Saturday, October 13, 2012
How does it make you feel to know the next president is a deliberate liar?
by Larry Geller
Fact checking should be the routine work of journalists before they publish. Perhaps it never really was that way, but recently a whole new industry of fact-checkers has been born because the media don’t report the lies of our leaders. The score sheets are posted for all to see on the Internet.
Of course, few people will read the fact-check reports in comparison to the million sitting transfixed before their HDTV screens or who devoured the shallow newspaper accounts the next day.
Reviewing these fact-check reports makes me sad. Can it be that our leaders and would-be leaders are either totally clueless about matters of strong public concern? Or are they simply bald-faced liars?
Watching the recent vice-presidential debate, I was stunned to hear Ryan state that Social Security is bankrupt. It is not bankrupt, not even close. Now, Republicans have been circling Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid like vultures for some time, and if they sense that they may soon come to power, maybe they are deluded into thinking that Social Security is already carrion and are just licking their lips in anticipation of a bloody feast when they get into office.
One fact-check web page identified the lie:
In fact, if no changes are made, Medicare would still be able to meet 88 percent of its obligations in 2085. Social Security is fully funded for another two decades and could pay 75 percent of its benefits thereafter. There is also an easy way to ensure the program’s long-term solvency without large changes or cuts to benefits.
[ThinkProgress, At The Vice Presidential Debate: Ryan Told 24 Myths In 40 Minutes, 10/12/2012]
Now, whatever one says about Ryan, he is not an idiot. Most likely what he said about Social Security (and much else) is part of a strategy to win the election. No idiot himself, he’s counting on a good portion of the electorate to be idiots. This is sad. To think that it might work is even worse.
In other words, our leaders and potential leaders are not gullible, we are. And they know it.
Michael Moore uncovered a New York Times story from 1984 that identifies lying as a Republican strategy:
The Republicans are unabashed in their discussion of their ability to use the television medium.
"You can say anything you want during a debate and 80 million people hear it,'' observed Peter Teeley, press secretary to Vice President [George H.W.] Bush. If reporters then document that a candidate spoke untruthfully, ''so what?''
''Maybe 200 people read it or 2,000 or 20,000,'' he said.
I first became aware that presidents lie in high school when I heard a peace activist mention that Truman lied to the American people after bombing Hiroshima—he apparently claimed it was a military target.
I became aware at the same time that the American people don’t really care about the lies. The firebombing of Tokyo was similarly directed against the civilian population and killed far more people than the atomic bomb did. And there was Dresden. And so forth. What I had been taught in history class turned out to include some really big lies and also lies of omission.
Much later, we learned about Iran-Contra. Lies. Big lies. And WMDs in Iraq—lies recent enough to remember clearly.
So, ok, our government is run by a bunch of liars.
But now we have all these fact-checking organizations listing up the lies, half-truths and distortions of political candidates on both sides. Why don’t they stop their lying?
I have no answer. Michael Moore’s discovery of a Republican strategy to lie at will is as good as any.
Taking a step backward from the immediate question, probably this is what alpha males do in order to gain leadership. We share almost all of our DNA with the other big apes, so if alpha males employ deception to get ahead, what’s wrong with that? We may be programmed to accept whatever they do to gain leadership of the pack. Don’t we behave like monkeys? We accept the leadership of these alpha males while plotting rival actions to unseat them. Politicians even talk about scratching each others’ backs.
In many other counties, historically the path to leadership involves human slaughter. All we do every four years is buy into lies. So in a sense, perhaps we are a slightly advanced civilization (all our slaughter is overseas, I know, I know).
And buy into them we do. Check out your local newspaper. Editors are thrilled with the display Romney and Biden put on. Its as though the men were peacocks displaying their splendid feathers. The media loved the show. To heck with the lies.
If you care to check the depth of dishonesty that our media willingly accept, see your favorite fact-checking website, or:
- At Last Night’s Debate: Romney Told 27 Myths In 38 Minutes, (ThinkProgress, 10/4/2012) and ,
- At The Vice Presidential Debate: Ryan Told 24 Myths In 40 Minutes, (ThinkProgress, 10/12/2012