Friday, July 15, 2011

Republicans who make things up and the media who let them do it

I know there is almost nothing that should surprise us about the extent to which Republicans will lie about President Obama, but the boldness of it still amazes me. What amazes me more, though, is that there appear to be no consequences to making shit up. They just do it, nobody says a word, and it becomes a part of the public record.

It's one thing when it happens on Fox News, because Fox's mandate is to present an alternate universe in which lies and truth are fully interchangeable. We get that. But so many other media outlets simply accepts demonstrably untrue statements as just another point of view.

Well, no!!! Some statements can be supported or refuted by evidence. When a statement can be refuted by evidence apparent to any reasonable person, that's what logicians like to call "bullshit."

And, yes, on the other hand, some statements are not of the kind that can be proven true or false, but that's what first year university logic courses are supposed to teach us - or failing that, common sense. It's a pretty simply distinction.

Here's an example of Michele Bachmann making things up on a recent appearance on Fox News as described by Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly:

Here's the issue. The president doesn't want to have to be confronted with priorities in spending because he has a lot of chutzpah. He spent a trillion dollars on the stimulus. It failed. He spent a trillion-and-a-half every year on deficits. They're his. And, also, Obamacare -- trillions of dollars. This is his spending. He's got to own it and deal with it.

We wouldn't be in this crisis right now if he wouldn't have spent that trillion on stimulus and a trillion-and-a-half more than he should have on the budget and now trillions more on Obamacare. But for those trillions in spending, Greta, we wouldn't be in this mess we're in. We'd still be in a bad spot, but nowhere near the hole. That's why -- take the shovel out of the president's hand so we don't dig any deeper. That's what will happen if we raise the debt ceiling and why I am adamant against raising the debt ceiling.

As Benen notes, "every claim Bachmann made is demonstrably false":

She was wrong about the size of the stimulus. She was wrong about the size of the deficit. She was wrong about the cost of the Affordable Care Act (it actually reduces the deficit, by a lot). She was wrong about the efficacy of the Recovery Act.

And perhaps most importantly, even if the Recovery Act and the ACA never existed, we'd still need to raise the debt ceiling. If President Bachmann were in the Oval Office right now, the need for a higher limit would be unchanged. Blaming Obama may make strange right-wing activists and their misguided leaders happy, but it doesn't make it true.

The only way we wouldn't have to raise the debt ceiling in 2011 is if George W. Bush and his Republican allies hadn't added $5 trillion to the debt and left Obama with a $1.3 trillion deficit to clean up. But it's obviously too late for that.

I guess my point is that, in this case, the facts are about numbers, the kinds of numbers for which pretty good records are kept. It doesn't matter though, because Bachmann just says shit and the shit becomes a part of the narrative.

And I really don't care about Fox, because they never have been a news organization, but I would like the news outlets that still might have some pride in their craft to stop the next Republican in his or her tracks who says something about the president's policies that is demonstrably, refutably untrue and maybe asked them to source their statement.

I know it's a radical thought, but could you do that for me? I'd consider it a personal favor.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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