Sunday, September 01, 2002

Seeing The Forest is fuming about the "big lie" techniques used by the right in this faux-debate over those supposedly anti-American NEA study guides.

What get's me is that Mona Charen knows that the NEA didn't do what she's writing. She is lying, and knows it, and is getting paid well to repeat these lies because the end result is people believing bad things about the NEA, and "liberals." And all the others participating in this lie, like George Will and Ollie North and Rush Limbaugh and all the rest of this crowd. It is a lie. They know it is a lie. They are repeating it because focus groups have shown that this particular lie will stir up the public in certain lasting ways, and if they keep circulating lies like this the public becomes more inclined to vote Republicans into power so they can give big tax breaks and defense contracts to their cronies. And, of course, pay Mona Caren and the rest of them lots of money.

We know how this works. (Read "Blinded By the Right." This is from the guy that started the whole "Clinton Scandals" lie. He talks about how they do it, how much they're paid, and the people doing it. People like Ted Olson, rewarded by Bush with the job of Solicitor General of the United States.) We know that they circulate lies to achieve their political goals...

...How long can this character assassination/lie machine go on before enough of us are telling the rest of us what it is, making it ineffective? It worked on Carter and got Reagan elected. It kept Clinton from accomplishing very much. It got Bush elected. It threatens to take us into perpetual war now.
Well put, but I think that the author of the site, "Issuesguy", should remember that it's only some of these people who actually know that it's a lie; once the ball gets rolling, it can be considered truth (or "true enough") and therefore worth repeating. Someone like Will, or North, or Limbaugh might actually think that these charges are true, and are already predisposed to dismiss any attempts to debunk them as the actions of the hated liberals.

In fact, if I was going to lay a finger on the biggest problem of the "big lie", it's the latter aspect- the deliberate attempts to invalidate and discredit those who disagree. After all, any statement made publicly can be rebutted publicly, but the whole point of the thing is to sway the public... and how can the public be able to properly evaluate any argument if they've been conditioned to distrust the source? The problem isn't any single lie, or spin, or bias, or whatever. The problem is the attempts by people like Coulter and Hannity to preemptively discredit anybody who disagrees, using weak logic, base namecalling, and ludicrous strawmen.

It's not like the Blogosphere isn't prey to it either. Just look at the rabid, hateful, foaming rhetoric aimed at so-called "idiotarians" and ask yourselves what the purpose of that could possibly be. Is it to forward an argument? To advocate a position? Hardly. It's to discredit the opposition, so that readers will never give a fair reading to a dissenting voice. It's an attempt to win the argument before it begins... to use Sun Tsu-like tactics to ensure that battle is won before a sword is ever drawn from its scabbard.

IssuesGuy, if you want to change the way that people debate, the first and most important step is to deal with the ridiculous, hateful, and sickening rhetoric aimed at the left, the kind that neo-conservatives specialize in and that the left (both moderate and radical) has ignored and explained away for far too long. And yes, that includes people who, like Kaus, attempt to gain centrist cred by mocking those to the left of them, the worst scourge that both liberals and social democrats have facing them right now. Once people start treating liberal arguments fairly, rebutting the lies will take care of itself.

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