Not Letting the Truth Get in the Way

You know that old cliche about you’re entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts? I guess that depends on whether it’s politically expedient.

I’m an old political science major. I appreciate differing points of view on the issues. I even solicit varying positions by reading a mix of publications. But what’s been going on in US politics is not that anymore. Reading this article, originally from the Guardian (UK), called The Right’s Stupidity Spreads, Enabled by a Too-Polite Left, I was particularly fascinated by this section:

Listen to what two former Republican ideologues, David Frum, and Mike Lofgren, have been saying. Frum warns that “conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics”. The result is a “shift to ever more extreme, ever more fantasy-based ideology” which has “ominous real-world consequences for American society”.

Lofgren complains that “the crackpot outliers of two decades ago have become the vital center today”. The Republican party, with its “prevailing anti-intellectualism and hostility to science” is appealing to what he calls the “low-information voter”, or the “misinformation voter”. While most office holders probably don’t believe the “reactionary and paranoid claptrap” they peddle, “they cynically feed the worst instincts of their fearful and angry low-information political base”.

And, it’s not that I wasn’t already generally aware of this. But it does confirm that I’m not totally crazy.

I’m watching ABC News This Week a couple of Sundays ago. Someone, I think it was Austin Goolsby, President Obama’s former economic czar, who was talking about the economic recovery. He noted that it might be going even better if we hadn’t lost jobs in the public sector. And some conservative woman rolls her eyes and says, “Yeah, right.”

Well, yeah, right. In a Bureau of Labor Statistics report citing the drop in the unemployment rate from 8.5% to 8.3%, it read: Over the past 12 months, the [public] sector has lost 276,000 jobs, with declines in local government; state government, excluding education; and the U.S. Postal Service.

This is also an interesting read: “Among the people who saw this [economic] crisis coming was the conservative economist Bruce Bartlett, the supply-side champion who wrote the manifesto for the Reagan Revolution… Yet for all those credentials, he is today an outcast from the very conservative ranks where he was once so influential. That’s because Bruce Bartlett dared to write a book criticizing the second George Bush as a pretend conservative who slashed taxes but still spent with wild abandon.” Watch and/or read the interview about Where the Right Went Wrong.

Do you know that old cliche about you’re entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts? I guess that depends on whether it’s politically expedient. And it does explain folks such as Donald Trump promoting the idea that Barack Obama was not born in the US or tweeting in October 2011 that the freak snowstorm was proof that man-made climate change is, in the words of the article, “an eco-fascist-communist-anarchist conspiracy,” or that “the deficit results from the greed of the poor, they now appeal to the basest, stupidest impulses, and find that it does them no harm in the polls.”

Worse, though, for this librarian is the egregious ignoring of factual evidence, by creating pseudoscience and ignoring facts (Obama DID provide his “long-form” birth certificate) for political gain.

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”
― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

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