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Some of you are relatively new here.  You have have heard the phrase "reality-based community," and accepted it for its facial validity, without knowing where it comes from.  This diary is primarily, though not entirely, for you.

The phrase derives from this article by Ron Suskind in the New York Times Magazine, eight years and eleven days ago.  It's called "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush."  It shows, among other things, the awakening of the since-further-awakened Bruce Bartlett, but the deepest impact has been left by the following paragraphs:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

"We'll act again, creating other new realities."  And that brings us to Mitt Romney's campaign -- and to the critical question of the next nine days:

How do you get people not to believe something that an apparently respected source is telling them is true?

It's not easy to get people to believe that someone is lying to them as audaciously as Suskind's source proudly pledged to do.  Check that: it's not easy to get most people to believe it.  Some people, mostly (but not entirely) of the right wing, are primed to believe anything that their trusted leaders tell them -- "Obama's a socialist," "climate change is a myth" -- and we're not going to get their votes no matter what.  Thankfully, they are not quite yet a majority -- although our opponents are working on it.

Our problem is that we have to come pretty damn close to running the table of people who don't care about what's true, but only what's convenient and comfortable for them to believe.  How do we accomplish that?

In the wake of the disastrous 2010 election, I wrote a diary here entitled "GOP strategy: being worse than credibly believable" that addressed these issues.  I won't repeat its contents here, but it's there for you -- and it's probably better reading before an election than after one.  The thesis is that it's hard to get people to believe that the GOP is being as audacious in its lies as it really is -- because it goes against both social conventions and common sense.  "If they were lying and badly as you say," people logically respond, "wouldn't we have heard about it?"

Well, no -- not necessarily.  They wouldn't necessarily be have been paying attention and those whose job it is to spotlight the truth wouldn't necessarily be doing it well.

(Say that to people's faces, though, and they're insulted!  Furthermore, it makes you sound like a raving cultist.  See how clever this gambit is?)

To me, the Romney campaign is the application of Suskind's "make our own reality" from global politics to political campaigns.  Romney's thesis is that he is an empire that makes his own reality -- and that others are left trying to explain it after the fact.

I've finally come to grips with the first Presidential debate -- and I'm more forgiving to President Obama than most others are.  First, let's recognize that a lot of Romney's success wasn't simply a matter of his aggressive style -- it was a matter of substance.  He presented himself in that debate as a moderate Republican -- the sort of Republican that people were prepared to like.  President Obama wasn't ready for that -- because it should have been impossible for Romney to get away with it.  No matter how cynical you try to be, this gambit should have caused the system to crash.  We all knew, we've all joked, that Romney would eventually shake the Etch-a-Sketch -- but he hadn't.  He didn't do it after he won the nomination, he didn't do it at his convention, he didn't do it until just before the debate.  (And then after doing it, of course, he went back onto the campaign trail and pretended that he hadn't done it.)  Obama's failure was that he wasn't prepared for this audacious a level of contempt for the public.

Romney's gambit was insane, but it worked -- and it worked because it seemed to work.  From the moment that that bogus CNN/ORC poll (representing a population the nature of which we still don't know) came out saying that Romney had had the best Presidential debate EVER, the storyline was set.  The media did not go back and do what it should have done -- relentlessly juxtapose Romney's misrepresentations of fact with video of him saying the exact opposite thing for months (and years) before then.

Like the American Empire envisioned by the Bush advisor quoted by Suskind, success meant never having to face being called to account for what one had done.  "We create our own reality" -- and that's what Romney has done with respect to himself.  Half of the people can know that he's lying and be driven mad by his getting away with it -- but that doesn't matter, so long as the other half are with him.

So now I read diaries saying that Mitt has doubled down on the lie about Jeep job moving to China and other brazen lies and all I can think of is that quote from Suskind's source and the contempt, the Orwellian mindset, behind it.  "The truth doesn't matter; we create our own truth."

