If one repeats the "Clinton said we should slow the economy" lie knowingly, he or she might as well be wiping a filthy ass with the First Amendment. It's a sick waste of a most precious right...
When we opt to reduce our political discourse to the intentional repetition of known misrepresentations because they "fit" our perspective or because we wish they were true, we're squandering free speech. We're shitting in the middle of the marketplace of ideas because we like the way our own waste smells.
Just in case you missed it... Jake Tapper of ABC News recently claimed that Bill Clinton thought the US should slow its economy to help battle global warming. The not-so-intrepid reporter provided a quotation from Clinton to prove his assertion. The quotation, however, was used out of context. Clinton actually mentioned the anti-growth argument and then proceeded to argue that such measures were not feasible.
If you need a recap of the story, you can find it here.
The ugliest outgrowth of Tapper's shoddy journalism and ham-fisted efforts to wheedle out of the lie was that the inaccuracy spread like wildfire. Fox News (no surprise here) picked up on the ABC headline and ran with it, failing to perform basic fact-checking. So did Rush Limbaugh (another non-shocker). So did Investor's Business Daily. Countless blogs unquestionably repeated the Tapper misrepresentation as fact, too. One such blog was Mike's America.
I mention Mike's America specifically because it appears as if its author visited yours truly and commented on the critique of Tapper's lousy work. Here's the comment:
"I can't blame you for being upset. Someone of Bill Clinton's stature finally let the cat out of the bag and revealed the real motives behind the global warming scam. And you can pussy foot around what Bill said all you want, but the money quote stands regardless of how you try and spin."
I thought I'd take a moment to respond to that comment while trying to make a bigger point about the quality of argument and the paucity of intellectual honesty displayed by those who are more interested in grinding political axes than in truth-seeking.
I'm not upset because Clinton revealed secret motives behind proposed policies to fight global warming. I know that some readers will automatically assume I'm a crazed radical lefty because I didn't embrace the Tapper story as fact, but that isn't the case. I'm not.
Personally, I'm not completely sold on the idea that we are really facing an imminent danger from climate change. I may lean that direction ever-so-slightly on some days, but it isn't Issue #1 for me by any stretch. Additionally, I tend to believe that any truly efficacious means of slowing carbon emissions probably would require slowing growth.
That doesn't, however, mean that Bill Clinton argued that a slowdown was necessary. Right or wrong, it was not his argument. Not even close. When blogs like Mike's America pretend that Clinton did say such things, they are lying or being lazy. Either way, it's obvious that Tapper's poor performance helped with the proliferation of misinformation.
I never did a bit of "pussy footing". I merely observed that Tapper offered an incredibly misleading report. That much, regardless of one's position on global warming and the economy, should be beyond argument at this point.
It is not tough to understand Tapper's misrepresentation. A number of people with basic reading comprehension skills quickly recognized the scent of Jake's bullshit and called him out.
It wasn't only the so-called "left" that winced at Tapper's lie (or lack of understanding, if you'd prefer to think him foolish instead of nefarious). Even some of the people who usually love to disparage Bill Clinton conceded that he never made the comment ABC alleged. Michelle Malkin, The National Review Online, and other self-described conservatives recognized the goof. Hell, even a Mike's America reader argued:
"I have to say, as much as I loathe Billy Jeff and all, ABC is misrepresenting what he said. Sure, he uttered the line about slowing down the economy, but he followed that with an explanation of why that's a bad idea.... The bottom line is that, for whatever reason, ABC actually played Clinton's 'slow down the economy' line unfairly. The journalist who printed this quote has admitted it was out of context. Even the National Review and Cato Institute have said this quote is not accurate."
No pussy footing, just a recognition that Clinton didn't say what Tapper claimed. When that reader of a conservative blog made the same observation, s/he was greeted with this response:
"We know what Clinton said. And the entire comment is linked in the post. But it would be nice if you dropped the links from Clinton/Soros groups trying to spin this and actually admit that the goal of global warming alarmists is to slow the growth of the U.S. economy. That’s in fact is their goal, whether or not you want to admit it. Readers will recall that we've warned time and again that global warming alarmist's first target is the U.S. economy."
