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Monday, July 26, 2010

Mexican Invaders and the Endless Gullibility of Wingnuts

Barack Obama is an illegal alien, Al Franken stole the 2008 Minnesota election for US Senate from Norm Coleman with the illegal votes of felons, "death panels"... I'm constantly amazed by the endless gullibility of wingnuts. It doesn't seem to be a case of how much truth there is to a story, but of how badly they want it to be true. While "too good to be true" is a red flag for most people, the concept of "too bad to be true" is a foreign concept for far too many. I tend to avoid rightwing blogs for two reasons, the first being the best; I don't see any reason to let someone lie to me. But the second reason is that I find the open-mouthed credulousness in the comment threads as infuriating as I do depressing. I'll check out rightwing blogs if they're referred to by more trustworthy sources or if something's getting a lot of play on Memeorandum. As I'd imagine most political bloggers do, I keep an eye on Memeorandum to see what stories are getting traction in the blogosphere.

And so it was that my faith in the chumpitude of the wingnut universe was reinforced. Memeorandum lit up with a particularly crazy story. A backwater site called Diggers Realm reported that a Mexican drug gang called "Los Zetas" (shouldn't that be "Las?") had invaded Texas and taken over "at least two ranches in the Laredo, Texas area." The first clue that this was BS: it was described as a "bloodbath," despite also reporting that "the owners of the ranches have evacuated without being harmed." This whole border war was totally confirmed -- according to Digger -- by a Minuteman racist and two sources in the Laredo police department. The story quickly went viral, with rightwing blogs and twitter going crazy over the thing, despite the fact that not a single credible news source had verified anything -- or even reported anything.

And, of course, it turned out that the whole thing was BS.

Laredo Morning Times reported [that link is iffy, by the way. Sometimes you get a login page. I think it's a bandwidth problem], "[O]fficials with the Laredo Police Department, Webb County Sheriff’s Department and Border Patrol said they knew nothing about such an incident, while Erik Vasys, an FBI spokesman in San Antonio, said the agency does not comment on rumors... Investigator Jose E. Baeza, LPD spokesman, said he had not heard anything about the incident. Also, an LPD sergeant, who was on duty as a watch commander Saturday afternoon, said she had not heard anything about it either." So it was another rightwing hoax.

Having had their story shot down, the wingnuts did not stop believing. Truth is no impediment to faith. The story didn't become, "why did we believe some blogger no one ever heard of?" Instead, the story became, "why is the mainstream media covering it up?"

If you've been paying attention to the right for any length of time, you've seen this happen over and over and over. It's all too familiar -- after a claim or a hoax is shot down, wingnuts go out of their way to defend it. How long can they do this?

How long have there been creationists? So about that long, at least.

In fact, they go to great lengths to defend their belief in hoaxes. Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs breaks down the effort, in the case, in the right's defense of Andrew Breitbart's latest hoax and FOX's coverage of it:

By now, you can predict right wing tactics almost to the letter. Whenever Fox News, a Tea Party group, or a Congressman from Texas is caught saying or doing something stupid, misogynist, racist, or kinky, the tactic is: pick out an irrelevant or minor point in the criticism that can be portrayed as inaccurate or wrong in some way, then relentlessly hammer away at it while ignoring any and all substantive issues. This minor point will often involve a deliberate misrepresentation of the criticism, as well...

The talking point on which Fox settled very early was that they had not even mentioned the Sherrod story on air before she resigned from the USDA. And while this may be true, it’s a perfect example of the Minor Point Maneuver. Sherrod was forced to resign very quickly, so the events actually beat Fox News -- but when Fox did begin covering the story, their reports were identical to Andrew Breitbart's original post at Big Government, enthusiastically branding Sherrod and the NAACP as "obvious" racists as they showed the edited video over and over.

As he points out, it misrepresents the critics; the complaint isn't about when FOX began covering the story, but how they covered it. And they covered it badly. Worse, the tilt FOX put on the story was entirely predictable. But now people are picking up FOX's banner and even insisting that Breitbart was right all along -- Shirley Sherrod is racist.

What can we do about all this? Not much. It's a free country and you can be as stupid as you want to be. But the media should know (hell, they do know) that the rightwing blogosphere is a BS factory and a hothouse for lunatics. And you should know it too. These people live in an alternate universe where all the proof you need is how much you want something to be true. Read it if you must, but don't ever believe a word of it.


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