It's hard -- it violates such strong taboos -- for people who want to be taken seriously to accuse political opponents of such enormities.  But maybe, to be optimistic for a moment about something beyond Obama's likelihood of re-election, this will be a teachable moment.  We need to not let go of Romney after this election, after he loses.  We need to take those juxtapositions and rub his nose in them; we need to call to account those who agreed with the lies or failed in their jobs of identifying them; we need to teach the public to disbelieve what people like Romney say.

The recently departed George McGovern became an iconic target of sport for his supposedly simple-minded reflexive liberalism as a Presidential candidate.  Romney needs to become an iconic target for his contemptuous lying to the public.  Let us not be gracious and forgiving in victory; let the pursuit and depiction of his smugly faked sincerity be relentless, let there be no succor for him ever in the future.

We are at a sad moment in our national history where we must teach people to disbelieve what they are told by Republicans.  This doesn't come naturally to a generous and good-hearted audience, but it must be done.  This Romney campaign, this creation of it's own false reality -- let this, for years, be the core of our lesson plan.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Romney, ultimately, undermines our faith (31+ / 0-)

    in ourselves, in each other, and in the truth.  Political oblivion is too good for him.

    Pro-Occupy Democratic Candidate for California State Senate, District 29 & Occupy OC Civic Liaison.

    "I love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back." -- Saul Alinsky

    by Seneca Doane on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 01:05:06 PM PDT

  •  i don't know who suskind's "senior bush adviser" (6+ / 0-)

    was, but i've heard the same comments he quoted as being attributed to kkkarl rove.  the rw is famous for creating its own reality -- that's how fox noise came into being, afterall -- & romney's just the latest manifestation of that head game.

    doug coe, supreme spirtitual leader of the rw "family," put it best (imo) when he said, "we work with power where we can & create it where we can't."

    sound familiar?

    •  Coe was ultimately a Mammon-worshiper. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Seneca Doane, cotterperson

      Mammon = the god of worldly wealth and power.  

      So in strictly Christian terms, he's worse than a heretic: he's a devotee of evil.  

      "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

      by G2geek on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 06:47:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  That quote is why my name here is what it (7+ / 0-)

    is.  I was so outraged by that gang of dunces thinking they were so clever I was beside myself. They should all be consigned to the garbage heap of history (or marched naked up and down main streets across America)

  •  Well done, Seneca Doane. (5+ / 0-)

    What the Republicans have done is sick---unbelievably sick---and monstrously wrong.  To destroy deliberately and with malice the most basic values of Truth and Integrity is evil.  Pure evil.   This is a battle for the very soul of our country.  There can be no retreat, no surrender.   The Romney campaign is living proof of how despicable these people are and the lengths to which they'll go to gain absolute control and power over the citizens of this country.  

    We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both. Louis D. Brandeis

    by 3goldens on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 01:24:50 PM PDT

  •  The lying has become a tribal rite of passage. (6+ / 0-)

    Republicans proving their loyalty by hewing to the party line in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

  •  It will take unrelenting action on our part, to (5+ / 0-)

    overcome their "reality" with reality. It won't be enough to just beat Romney, we will need to continue the campaign to bring truth back to the media.
    We need to shatter the illusions of all those who vote for the gop.
    They will attempt to persist, and there will be those who do not accept their defeat. Some of those people have guns. We should be prepared for what's coming after the election.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    by David54 on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 01:28:46 PM PDT

    •  and some of our people do too. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Seneca Doane, cotterperson

      Let's not give in to the "some of them have guns" meme.  There are more than enough progressives out there who ferociously support the 2nd Amendment, to deter anyone who gets it in their head to start Civil War II.  Deterrence keeps the peace.  

      And the FBI has an excellent track record of busting terrorists who are seeking to commit murder and mass casualty attacks.  Even the Hutarees, who plotted to literally start Civil War II by first killing some cops and then slaughtering the people who showed up for their funerals:  Though they were ultimately acquitted on the basis that their criminal conspiracy was merely "freedom of speech" up to the point where they would have pulled the trigger, the fact is that busting them broke up the plot, and they will never be able to carry out their plans.

