Two of the most notorious right-wing memes of the past year were exposed for their complete lack of credibility last week. Indeed, it turns out that two of the talking point bonanzas employed by conservative activists, pundits, on up to the GOP leadership were either, severely misrepresenting the facts, or entirely contrived.
First, an investigation into circumstances surrounding the “Climategate” scandal didn’t reveal what climate science skeptics had hoped. British lawmakers released their findings March 31:
The 14-member parliamentary committee said in its report it had found nothing to challenge the “scientific consensus” that global warming is occurring and influenced by human activity. It also declared that the scientific reputation of Phil Jones, the head of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), remains “intact.”
The second debunking came from California’s Attorney General, Jerry Brown Jr. He had been investigating ACORN’s California operations at Governor Schwarzenegger’s behest following Sept. 2009 release of James O’Keefe’s notorious “pimp” videos:
Evidence obtained by Brown tells a somewhat different story, however, as reflected in three videotapes made at ACORN locations in California. One ACORN worker in San Diego called the cops. Another ACORN worker in San Bernardino caught on to the scheme and played along with it, claiming among other things that she had murdered her abusive husband. Her two former husbands are alive and well, the Attorney General’s report noted. At the beginning and end of the Internet videos, O’Keefe was dressed as a 1970s Superfly pimp, but in his actual taped sessions with ACORN workers, he was dressed in a shirt and tie, presented himself as a law student, and said he planned to use the prostitution proceeds to run for Congress. He never claimed he was a pimp.
“The evidence illustrates,” Brown said, “that things are not always as partisan zealots portray them through highly selective editing of reality. Sometimes a fuller truth is found on the cutting room floor.”
It’s worth noting that critics of ACORN and CRU will find a number of items within the above mentioned reports to support their arguments. The California AG report, for example, “uncovered ‘likely violations’ of state law, including dumping 500 pages of confidential records into a dumpster…” CRU was chastised within the parliamentary committee report “for what they said was a culture of withholding information…” Finding these examples insufficient for provoking outrage, O’Keefe and his patrons, as well as the CRU hackers, invented the controversies which would have the desired, scandalous, effect.
Rachel Maddow nailed it during her April 2 broadcast: “What we are dealing with here is the unmooring of politics from facts.”
The activists pushing the ACORN scandal knew it was fake. After all, they faked it. But it made a political impact anyway, so they win, right?
The climate-gate scandal, not an actual challenge to the homogenous consensus of decades of climate science but it could have a political impact, so go for it. It might work.
If the triumph of fake politics or advantage gleaned from stuff that’s not real – and who cares if it’s not real or if it has a political impact?
Maddow follows this with an exhaustive list of similar conservative memes, past and present, all of them divorced from reality, and often peripheral to the political issues which they’re intended to impact.
Here’s the clip. More after the jump:
What’s most tragic about the fraudulent claims against ACORN and CRU is that they were wildly successful. Perhaps it’s an indicator that ACORN didn’t possess a fraction of the influence critics credited them, but ACORN is no more. And thanks to just a handful of misrepresented documents, global warming deniers feel fully justified sticking their heads a little deeper in the sand.
While it’s satisfying for me to read and disseminate reports illustrating the false nature of such claims, I find it disheartening that the truth, particularly as it applies to ACORN, has come too late.
But, is it too late for the rest of us? Returning to the April 2 Maddow segment, she concluded by making a larger statement about the nature of dissent and its necessity in American politics:
Dissent is not the aberration in a democracy. Dissent is the norm. Our political vitality depends on dissent. No one expects that the president is going to have the whole country agree with his options and his priorities.
Nobody expects Americans to share the same political opinions.
But has there ever been a time when we shared so few political facts? Let’s argue. Let’s have the great American debate about the role of government and the best policies for the country. It’s fun. It’s citizenship. It’s activism. It makes the country better when we have those debates. And your country needs you. It needs all of us.
But two things disqualify you from this process: You can’t threaten to shoot people and you have to stop making stuff up.
Admittedly, I’m a fan, but I find her assessment to be an incredibly rational prescription, applicable to all regardless of ideological affiliation. Yet, the question remains: When propaganda masquerades as news, and more importantly, when it’s as successful as O’Keefe’s ACORN hatchet-job, how can we expect any rational debate to take place?
Editorial Cartoon, courtesy of AlexRaffi.com
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