Facts About Conservative Truthiness
By Ole Ole Olson
NEWS JUNKIE POSTJan 4, 2010 at 2:02 am
Truthiness is a ‘truth’ that a person claims to know intuitively “from the gut” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts. From birthers to deathers, from pseudoscience to Teabags, the conservative side of the political spectrum seems endemically reality-challenged. Here is the proof that both sides are NOT the same.
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|The Word – Truthiness|
Glenn Becks 912 DC Tea Party
This is the perfect example of ‘creative’ information control to push an agenda. Fox News’ Glenn Beck had what was supposed to be the mother of all rallies in Washington DC on September 12th, 2009. Nobody really knew what to expect about the turnout, but due to the 6 months of planning and repeated advertising on Fox, many of us suspected it might fall in the 300,000 range, the same size as the nationwide Tax Day Tea Party protests.
The first figures began to circulate that very day, propagated from conservative media outlets: 2 million. This would have been a huge success for this rally, the only problem was, the figure wasn’t even close to being true. The fire and park service did not officially release an estimate, which is something they have not done under direction of congress since they were sued after the Million Man March. In this case, someone working for them unofficially released a 60-70k estimate.
There was zero credible evidence in the 2 million figure. In fact, from the start, right wing sources have been using every trick in the book to circulate this grossly inflated estimate. For instance, trying to pretend this very old photo was from 912. Some people tried to claim that there were ‘hundreds of thousands’ of additional subway riders that day, when in reality, ridership only increased 87,000. As mounting evidence began to refute this grossly inflated figure, various conservative groups began to downscale their estimates.
FreedomWorks (the main organizers or the event) retracted their gross inflation to a ‘conservative’ estimate of 600-800k. Fox News only claimed 400k, and they were the main advertisers of the event. The National Taxpayers Union (another main sponsor of the event) put its estimates between 75-300k. However, the best estimates still tend to fall in the 60-70k range, with low estimates of only 30k.
Feel free to use your own judgment here, find a good aerial photo and contrast it with how many you think would be there by comparing it to the National Park Service crowd estimate photo. Note that the crowd must be packed tight, like during the Obama inauguration and also remember there was a black history event on the mall that day.
A few good resources eventually documented how the numbers got so grossly over-exaggerated . Becks 912 DC rally demonstrates a clear push by the conservative media towards ridiculously high attendance (from 15-100 times what was really there). You would think they would have learned their lesson about this, but just a few short weeks later, Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) organized an anti- health care reform rally at the Capitol. When Sean Hannity reported on the event, he and Fox ‘News’ were quickly caught recycling Beck’s 912 footage to try and once again artificially inflate the attendance.
Health Care Reform
Another striking example of conservative truthiness can be found in the debate over reform our nations health care system. The fear mongering and lies present here are just a taste of what is likely to come. Despite rampant debunking from a variety of reputable sources, distortions and lies persist.
For instance, many conservatives fear health care reform is socialism. This is absurdly inaccurate, because a country with socialized medicine has the government completely take over every hospital, every clinic, every health care provider from your dentist to your optometrist. Even a single-payer plan (medicare for all) could not be considered true socialism, so the idea that public health insurance option is somehow a ‘government takeover of 1/6th of American economy’ is so utterly ignorant, that it hardly seems worth mentioning. Never the less, the idea is widely accepted by conservatives. Even now that there isn’t even a weak public option run by the insurance companies, they continue to spread the lie about socialism.
Other examples of the susceptibility of conservatives to disinformation includes the overall cost, which many believe will increase the deficit by $10 trillion despite the bipartisan CBO clearly stating that not only will the plan be completely paid for, but it will actually generate a deficit reduction in the first 10 years of its existence.
Senator Al Franken (DFL-MN) recently had to correct Sen. John Thune (R-SD) on the Senate floor when he was incorrectly trying to say that taxation would begin immediately while nothing in the program would start for many years. This is a rumor that is sure to be repeated over and over on conservative talk radio, even though it is blatantly not true.