      Effective law enforcement is the first line of defense against right-wing terrorists and would-be assassins.  Deterrent strength is the backup system.  Extremists will lose.  And we should be confident of that.

      "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

      by G2geek on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 07:08:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think there will be even a modestly (0+ / 0-)

        organized "insurrection" unless there's another crackpot group like the Hutaree in some trailer park somewhere.
        I think law enforcement can handle most of that.
        I do think there will be the sore loser dog whistle and that there will be an uptick of the individuals who hear it and "go off".
        On the other hand, hopefully the right will be demoralized and the gop will engage in a civil war over who's to blame for their loss, and that will dominate their world for a while.

        You can't make this stuff up.

        by David54 on Mon Oct 29, 2012 at 01:47:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great stuff... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane, cotterperson, G2geek

    Your title (dating myself and identifying eccentricities here) recalls MC 900-Foot Jesus' "Truth Is Out of Style"

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 01:28:49 PM PDT

  •  I'll never forget that. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, Seneca Doane, G2geek

    And yet there are many on our side that will argue that it is not a conspiracy, even with such evidence.

    We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.

    by PowWowPollock on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 01:44:21 PM PDT

    •  the brazen words of an evil totalitarian. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Seneca Doane, cotterperson

      The idea that one can create and change reality to suit oneself, is the core belief of totalitarianism.  

      Rove's words as quoted in the diary, are pure distilled essence of evil.  In effect they boil down to "we have total power, and you are totally powerless to stop us."

      But the fact is that in the end we did stop them.  We put the brakes on in 2006 by electing a Democratic Congress, in which Nancy Pelosi was able to bog down the Bush Administration in a quagmire of go-slow and polite obstruction.  And we derailed the dynasty by electing Obama in 2008.  

      But the real test of this is coming in a little over a week.  An Obama victory will effectively destroy the credibility of the Bush/Romney/neocon meme-set.  Republicans will be forced to deal with reality as-it-is, rather than as they wish it to be.  Perhaps out of that will come a reformed and reformulated Republican party that is once again grounded and capable of making rational policies.  The ultimate outcome for Republican politics remains to be seen, but the next step is up to us in a matter of days.

      "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

      by G2geek on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 07:16:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Media must be held to account (4+ / 0-)

    Turn off your TVs. Cancel your cable. When you buy a cable package, you're supporting that pollution of our public discourse with Republican propaganda.

    The media is primarily responsible for the fix we're in. Not only do they let Republicans get away with lying, they aid and abet it.

    NPR is only marginally less bad.

  •  A rule of thumb: (4+ / 0-)

    Every word that falls from a Republican's mouth is a lie.  Every day.  All the time.  

    That's not rhetoric.  For me, it's the escape route away from being  "left to just study what [Republicans] do.''

    You've done a great service by writing this diary.  I think about this topic often.  It's a bit of a grandiose exaggeration for neocons to pretend that the propaganda they produce is more than it is. Their efforts are comprehensive and they offer a synthetic reality that a receptive audience willingly adopts.  It seems like reality but it's a product that can't substitute for reality.  

    Individuals experience their own personal reality.  Today it's as if a segment of the population is forgoing their personal reality for the manufactured one.  There are some problems with this.  It's contradictory to the individualism conservatives profess.  Over time it seems that cognitive abilities begin to atrophy.

    It would be interesting to hear some useful suggestions to:

    "call to account those who agreed with the lies or failed in their jobs of identifying them; we need to teach the public to disbelieve what people like Romney say."

    "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves." - Abraham Lincoln

    by leftreborn on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 02:44:30 PM PDT

  •  People who think they can Will themselves (4+ / 0-)

    into a "new reality" are incapable of pragmatic problem-solving, so their failures just multiply until they drown in them.  

    With the world's most highly educated, industrialized, and militarized state under his obedient control, Hitler managed to dodge reality for only 9 years before it became clear the Third Reich was fucked.  Bush ran smack into reality in only 5 years, with Hurricane Katrina.  

