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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2007-10-16 04:47
Subject: [politics] Political lies
Security: Public
Location:Omaha
Mood:thoughtful
Music:the air conditioner's hum
Tags:politics
Lies are funny things, especially in politics. Some of them have the most amazing staying power. Remember Ronald Reagan's welfare queen speech? Most people seem to, even young conservatives who weren't born when he gave it. Much later on, the Great Communicator admitted to having made it up. There was no Cadillac-driving Chicago baby machine living high off the public trough, it was just something Reagan and his speechwriters imagined to be likely. The rhetorical image captured the attention of a generation.

Likewise the story about Hillary Clinton decorating the White House Christmas tree with crack pipes and condoms. On the face of it, this was ludicrous. Even if she were the literal reincarnation of Elizabeth Báthory, Hillary has always been far to smooth a political and media operator to stoop to such a crude public gesture. The cookie baking fiasco of 1992 was more her speed. Yet back in the 1990s I heard otherwise intelligent adults (including family members of mine) repeating that bizarre story in hushed, disgusted tones, because they were so desperate to believe anything bad of the Clintons.

Again, John Kerry and the medals. Somehow the Republicans were able to revile a decorated Vietnam vet, based on the testimony of people who weren't even serving with him, and maintain the military credentials of a man who on the face of it had a rich-boy National Guard deferment. A more complex set of lies, but absolutely lies all the same. The Dan Rather story about Bush's National Guard service appears to be true in substance, but the GOP and its operatives seized on some bogus evidence within Rather's reporting, and in doing so thoroughly obfuscated the issue that no one in the national discourse will touch it now. (For more on Dan Rather, see this story about his recent civil suit over the National Guard story.)

The massively frustrating thing from the liberal-progressive perspective is that these lies, many of them simply bizarre, stick in the public consciousness and take on a life of their own. That was the point of the recent "John Edwards had an affair" story. It was an unsubstantiated rumor, but the originators and promoters hoped to hang it in the public consciousness like Hillary's crack pipe Christmas Tree, or if they were very lucky, like Ronald Reagan's welfare queen. Somehow, though, it's only the lies about Democratic and liberal-progressive figures that stick. I don't know if that's a comment on the critical thinking faculties of different portions of the electorate, or the degree of media control the Republicans have exhibited over the last twenty-five years, or some other factors entirely.

Truth may be the first casualty of war, but political lies are the unquiet dead forever climbing back out of their graves.
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The Green Knight: Words
User: green_knight
Date: 2007-10-16 12:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Words
The massively frustrating thing from the liberal-progressive perspective is that these lies, many of them simply bizarre, stick in the public consciousness and take on a life of their own.

It's not just you. In the UK, we've recently had the situation that the press was alledging Gordon Brown had backed out of an election because the Tory leader had been doing so well in the polls.

Only as far as I was concerned, the prospect of an early election has been entirely a fabrication of the Tories in the first place: there was no good political reason for it, and the concept sprang into life, fully-formed, during the Tory conference. Suddenly the press was treating it _as if it always had been true_. I'm not as politically involved as I might be, but I'm not completely living in a bubble either, and I hadn't heard of it - much less, heard it in time.

Not that I particularly enjoy most of the British press anyway. Far too much space is given to Britney Spears getting drunk and footballers having accidents, while major world events go unnoticed.
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steve_buchheit
User: steve_buchheit
Date: 2007-10-16 13:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"I don't know if that's a comment on the critical thinking faculties of different portions of the electorate, or the degree of media control the Republicans have exhibited over the last twenty-five years, or some other factors entirely."

I think it's because not only do they make up myths about the opposition leftists, they make up their own myths about themselves. Only these myths portray them in a good light. So it's not that they aren't believing untruths about themselves, or something about the electorate, it's that the right has a ready made set of perosnal myths to believe in and it shuts out anything else that may come to light about the reality of the situation.
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biomekanic
User: biomekanic
Date: 2007-10-16 13:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think it's been shown time and time again that facts won't get in their way until they're completely unavoidable.

As for welfare queens, I worked security at a food stamp office, and did see drug dealers picking up food stamps and driving off in sports cars. I also saw families who were having hard times and needed a helping hand, and there were far more many of them than those who abused the system.
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Ross E. Lockhart: Maddie Blek
User: lossrockhart
Date: 2007-10-16 15:42 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Maddie Blek
On a similar note, regarding "noble" lies and rightist identity, check out Maria Hummel's article "The Apache, The Thief, The Führer, and the Philosopher" in the latest issue of The Believer.
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Bob
User: yourbob
Date: 2007-10-16 16:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
And then everyone forgets that the coke-head draft-dodger is gay and that his only chance at keeping it quiet and getting into politics was marrying, and the only one who'd be certain to let him do his stuff on the side and keep quiet was the town pariah who had killed the high school football star.

Well, almost everyone.

