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Thursday, April 29, 2010

A refresher course in How They Do It
Posted by Jill | 5:27 AM
Yesterday I was listening to Newsradio 880, one of the local all-news stations. This is the most listenable of the local news outlets, despite a penchant for celebrity "news" and a creeping wingnut leaning that surfaces all too often. "Kim Kommando", the booming-voiced tech "guru" was talking about how to find out if all those e-mails you've gotten about Barack Obama are true. It was a masterfully-crafted piece that managed to get just about every looney rumor and falsehood about Obama out there before talking about Snopes.com.

And that is how they do it: First they talk about the "liberal media." They they spout utter nonsense and lies, which are lapped up by that same "liberal media", desperate to prove it isn't "liberal." Then once it's out there into the ether, and into the echo chamber, they repeat it over and over and over again, even in the face of empirical evidence to the contrary, until it takes on the patina of, well, truthiness:
Blogger Matt Yglesias fears that such tactics do nothing but work. "True or false," he writes, "the overwhelming evidence is that the media gets bored with these fact checks very quickly and that if you just put your head down and charge forward, you come out a couple of weeks later back into 'he said, she said' territory. The only real test for whether or not lying works is whether or not you can bring your ideological fellow travelers along. Will Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck echo your line? Will the Weekly Standard and National Review? Will the bulk of your legislative caucus? The answers are yes, yes, and yes."

Actually, we're already there. Just watch. Virtually every TV report on the financial-regulation bill you see will feature a sound bite from McConnell, who'll continue to shill for Citibank and Goldman Sachs while pretending to defend the little guy. Bailout, bailout, bailout. The fact that he's engaging in pure doublespeak is highly unlikely to be mentioned. Instead, you'll likely see a snippet from a Democrat making the opposite claim. For an awful lot of viewers, that's like flipping a coin.

For Fox News viewers and Limbaugh listeners, it's actually easier than that. Conditioned by decades of propaganda about liberal media bias, many react with overt hostility to any and all information from other sources. I must get 50 angry e-mails a week calling me a liar for citing some easily verifiable fact at odds with right-wing doctrine.

Recently, certain conservative intellectuals have begun to worry about whether this hasn't left the movement flying blind. "One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement," writes Cato Institute's Julian Sanchez, "is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross-promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted."

The movement, hell. It's making the whole country as dumb as a brontosaurus in a blizzard. Because reality eventually asserts itself.

But when it does, they'll come up with more nonsense to explain it. Probably something involving Hispanics, Muslims, or both.

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Blogger SeDress said...
Well, you know of course that Spain was under Muslim influence during the period 711 AD to the 1400's. Just suppose that they weren't really defeated during the Reconquista, but went underground, and then moved to Mexico in the 16th century, and have been lying in wait all those years, just waiting for a chance to take over the good old U.S. of A. (You know, I'm really surprised that some right winger hasn't already started this rumour. It makes as much sense as some of the other nonsense they come up with). Maybe you'd better not post this. It might give them some ideas.