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Friday, July 27, 2012

Scott Brown, Mitt Romney, and Expelling Truth from Politics

Since the comments and ratings have been disabled, we have no way of knowing whether Scott Brown's new reelection ad has gone viral in a good way or a bad way. I suspect it's probably six of one and half a dozen of the other. It doesn't have the absurdity that other viral ads bring to mind, but that doesn't mean it's not ridiculous.

The big problem with Brown's ad is that it hitches a ride on Mitt Romney's "you didn't build that" smear. And undermines that same smear.

"Just as Romney’s Web video does, the audio is edited to remove the chunk of the speech in which Obama talks about our 'great American system' and 'roads and bridges,' misleading listeners into believing that the 'didn’t build that' line was an insult to business owners," writes Greg Sargent. "Any listener would reasonably conclude that the language quoted above is exactly as Obama delivered it."

But then Brown includes the words of the woman vying for his Massachusetts Senate seat, Elizabeth Warren -- and Warren supplies the context that Romney's smear cuts out. In fact, it was that speech by Warren that Obama borrowed from in his own speech. The lie only works if the context is removed, which means that Brown is presenting the absolute, 100%, undeniable truth that goods travel by road as an attack on free enterprise.


And this is pretty disturbing. The Republican Party began moving into its present post-truth phase when Rush Limbaugh whipped up Clinton Derangement Syndrome. This post-truth attitude cemented itself into the base with charlatans like Glenn Beck. It's moved into the political system with fringe nuts like Michele Bachmann -- and now it's infected moderates like Brown.

What's happened is that we've reached a stage of taboo truths. Yes, goods do travel on roads. And yes, people who get rich selling goods do get rich using public tax dollars in the form of those roads. But no, you aren't allowed to say that. It's heresy to the myth of the Self-Made Man and must never, ever be uttered. Romney and Brown can't answer Warren's and Obama's argument, so Brown takes Romney a step further -- don't change the context, but censor the argument. Talking about the commons is something no Patriotic American should ever, ever do and that little bit of truth is now politically taboo -- like pointing out that burning a flag is a celebration of freedom in the form of free speech, not a condemnation of it.

When you get people into this post-truth mindset, you can get them to believe (or insist they believe) anything. Sure, argument X sure sounds convincing, but no Good American Patriot would ever think such a thing. It may be true, but you aren't allowed to think or say it. This is a frame of mind more suited to North Korea than a free nation.

And this frame of mind explains this:

Pew finds that despite being as constantly debunked as birtherism, the "Obama's a secret Muslim" conspiracy theory is not only strong among Republican voters, but grows stronger the more often it's debunked. Why?

"I suppose it’s possible that if Pew asked these folk if Obama was a Zoroastrian, an Animist, or a devil-worshiper, the numbers would be similar. Anything that sounds vaguely bad sounds vaguely good as a description for Barack Obama," explains Ed Kilgore.

In other words, if it's something that sounds like it'd hurt Barack Obama politically, then it's politically correct to believe it -- or, at least, espouse it. So, Obama's a Christian? That belief is taboo to conservatives. Employers, not consumers, are "job creators?" Well, the math doesn't really work but if Reagan said so... Businesses use roads that taxpayers provide? You take that back!

I'd almost prefer that conservatives were actually brainwashed cultists -- then all this selective believing wouldn't be their own fault. Giving up independent thought and even the acceptance of truth isn't what free people do. And as much as they wave around the flag and use words like "liberty" as buzzwords, it's becoming clearer and clearer that conservatives don't want to be free people.

Of course, I'm probably not allowed to say that.


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