:)
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tambyrd: grumpy cat
User: tambyrd
Date: 2007-10-16 16:57 (UTC)
Subject: Which group fosters/thrives in a fear-based society?
Keyword:grumpy cat
"Somehow, though, it's only the lies about Democratic and liberal-progressive figures that stick. "
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2007-10-16 18:30 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
From time to time I still get an e-mail "warning" me that Obama's parents were radical Muslim zealots and Obama himself went to a similarly radical Wahabi school overseas when he was growing up. I politely let these folks know that the Clinton campaign admitted to making both morsels up, but I don't know if my refutation sticks as well as the first impression.
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bemused_leftist
User: bemused_leftist
Date: 2007-10-17 07:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I can believe that someone made up the Obama slander, but do you have a cite for the 'Clinton campaign' admitting they did it?
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2007-10-17 18:44 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I could go hunting, but I heard about it from a radio news report the summer before last: the Clinton campaign said that the "information" had come from a member of their team and that the person was subsequently fired, then they offered an apology. It was a news story that came and went, as I recall, though the e-mail has stuck around.
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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2007-10-17 18:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
(Don't know if this would do any good, but the radio station in question was WTOP, Washington D.C.'s news station, and I'd heard it in June of '06.)
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bemused_leftist
User: bemused_leftist
Date: 2007-10-17 19:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well, I was trying to politely suggest that the charge that the Clinton campaign did it and/or admitted doing it -- may be just as much a myth, and shouldn't be circulated as though it were an established fact.

Such a distortion of Obama's past was bound to occur to someone somewhere, and be sent out by email. Most likely by a racist -- the sort who hates the Clintons too.

What seems very unlikely is that any campaign that did it -- would admit and apologize.

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Danny Adams
User: madwriter
Date: 2007-10-17 19:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ah, here we are...yes, should have researched this before reposting it.

I've been perusing Media Matters and other places, and this how this went down, apparently:

  • The source of the rumors (both about the Muslim school and it coming from teh Clinton campaign) was InsightMag.com.

  • Conservatives naturally pounced on this, but also the Washington Post and the New York Times. (And WTOP, as it happened.)

  • CNN debunked the part about Obama's background, but not the "Clinton insider" rumor.

  • Numerous Clinton denials, with numerous "We don't believe your denials" (albeit not from the aforementioned newspapers, but rather conservative sties and InsightMag itself).

  • The Clinton insider who was fired (or resigned) was not let go for starting the rumor, but "spreading" (whatever that means) it.

    OK-dokie, then.
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    bemused_leftist
    User: bemused_leftist
    Date: 2007-10-17 21:17 (UTC)
    Subject: (no subject)
    The Clinton insider who was fired (or resigned) was not let go for starting the rumor, but "spreading" (whatever that means) it.

    That statement may be getting into believable territory, depending on how 'insider' and 'spreading' are defined. For example, a gullible envelope-stuffing gopher receiving such email and forwarding it -- and being dismissed for gullibility and poor judgement, or dropping out in embarrassment -- could happen to any campaign. But the way it's worded ... 'insider' suggests some high-level decision maker, and 'spreading (whatever that means)' suggests some major activity being fig-leafed; which is still a pretty serious charge against 'the Clinton campaign.'


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    ericjamesstone
    User: ericjamesstone
    Date: 2007-10-16 23:01 (UTC)
    Subject: (no subject)
    > Somehow, though, it's only the lies about Democratic and liberal-progressive
    > figures that stick.

    Isn't it possible that you perceive that as being the case because your sympathies lie with the Democratic and liberal-progressive figures? Therefore, you tend not to notice lies being perpetuated about conservatives and Republicans.

    For example, I could point to lies about Clarence Thomas that have stuck in the public consciousness, but because you're liberal, you probably don't believe they are lies.
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    Jay Lake
    User: jaylake
    Date: 2007-10-17 01:59 (UTC)
    Subject: (no subject)
    because you're liberal, you probably don't believe they are lies.

    Actually, I don't believe they are lies because at the time I found the testimony reasonable and compelling. You *can* argue in all fairness that I was biased to believe Anita Hill based on my political leanings. Even so, there's a big difference between the he-said-she-said confrontation of the Thomas hearings in an open forum and the snarky rumor mongering of crack pipes or Swift Boat Veterans For Truth.
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    Jay Lake
    User: jaylake
    Date: 2007-10-17 02:06 (UTC)
    Subject: (no subject)
    PS, I really am possessed of critical thinking faculties, at least for a liberal.
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    ericjamesstone
    User: ericjamesstone
    Date: 2007-10-17 05:04 (UTC)
    Subject: (no subject)
    I wasn't casting aspersions on anyone's critical thinking ability. I merely estimated that it was highly probable that you were someone who disbelieved Thomas, because there is a high degree of association between what people believe about Anita Hill's accusations and their political beliefs, even among intelligent people who watched the hearings. (At the time, I watched the hearings with my fellow law students of varying political stripes, and we argued over the testimony a lot. I found her testimony unconvincing in light of her actions.)

