively call the liars out for them, are the evil-doers.

With their lies and distortions, the Republican leadership, in the words of a Washington Post business columnist, has turned from being the loyal opposition, to political terrorists.

And how ironic that I point to a journalist to define the situation, because I believe journalists are at the core of the problem.

Democrats, bless their shriveled sad little hearts, are doing their best to fight back against the lies. But if this were a football game, they’d be the only players on the field who aren’t on steroids: they can’t win, because they’re not cheating. Since they believe their policy arguments aught to at least be first cousins to the truth, they can’t hope to compete against the cheaters whose arguments depend on lies.

But journalists set themselves up a few hundred years ago to be the final arbiter of fairness and truth, and these so-called journalists are still stuck in an old pattern – one which assumes that everybody in the story is playing sort-of fair.

These reporters were taught in J-school that the definition of a balanced story is to give equal footing to each opposing view in the story. This 1950’s model doesn’t account for 2009’s liars. The only thing it accomplishes is that it gives the lies, and the liars, equal footing and credibility with those who aren’t lying.

Here’s the typical story in a nutshell, as most Aunt Mimi’s would take it away after reading it:

Republican Congressman Lumpy Snurd today said that if President Obama’s health reform package is implemented, the government will kill old people to save money. He also says the taxes of all Americans will be doubled, and civilization as we know it would end immediately.

“Gosh, that’s a bit of an overstatement,” replied well-meaning but ineffective Democratic Senator Elmer Kadiddlehopper. Kaddiddlehopper explained that the government would only issue flesh wounds to most elderly Americans, not kill them.

Journalism has taken a lot of hits for its lack of relevance lately. Let me issue one more: the new defintion of a balanced story should be for the watchdogs to do their job, and start calling a spade a spade.

Are you a reporter who wants to be more relevant? Here’s the new definition of a balanced story in which somebody with “credibility” lies:

The lies on Capitol Hill continued today, as Republican Congressman Lumpy Snurd today falsely said that if President Obama’s health reform package is implemented, the government will kill old people to save money. He also says the taxes of all Americans will be doubled, and life as we know it would end immediately.

Analysts said they believe that Congressman Snurd, with today’s statement, lost what little remained of his credibility, and no future utterance of Snurd’s will grace the pages of this publication ever again.

Journalists might object, saying “but I can’t write a straight news story in which I flat-out say what I know to be the truth!” Guess what, reporters…you can’t write a straight news story at all, when the people you’re talking with aren’t playing straight.

Comments

comments

12 Responses to Turns out we brought a knife to a gun-fight, and an irrelevant press corps is handing out bullets

  1. Moonshine September 8, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    If you’re blogging about it, doesn’t that make you a “journalist” too?

  2. FUBAR September 8, 2009 at 2:52 pm #

    Moonshine: why do you hate freedom?

  3. junebaby September 8, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    Thank you Fubar! This really needed to be said. And needs to be done. It is so frustrating to hear lies and misinformation being reported and repeated. The Bullshit Detector needs to be operating at all times.

  4. Joe September 8, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

    It’s cap and trade, not cap in trade.

    Harold Cook assumes this political trend is something new, something that hasn’t happened before. It’s not. U.S. politics has always been awash in half-truths and major exaggerations, especially in times of great uncertainty or transition. He should read samples from even the “moderate” Southern press before and after the 1860 presidential election, for example. As one recent writer accurately observed, in the context of the health care debate, craziness is a pre-existing condition in U.S. politics.

  5. FUBAR September 8, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    Joe, thanks for the correction, I changed it.

    Second, in what part of this piece did you derive that I believe this is something new? It’s not. What IS new, however, is the extent of it. These are not half-truths or major exaggerations. These are lies – bald-faced made-up stuff, in a specific concerted effort, as the Washington Post Columnist writes, to prevent Americans from coming to a consensus. Not only is that not a constructive turn of events, I believe it is fundamentally antithesis to the American political system.

  6. Moonshine September 8, 2009 at 5:59 pm #

    Until special interests are removed, we will never get back to a true Representative Republic. I believe this can be done with term limits. Two terms, every office, from the smallest municipal district office/quasi-govenmental co-ops (Bluebonnet?) to US Senators. Two terms to represent, then move on and let someone else. If you want to stay in politics, run for a different office. I have had this debate with our mutual political friends, and they say the limit is inherently installed because they can be voted out. Byrd and Helms are prooof this does not hold true. Their seniority and ability to secure pork for constituents keeps other qualifieds from running and uneducated from voting them out. We mandate it for the highest office, why not all offices?

  7. Moonshine September 8, 2009 at 6:07 pm #

    And seriously:

    “Moonshine: why do you hate freedom?”

    is a great tactic to evade the question. A tactic aquired by hanging around Washington too long.

  8. FUBAR September 8, 2009 at 7:14 pm #

    Moonshine. Why don’t you just try to guess how many days and nights I have spent in Washington over the last 15 years. Come on, give it a shot.

  9. whiskeydent September 8, 2009 at 7:22 pm #

    Moon, I suspect you haven’t worked much around government. If you had, you’d understand that simple solutions are always good advertising and rarely good policy.

    Moreover, your specific solution would backfire because the special interests would always have the upperhand over the less-knowledgeable and experienced legislators. Think about it: if you’re looking for a doc to operate on your heart, do you want the freshfaced one two years out of med school or the one who has much more experience?

  10. Moonshine September 8, 2009 at 10:19 pm #

    It worked for our forefathers. You gave up some of your time to represent your community or constituency. Then you went back to your life. It was service then, not a career.

    Our current system only lends itself to making government bigger and bigger. Why don’t we look at what the core role of government should be and not try to be a gift horse, or big brother, depending on what side of the aisle you sit, to everyone. Government should be a safety net, not a lifestyle.

  11. Moonshine September 8, 2009 at 10:26 pm #

    Whiskey, look at DIR. Maybe a simple solution would have worked better, cheaper, faster for all parties involved. DIR as oversight and policy provider – yes. DIR as another bureacracy with director’s coming from private enterprise with their hands in the contractual cookie jar and every high tech consulting group lobbying the Texas leg’s hoping they would get a piece of this 6 billion dollar money machine – not really. HHSC call centers – another example. Same people. Same pattern.

  12. whiskeydent September 9, 2009 at 4:52 pm #

    So, a bunch of rookie politicians would have been more likely to stop DIR? Nope. Term limits don’t guarantee better leaders; they only guarantee inexperienced leaders.

    Term limits, draconian contribution caps, and other utopian ideas change the rules of the game, but not the players.

    In the end, it’s the public’s responsibility to pull its collective head out its ass and demand more from politicians. Until then, nothing will change.

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