Say Anything……. And if it Works Say It Again

I could comment on a number of incidents and events at the just finished Republican Convention, but I don’t think most of it holds much significance in the grand scheme of things election-wise,  If I’m wrong I’ll get back to it later.  However, I do want to say something about the Paul Ryan speech Wednesday evening and the media reaction because it relates to the central issue this blog is concerned with which, in case I’ve confused you, I’ll reiterate:   “….this blog is about becoming an informed citizen in the age of misinformation (as stated in my HEY! page above).

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ll get to Ryan vs. the media in a moment, but  in terms of “post truth politics” (*1) more significant than Ryan’s speech was what Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said at an ABC News/Yahoo panel in Tampa on Tuesday. His comments regarded an ad accusing Obama of cutting the work requirement in welfare.   This attack ad was harshly criticized by several media fact checkers, but that didn’t phase Newhouse.  According to the Huffington Post he said  ” that the campaign doesn’t care its ad attacking Obama’s waiver policy on welfare has been labeled false by several media outlets.”

As Newhouse elaborated:  “We stand behind those ads and behind the facts in those ads…. And you know what? What these fact-checkers — fact-checkers come to this with, you know, their own sets of, you know, thoughts and — and beliefs. And you know what? We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

Of course, what he’s saying is the fact checkers are all too liberal to be believed- i.e. the enemy – so if we Republicans think some talking point is true, we’ll go with it (or more cynically, if we think we can convince others it’s true, we’ll keep going with it).  In other words, a research tradition “sifting and winnowing” in search of truth going back centuries was just cut off at the knees when it comes to politics.   In terms of the notion of post-truth politics, Newhouse has crossed the Rubicon into no-truth politics.

In other words, we have entered the wild, wild west of political knowledge and thought.  There are no sheriffs or judges we can rely on to referee accusations, no honest brokers, arbiters with sufficient impartiality to make a judgement worth listening to.  All of that is implied in what Newhouse said.   One thing he neglected to say is that the Republicans themselves have referred to those same fact checkers when it has suited their purposes, in the primaries and in the general election.

Now to Paul Ryan’s  speech Wednesday evening that got media fact checkers buzzing around like hornets trying to sting him with accusations of falsehoods.  It is just a guess, but perhaps the checkers were even more vigilent than usual after Newhouse called them irrelevant the day before.   In a Huff-Po piece Michael Calderone captures the gist of this fight nicely, including several links for those who want to delve deeper into yet another issue that could require a book to really sort out.  For the truly obsessive, you will find additional sources by Googling:  Fact checking Paul Ryan’s speech.

Here’s a couple of things to keep in mind if you wish to explore the issue further.   Most of the media opinion sides with the idea that Ryan took liberties with facts and made misleading statements in his speech.  The handful defending his speech are on the political right and their defenses tend to be narrow ones, meaning they defend him from charges he “lied” at various times.   I would say they are often right literally, but wrong figuratively.   He may not have lied strictly speaking as often charged, but he was often misleading enough to have the same impact.

Ah, but I’m spending too much time parsing this issue of truth when the real issue between now and Nov 6  is whether either side can sway enough voters to dislike or fear the  other candidate more than their own.

So, truth be damned!   The operative rule is:   Say anything………………………And if it works say it again.


(*1)  Maybe Paul Krugman came up with “post truth politics” as he used the term in an editorial last December.  There he attacked the Republicans for their distortions, but I would say the Democrats have come to match them on occasion since then.   And they still have time to catch up.


5 responses to “Say Anything……. And if it Works Say It Again

  1. Oooh…those wascally Republicans are at it again. If only they could be totally truthful like the Dems the world would be such a better place.

    • You’ve already used the “wascally Republican” line before. It was silly then and repeating it makes it worse. I only hope you don’t think you are being clever. If you don’t have a specific response to a post, don’t bother to write a comment. I’ll just delete it in the future.

      • I thought it was a pretty good response, albeit a wittle bit wascally. Come on lighten up, life is short. Accept some diversity. Little is going to change after this election, we’re all just nibbling around the edges here. Both parties and the media misrepresent the truth constantly and we’re all the worse off for it. To me all levels of government have fallen victim to severe mission creep. They’re all way beyond their charter and now they’re telling us what size sodas we can buy and what kind of lightbulbs we should use and whether Chick-fil-A has Chicago values. They’re into wealth redistribution and even birth control. Soon we’ll all have to dial up the government every morning to see what color pants we should wear. This isn’t the way it’s was supposed to be. Sure we need to help those in need but we’re way beyond that. I can think of only one way to change this and that’s that government has to get smaller, less intrusive. Not too small but smaller, at least stop growing. And it needs to lighten up on small businesses. Can one party or the other do this? I’m pessimistic here, I don’t think so but every so often one party leans slightly in that direction. I’ll go with that until a better option comes along. So getting back to your article, I don’t worry so much about the lies. They all do it, those are to be expected. What jolts me awake however is when a politician actually tells the truth. I think we heard a candidate do such a thing recently. He truthfully told us exactly what he believes. “You didn’t build that.” Chilling.

  2. About lying, which Richard explores in his post, how about this fact, which really shocked me: Paul Ryan claimed to run a marathon in just under three hours. Actual time was 4 hrs 2 min. He was busted for the lie by Runner’s World magazine and lamely said, it was a long time ago. Who lies about something like that? Who doesn’t remember their marathon time? Guys who play sports in high school or college can tell you the score of every game they played in and who scored what. Like a said, who lies about their time for running a marathon, especially by shaving off more than an hour, and especially in an interview with Runner’s World? Nobody you admire, I’ll bet.

  3. Why don’t we hear or see the mainstream media doing more fact checking? It appears that they believe that endless, predictable, repetitive “analysis” by various pundits or experts makes for better shows than journalistic examinations of what is true or untrue. And they are probably correct. In a country where many TV viewers choose to watch reality shows about unattractive people following scripts, fake emotions, especially outrage, makes for higher ratings. Too bad for the health of the republic. So thanks for linking us to some real fact checkers, Richard.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s