Notice how GOP talking points persist even when refuted over and over with real facts? Today many commentators are registering amazement at rightwing blogger Eric Erickson's blithe response to facts that undercut his contentions. After Erickson asserted that everyday reality contradicted Ben Bernake's claims that inflation is not rising, Paul Krugman pointed out, citing the requisite facts and figures, that it really, honestly isn't rising, to which Erickson responded cavalierly:
Seriously, Paul's point is correct, but it is an issue of perception of people versus the reality of his chart. He can certainly go tell people milk prices haven't gone up, but good luck getting them to believe him.
In other words, Erickson doesn't think facts matter. As Steve Benen puts it:
Erickson's point to Byers seems to be that perception is reality. A Nobel laureate can tell folks the price of milk and bread has been stable, but if people don't believe the facts, the facts don't matter.Benen adds:
Erickson is effectively saying his role as a media professional is irrelevant -- people will simply perceive truths whether they're consistent with the facts or not. Sure, Erickson could provide the public with facts, but good luck getting them to believe them.Benen, although essentially correct, is, however, missing the real point. Erickson is simply affirming a significant conservative project which is the creation of a counterfactual universe that protects right wing ideology and the partisan politics that serves it. Just considering a few recent political stories brings up several examples of the gap -make that a chasm - between what animates rightwing political discourse and what constitutes reality.
First up is the manufactured "scandalmania" that has generated reams of media coverage and justified hours of overheated GOP rhetoric. Of course, as progressive commentators pointed out all along, Benghazi was a lot of hot air, and the IRS scandal seems to have been no more than the result of overworked, understaffed IRS staff to create some short-cuts by profiling both Tea Partiers and Progressives. A silly waste of time, yet, as Ed Kilgore points out, it's part and parcel of a world view created by rightwing media and cooperative GOP politicians that reflexively casts governance by the other party as essential scandalous by promoting "the broader 'narrative' of an arrogant socialist political leader overstepping his boundaries."
For another example, think back to last week when the GOP-dominated House of Representatives passed a restrictive abortion bill that hinged on a false fetal pain narrative. The assertion that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks is widely rejected by the medical profession; the meme stubbornly persists, however, among conservatives, bolstered by the familiar references to misinterpreted or discredited, research:
The junk science of fetal pain, for example, hinges almost exclusively on factsheets and testimony that cherry pick quotations about the development of neural pain receptors in the fetus, rather than on comprehensive scientific literature.If you have a strong stomach, take a look at this response to President Obama's speech last Tuesday outlining initiatives to combat gloal warming. Somebody is seriously misinformed or outright lying. Not a surprising reaction, though, given that so many politicians are willing to cite junk science to justify labeling anthropogenic global warming a hoax.
The use of sensationalized reporting and junk science to create a false narrative and discredit actual facts is nothing new. It dates back to the early efforts to discredit scientific evidence that smoking could cause cancer. As late as 1980, the American Enterprise Institute, was willing to hire out its researchers to big tobacco for the sum of $25,000, producing "a study in support of the tobacco industry titled, Cost-Benefit Analysis of Regulation: Consumer Products. The study was designed to counteract "social cost" arguments against smoking by broadening the social cost issue to include other consumer products such as alcohol and saccharin."
The same tactics have been used for almost every contentious issue since then - that is, those issues that either agitate the GOP's corporate sponsors or its reactionary and change-addled base. Junk science, the advent of conservative media outlets, talk radio and Fox news, along with compliant pols have combined to create an alternative, conservative fantasyland to which a large portion of the public has enthusiastically subscribed.
It is important for progressives to realize that we are up against fantasists and the fools who believe them and that, while it is important to have the facts at hand and repeat them often, the best tools will be indifference and ridicule. Remember just how powerful Nancy Pelosi's dismissal of Michele Bachmann was yesterday? Erickson clearly doesn't care about the facts; he knows he doesn't have to. Progressives can't ignore the facts, but after we do our research, make our positions known, reference our authorities, we need to let the fools know that we see their foolishness and that we too, like Pelosi, "don't care" - we know we have the right of it - so to speak.