This kind of intellectual dishonesty is disturbing to say the least. It's an intentional blur of two distinct issues that serves to confuse legitimate debate in hopes of buttressing a particular position.
Mike is willing to LIE about what Clinton said because he BELIEVES that Clinton's policies would produce a disadvantageous consequence. It's an intentional misrepresentation and a sick polluting of discourse for the advancement of a predetermined political end. Mike and others will repeat a lie because the lie fits their perspective.
If Mike's America is merely making a "Tapperian" error due to an inability to comprehend that which is otherwise obvious, it's sad. I don't think that's the case, though, I think Mike's America and hundreds of other people know better. They act as if they've read the full text of the Clinton speech. They just want to pretend as if the lie is true because it's convenient. Whether the motivation is merely a serious case of cognitive dissonance forcing rationalization to prevent a paradigmatic shift or an intentional effort at lying to score points, it's far more sick and twisted than just being stupid or lazy.
Not everyone plays that way, though. In addition to Malkin, et al., mentioned earlier, I found an example of a willingness to debate honestly over at Red Maryland. That blogger also reported the Tapper commentary as accurate while making a larger argument about the global warming debate (an argument that wasn't particularly friendly to environmental activists). When a reader noted that the Tapper story was a less-than-solid foundation for an attack on those who would make an effort to stave off warming, the blogger replied:
"I think you may be right on the Tapper quote being out of context. I am not use to the MSM playing these games with Dems. If so, I will print a retraction. However, I stand by the rest of the piece."
See how easy that was? Not too shabby, Red Maryland.
Others, though, will repeat what has been accurately referred to as a "zombie lie". What good does that repetition of nonsense do? Does it improve the quality of our discussion on issues? Does it clarify likely policy outcomes? Fuck no.
The intentional smear of reality by those who INTENTIONALLY repeat inaccuracies to gain advantage is disgusting. The fact that too many ostensibly decent information sources reflexively reprinted Tapper's conclusions as truth without even thinking about it is disturbing, but it probably stems more from laziness than anything else. That's something to bemoan, but it's even more sad to think people would intentionally lie merely to advance a cause.
It's okay to think that global warming is a scam. It's okay to believe that curbing warming would inevitably involve curbing economic growth. It's okay to believe that Clinton's preferred methods of preventing climate change would be economically foolish. We might not agree on all of those fronts, but we can have a legitimate discussion about them. When one decides to pretend (and it is utter make believe) that Clinton said we should decrease growth to solve warming, however, it's more about scoring political points in a half-assed effort at conservative punditry than it is about rational argument.
If one repeats the "Clinton said we should slow the economy" lie knowingly, he or she might as well be wiping a filthy ass with the First Amendment. It's a sick waste of a most precious right.
We have an ability (perhaps an obligation?) to create a meaningful marketplace of ideas. We can have strong and heartfelt debates on key issues and can used those arguments to direct our actions in smart ways. We can try to create a better country and a better world by seriously arguing our positions with the goal of finding real solutions.
When we instead opt to reduce our political discourse to the intentional repetition of known misrepresentations because they "fit" our perspective or because we wish they were true, we're squandering free speech. We're shitting in the middle of the marketplace of ideas because we like the way our own waste smells.
I will again heap shame on those, like Tapper, who are too lazy or dim-witted to make sense of simple arguments.
I heap even more shame on those who repeat the lies, not out of laziness, but with intention. That goes for those pretending a former President said something other than what he said. That goes for those who giggle while they spread known crap about Barack Obama being a closet Muslim hellbent on activating an anti-American sleeper cell. It goes for those who lied about John McCain's fictional illegitimate children. I'm not arguing against the right to be a horse's ass, I'm just opposed to it.
If point-scoring is more important than creating a better world for you, however, go ahead and repeat the lies.
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