The Terri Schiavo case should have put to rest, I hope, any objections to paying attention to right wing stunt-stories that are flying through right wing media but not getting much mainstream attention. I’ve never been a fan of the “ignore it and they’ll go away” philosophy when it comes to these things. On the contrary, the fact that there are stories and theories known to pretty much everyone on the right but are rarely examined or even acknowledged by anyone else should trouble us. The urge is to ignore this stuff because it’s so clearly wrong/sadistic/morbid/stupid that you can’t take seriously the people who invest in it. Also, I think it’s painful to believe that your fellow Americans can be so incredibly mean-spirited, stupid, and nosy. (Certainly, an unwillingness to accept this has fed the mainstream tendency to ignore the anti-contraception beliefs of the anti-choice movement.) But millions of people are making their voting decisions based on these lies and myths. I do think increased media attention to birtherism and Glenn Beck’s ravings is helping wake everyone up to the fact that ignoring the right wing media and social media that flies under the radar of thinking people is just a poor idea.
With that disclaimer out of the way, I want to talk about a case that I doubt ignoring will make it go away: the baby Joseph situation. Kevin Keith has a rundown of the situation, and one of the most critical things to understand is most of the information coming out about it is coming through the anti-choice movement, and so it should be assumed up front that it’s full of lies, holes, and distortions. If you have questions about why anti-choicers lost the benefit of the doubt, please go do some reading and come back here. And remember in the Schiavo case that the right wingers painted Terri Schiavo as practically walking and talking, and it was only when the brain scans that showed how little brain she had left came out that it became clear how much they were lying about her condition.
So what’s going on is more a rough guess than anything else, but piecing together the right wing hysteria, the best guess is this: A bay in Canada was born with a disease that it seems likely put him in a vegetative state from birth on. As Keith explains, the odds are high that right wingers are downplaying the severity of this baby’s condition, but we don’t know the exact diagnosis. What we can be reasonably sure of is that baby Joseph is terminal, and the fight between his parents and the hospital is over whether or not to take him off the ventilator now or administer a tracheotomy and a home ventilator so that he can be taken home to undergo a much longer but just as certain death. As far as I can tell, once you peel away all the right wing hysterics, this is the crux of the fight. The right is painting the “die at home” side as “Save Baby Joseph”, but this is a lie. There is no saving baby Joseph. It’s all very sad, and worse, it seems this is the second child that this has happened to with these parents.
The problem is that Frank Pavone of Priests for Life—a truly wretched and ghoulish man who was practically dancing on Dr. George Tiller’s grave within hours of the announcement of his murder—has involved himself. (If the pedophilia scandals didn’t terminate any faith you have in the judgment of the leadership of the Catholic church, then spending some time with Pavone’s videos and writings should do it. That they gave this man a collar should indicate that they have no standards whatsoever when it comes to hiring people who are supposed to be ministering others.) Oh yeah, and so has Terri Schiavo’s brother. So we’re talking a three ring circus of lies and bullshit, and the people whose hard choices about their son are at stake are being swiftly reduced to pawns to use to score points.
And the people that are being scored on are, ultimately, Democrats. Even though Democrats have nothing to do with this. Not just because it’s a matter of a family versus a hospital bureaucracy (that may be in the right—read Keith’s post for more), but because this is happening in Canada. But for right wingers opposed to health care reform, Canada is a stand-in for Democrats. Bashing Canada is a way to bash Democrats. At least, it is when you’re talking about health care. Even though Democrats actually pushed for a system that preserves private health insurance, a high percentage of right wingers believe that we’ve got a Canadian-style single payer system coming down the pike. They also believe that this means that the government will be doing things like executing old people or retarded people in order to save money. That’s what the whole “death panels” thing was about. And so if they can find a story that “proves”—even through lies and distortion—that Canada is willing to kill babies that have a chance to live, they can score some points on the Democrats. That this is not what Canada is doing is beside the point. The truth never matters one bit. (What appears to be going on is that baby Joseph has been declared a futile situation, which is something that goes on in all sorts of medical settings, both private and public, and is more about medical ethics than funding sources.)