    Let's work on reducing that timeline to instantaneous smackdown so these perverts don't have a chance to get into power in the first place.  That said, there was some diabolical insight in the aide's Nazi-esque comment - we do have a tendency to prefer passive observation over active interference, and sometimes we take that tendency to ridiculous and self-emasculating extremes.

    Voter suppression is treason.

    by Troubadour on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 03:56:28 PM PDT

    •  amen to that on all counts. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Seneca Doane, cotterperson

      YES we need to make the feedback cycle on totalitarian remarks and acts as close to instantaneous as possible.  Though the extreme right controls the radio and TV, we are stronger in cyberspace, and the demographics are with us on this.  

      YES we do have a tendency toward passivity: and nowhere has that been more evident than in the breathlessness over polling results.  But the future doesn't just "happen," and "happenstance" is not a stance.  We make the future, and we need to be in a fighting stance.  

      "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

      by G2geek on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 07:23:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Unfortunately, when Romney wins, (3+ / 0-)

    this real-life incarnation of Orwellian reality control will be validated, vindicated and rewarded. This is how elections in America will be won from now on: Create whatever fictional narrative around and about your opponent that you want, without limitation, and spend uncountable dollars to get people to believe it, accept it, internalize it, and repeat it. It will normalize the most heinous, dishonest, cynical, destructive, deplorable four-year political strategy in U.S. history.

  •  1st rule of Fetus Club - don't talk about Fetus (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson

    Club.......great piece from Jon Stewart recently.

  •  Very little to add to this insightful diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Seneca Doane, cotterperson

    and equally insightful comments beside the obvious:

    The whole concept of creating their own reality and doubling-down on on a narrative of lies is scary as hell and a menace to the political process and the country's future.

    Romney must lose first. Second - He needs to pay for his horribly insulting and dangerous campaign behavior.

    T&R

    Perhaps one day the Fourth Estate will take their jobs seriously. Or not..

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 06:33:05 PM PDT

  •  the Inverse Hippies and Inverse Radicals: (3+ / 0-)

    I have a hypothesis about these neocons.

    During the 1960s and 1970s, when hippies and radicals were out challenging laws and institutions and even ontology, the young neocons were busy being total conformists in every way.  

    Then they grew up and along the way their missing youth caught up with them.  They started having their rebellious phase.

    As the inverse of the 60s - 70s radicals, they started breaking the law on an enormous scale: not with sit-ins and civil disobedience and occasional riots, but with the insidious and corrosive and destructive lawbreaking committed from positions of power.  

    As the inverse of the 60s - 70s hippies, they started escaping reality on an enormous scale: not by taking too much LSD, but by joining religious cults (dominionism) and by denying science in a manner that even the most science-skeptical of the hippie generation would say has gone all the way to insanity.  

    And whereas the 60s - 70s also saw the rise of "Jesus freaks," whose new style of Christianity was for the most part progressive, the neocon religious cult is at its core a form of Mammon-worship: not just heretical but the overtly evil worship of power.  

    "Minus two votes for the Republican" equals "plus one vote for the Democrat." Arithmetic doesn't care about their feelings either!

    by G2geek on Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 07:33:27 PM PDT

    •  Fun to enrage & bully; & how else to screw 99%? (0+ / 0-)

      RightWing lying being so enraging to LeftWingers seems to be part of its attraction now, and of course brazen lying is an element in archtypical bullying, which can be fun as well as politically effective.

      From a purely rational perspective, if your policies are objectively bad for the majority of potential voters, then lying is difficult to avoid.  Also, when something is working so well, it is rational to continue doing it. Thus, much of the blame for RightWing lying goes to the MSM.

  •  Why hasn't Current TV had more impact? (0+ / 0-)

    Why hasn't Current TV had more impact?

    Does it need to bid on a major league sport?  

    Or does it need to be supplemented by Dkos TV?

    Or will cable TV (and radio) die out when every voter has an I-Phone on during every waking moment.

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