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    Jay Lake
    User: jaylake
    Date: 2007-10-17 11:20 (UTC)
    Subject: (no subject)
    In that sense you've got me on a far cop.

    I'm curious why you reached back to the Thomas hearings. I could type til my fingers grow numb listing the lies about Democrats and liberals, many of them as weird and improbable as the crack pipe Christmas tree, that have made the rounds of the media, and which are much beloved of conservatives.

    Much of that crap comes from the Limbaugh-Malkin-Coulter wing of conservatism, but more often that not it's fed and stoked by the GOP establishment (witness the link between McConnell's staff and the Frost story, or the whole Joe Wilson-Niger story). That's in part due to the fact that it's been a standard operating procedure of this White House to aggressively discredit anyone who speaks out against them, not on the merits (or on the merits alone) but through ad hominem attacks in the press and the talk show media.

    I don't perceive a liberal machine generating that kind of trash about conservatives. You'll note that the majority of my negative links or posts are in response to items in reputable news sources, and even the opinion items I link to are generally substantiated. I didn't have to make up Larry Craig, Claude Allen or any of the other conservative hit parade of values politicians caught out in a myriad ways. And the liberal-progressive community simply doesn't have a Limbaugh-Coulter-Malkin axis. Joh Stewart skewed Clinton when he was in power, as did Tom Tomorrow — they're reacting, like I am, to whats actually, visibily happening on the national stage. Keith Olbermann is the only national commentator I'm aware of with a strong liberal slant, and he stands virtually amid in a huge array of conservative voices.

    I think the rumor mongering is a very deliberate strategy of keeping the base fired up. Anger drives people to the polls and opens their wallets. Conservatives don't have much on the issues right now: Iraq is an unmitigated disaster in both the military and political sense, and virtually all the classic conservative principles (fiscal restraint, small government, states rights, etc.) have been sold out by the Neocons during their time in power — except for tax cuts right now. The strategy is far older than the current woes of the GOP, but it's about the only prop they have left.

    Do you honestly believe that the rumor-mongering, the ridiculousness of charges which are made, and stick, in the media, is balanced left and right?
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    Jay Lake
    User: jaylake
    Date: 2007-10-17 11:21 (UTC)
    Subject: (no subject)
    erm, "stands vritually alone amid"
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    ericjamesstone
    User: ericjamesstone
    Date: 2007-10-17 16:26 (UTC)
    Subject: (no subject)
    > I'm curious why you reached back to the Thomas hearings.

    Nothing suspicious about the choice: the Thomas hearings have been in the news again recently, because his book of memoirs came out this month. So it came to mind immediately.

    I'll respond to the rest in detail later.
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    mojave_wolf
    User: mojave_wolf
    Date: 2007-10-17 17:34 (UTC)
    Subject: (no subject)
    Since it bears directly on those hearings, have you by any chance had a chance to read David Brock's "Blinded by the Right"?

    Also, I was still a semi-Republican sorta libertarian living in Alabama at the time of those hearings and was predisposed to side w/Thomas,but the questioning of Hill made me cringe. In most cases, it just made the lawmakers, both democratic and republican, look really, really misogynistic; the most embarassing to me was when my own state senator got his turn to ask questions, and was introduced by the commentators as being one of the most well-respected senators on the hill and known as "the Judge", and then Howell Heflin made me wanna hide under a rock w/his initial salvo of "Miss Hill, are you a woman scorned?" drawled out over about 30 seconds, it seemed like.
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    mojave_wolf
    User: mojave_wolf
    Date: 2007-10-17 17:41 (UTC)
    Subject: (no subject)
    I'm about 5 days or so behind on my f-list, so you probably already mentioned this elsewhere, but let's not forget that a lot of people, even a lot of democrats, still believe Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet, and a clearly biased judge's decision in the UK (timed to coincide w/the Nobel award?) claiming that some contentions in "An Inconvenient Truth" are not backed up by scientific consensus (when at least some of them clearly are; I can't remember all right now) being headlined as "judge finds nine factual errors in Gore documentary", which you know is going to stick w/the right wing side in particular, and possibly in the middle, since our side is doing their usual wonderful job of completely ignoring the charges rather than responding to them . . .
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    rabidsamfan
    User: rabidsamfan
    Date: 2007-10-17 20:03 (UTC)
    Subject: (no subject)
    The problem with responding to the charges is that that gets them mentioned in the media again, and its the repetition that makes them stick.

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    mojave_wolf
    User: mojave_wolf
    Date: 2007-10-17 20:32 (UTC)
    Subject: (no subject)
    I'm guessing that has been the democrats thinking in times past; it doesn't seem to be working for them tho. Probably because they get repeated so often regardless of lack of response that they stick anyway . . .
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