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More advantages that blatant liars have
Yesterday, I wrote a lengthy post debunking an almost-shockingly deception-thick article written by Kirsten Powers, and the reason is to show that this is what it, frankly, takes. Which is why lies get disseminated so far and are rarely checked in any way, because, as I estimated, it’s five times harder to actually check lies than to tell lies. (Which is why even egregious hacks like Powers make money in the lying business.) Which means it literally can’t be done, since most people in a position to check lies are busy with other work, and even as they’re busy fact-checking one lie, five more are being generated to take its place.But honestly, the time-effort gap may not even be the largest problem that those of us dedicated to reality-based politics face. What may be more disturbing is the increasing willingness of the mainstream media to entertain the lies of people who have been thoroughly demonstrated, through the painstaking and time-consuming work of truth-telling, to be pernicious liars who should never be trusted ever again. Like James O’Keefe. For what it’s worth, I thought paying attention to the ACORN videos without a thorough fact check was unforgivable. Maybe I could forgive some writers for it, but anyone who works in television knows for a fact that it’s easy to manipulate video, and could tell at 100 paces that these videos were not only manipulated, but not even that good at disguising their manipulations. (Distorted audio, weird cuts that indicate that something is being concealed, an unwillingness to show O’Keefe in the videos.) But okay, he got one pass based on the assumption of good faith.
But after it was demonstrated that O’Keefe had manipulated the ACORN videos beyond all recognition of what had actually happened? After investigations demonstrated that people in the videos were portrayed saying one thing, but often were saying the opposite? (Such as advice given to a woman to hide money from an abusive boyfriend/pimp was edited to suggest the advice was to hide money from the IRS.) And then it was discovered his compatriot Andrew Breitbart was willing to promote a video the purported to show Shirley Sherrod saying one thing, when she was, you guessed it, saying the exact opposite thing. Plus, O’Keefe’s arrests and his attempt to sexually harass and threaten, through implication, to assault a journalist, with the intention to tape the whole thing on the grounds that this would embarrass her. (Which really goes to show how distorted his worldview is, though I suppose with heavy editing to erase the man who is striking threatening poses in a woman’s direction, you could somehow make it about her, though how I don’t know.) After that, the only reasonable, rational thing to do is to take everything that O’Keefe produces, and put it in the trash without wasting your time. Whatever potentially “shocking” stuff on there is definitely going to be manipulated and dishonest.
We know this. This is not a mystery. There is no excuse any more.
Which is why I was shocked and appalled when the latest video trying to ding NPR came out, and people took it at face value, as if we didn’t know for a fact that it was deceptively edited. I saw people approach it with the assumption that it was mostly lies, but they figured they could somehow tease some relevant truth out of it, and judge it on that. This is especially true if you’re unwilling to watch all two hours of footage that O’Keefe got, which 99.9% of journalists are unwilling to do. (See: Lies, Time It Takes To Debunk Them.) Instead, people decided that Schiller said a couple of things that were inexcusable under any circumstances, and that was good enough for them. Never mind that the Sherrod example should teach us that context can literally mean that someone is saying “up” when, if you extracted just a fraction of their overall quote, it seems they are saying “down”.
O’Keefe has learned that he can come in, lie his fool head off, create damage, and when the accounting is done, it’s too late to fix all the damage he’s done. His is amply, and repeatedly rewarded for lying. Unsurprisingly, a few days after the NPR video came out and people were fired and all that jazz, a thorough accounting of the video demonstrates that it is stuffed with lies. Which anyone at this point could have told you, sight unseen, even people that bought into it. Lindsay did what almost no one else did, and watched all two hours of the taped con job.
If you watch the entire conversation, it becomes crystal clear that O’Keefe’s provocateurs didn’t get what they were looking for. They were ostensibly offering $5 million to NPR. Their goal is clearly to get Schiller and his colleague Betsy Liley to agree to slant coverage for cash. Again and again, they refuse, saying that NPR just wants to report the facts and be a nonpartisan voice of reason. Schiller pointedly informs the fake donors that NPR broke with some very generous Jewish benefactors who had supported NPR for over a decade because they tried to tell NPR that it “couldn’t have so much Palestinian coverage.”
“And we said, ‘sorry,’” Schiller says, “And we lost their funding, and it’s gone.”
During the ACORN days, O’Keefe actually tried to conceal the original videos, knowing that they proved he was a liar. Now he’s realized that being a known liar doesn’t actually make any difference. He doesn’t even perform a charade of being ashamed for being such a terrible liar. At this point, he releases a video, everyone knows up front that he’s a liar, and everyone will just pretend that he’s not for the 12-24 hours it takes for the video to ruin someone’s life. And he’ll basically gloat in public by releasing the full video, as if to say, “Hey, we all know I’m lying, but no one seems to give a flying fuck!”
And on that, he’s right.
How do you fight against that?