Most distressing of all is the rampant myths that the right wing is spreading about things in the bill that have caught on despite them being thoroughly debunked many times by independent sources. These scare tactics have been so effective, that nearly half of all Americans now believe such things as:
45% death panels
55% covers undocumented migrants
54% government takeover
50% will pay for abortions
The sheer number of topics where the eagerness of conservatives to believe things that are not real could go for 10,000 more words, but I think the point has been established. Whether it is man-made climate change or birthers, the right wing seems somehow unwilling or unable to discern between fiction and reality in many cases. For instance 91% of all conservative Republicans think Obama is a socialist, marxist, communist, or fascist.
Pro vs. Con. Are Both to Blame?
These blatant examples of conservative truthiness and propaganda will of course be dismissed by my critics on the right as nothing more than a biased partisan analysis in and of itself. They will try to claim that both sides do it, that it is only politics. Unfortunately, much of the public will again believe this, despite what the truth is. So let’s examine that premise. Does equal fault lie in the pro vs con debate?
When comparing the progressive and conservative sides of the political spectrum, we find that there is not a parallel. This is not just politics. Although there are certainly too many instances of distortions coming from the left, it appears to be the exception to the rule instead of the rule itself. According to an analysis of the date provided by Politifact, the non-partisan fact checking organization devoted to evaluate the truth behind the claims of politicians and important spokesman for the parties and political ideologies, there is a clear differentiation here.
As you can see, 40% of the claims made by conservative spokesman are lies, nearly double the rate of progressives. Only 30% of their claims are mostly true, compared to 50% progressives. Of course, these numbers may be tilted slightly by the disproportional numbers of compulsive liars in the conservative movement like Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck, and John Boehner, but a clear pattern is still present.
Predictably, whenever any person or organization speaks out against right wing truthiness, they are usually subject to a character assassination campaign or at least verbally attacked. Despite their non-partisan nature, Politifact has not been immune from this assault. Besides Politifact, there have been attacks on Factcheck.org (even though they are owned by the conservative Annenberg Foundation), fivethirtyeight, NPR, Snopes, and even the CBO (nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office). Conservatives even started their own Wikipedia competitor to counter this imaginary liberal bias called Conservapedia, which contains such gems as:
“An apparent Muslim, Obama could use the Koran when he is sworn into office.”
“Liberals support the legalisation of marijuana and other drugs, which are major causes of psychiatric illnesses”
“studies have long indicated that homosexuals have a substantially greater risk of suffering from psychiatric problems”
“…pairs of each dinosaur kind were taken onto Noah’s Ark during the Great Flood and were preserved from drowning”
“All the prevailing, atheistic theories of the origin of the Moon were completely disproved by the lunar landings and studies of the lunar rocks afterwards.”
This seems to be a pattern among conservative websites in general, as well as with media outlets such as talk radio and Fox News, the latter having organization such as Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) and Media Matters (MMFA) focused exclusively on debunking the truthiness.
The reasons for the contrast between progressives and conservatives are still unclear. There have been a couple interesting psychological reports released in the last couple years, one which demonstrates that conservatives are more prone to bow to strong authority figures. Another indicates that:
“a specific region of the brain’s cortex is more sensitive in people who consider themselves liberals than in self-declared conservatives. The brain region in question helps people shift gears when their usual response would be inappropriate, supporting the notion that liberals are more flexible in their thinking.”
Of course, as the case with non-partisan or bipartisan organizations who speak out negatively about them, conservatives are sure to dismiss or attack the results of these findings. This might explain why only 6% of all the scientists in the US are Republican (usually the party of conservatives in America). From the crowd estimates at Becks 912 rally to health care reform, from science to the birther movement, conservatives tend to believe that a ‘truth’ is known intuitively. It is something “from the gut” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.
- November 1, 2009 Rigged NPR Online Poll Shows Disinformation Campaign
- January 26, 2010 1/3rd of Women in US Military Raped
- December 10, 2009 Back to the 30’s: National Socialist and Republican Discourse part 2
- December 12, 2009 Back to the 30’s: National Socialist and Republican Discourse part 4
- December 9, 2009 Back to the 30’s: National Socialist and Republican Discourse part 1