On the Serious Politics of Lying
By: Bob Minor
It's silly season. And it would be laughable if elections weren't downright serious.
We're about to see the worst of politics. It's been building all summer, but now the money really flows. So, here we go.
"Awash in money" is an understatement as the 1% bids for owning the political winners. The system is drowning in corporate and billionaire's contributions. As cowboy-comedian Will Rogers, Jr, put it generations ago: "We've got the best Congress money can buy."
Not telling the truth has always been a part of politics, but we can expect the outright lies from the right-wing to increase to a level never seen before. And when someone points out the lie, we can expect them to continue and do it blatantly.
There's no penalty in the mainstream media. Even if it's a known lie, when repeated long enough, it becomes just another opinion treated as equal to fact-based claims.
It's unusual to find anyone in the mainstream media who is any help. If it weren't for the evening lineup on MSNBC, there'd be no TV personality willing to question what's said.
The right-wing has intentionally learned how to bully the media by repeatedly labeling them as liberal. Now even that is too weak a bullying epithet for them. The official Republican language now labels them far left or far, far, left as well as socialist and Marxist.
In response, the major networks, CNN, NPR, and PBS have moved further to the right from any centrist positions they might have ever held in order to prove to the right-wing that they aren't partial. They can no longer tell the truth and so must create false equivalencies as if "both sides" are constant liars.
To claim that fundraisers thrown by Tom Hanks, Bill Maher, or Rob Reiner are on par with those thrown by right-wingers like the corporate baron Koch brothers or casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson is just plain idiocy. The Hollywood stars want marriage equality, health insurance for all, funding for public education, and social safety nets, while the corporatists are buying legislation to put more billions in their own pockets with little regard for whom it hurts.
In fact, the right-wing believes that hurting people is good for the losers. It creates character or is just payment for deficiencies in the lives of the sufferers.
Reporters worry about losing access to their right-wing sources. So the most of them won't follow-up by challenging claims from politicians sitting right in front of them, looking them in the eye while repeating distractive and proven-false talking points.
So-called fact-checking organizations are also bullied and so aren't always frank in order to appear "fair," acting as if "both sides" are equally culpable. No matter how it's not factually true that FOX and MSNBC are equivalent liars, we've been taught by the right-wing that the sophisticated position is to look down from above the fray and say that both sides "do it."
It's as if the moral high ground is wishy-washy. And the so-called pundits are therefore required to search for some way to peer down with scorn from "fair and balanced" towers upon people with fact-based stands.
The Karl Rove Super-PAC money is on the way – more than ever. It will be impossible to watch TV without seeing some lie told by Rove's studios about Democrats.
FOX News will continue to be the voice of the right-wing of the Republican Party and the exclusive source of what's not going on to the base that doesn't think there are facts anymore. They too are masters of lies and fabrications.
Now, it's against many people's natures to call someone a liar. It feels nicer, kinder, and even more winsome to find other ways of interpreting lies.
We've often been taught not to say the word lie. We've been cautioned to try to understand the liar instead, put ourselves in their shoes, not be offensive.
But the political lies we're being told are not harmless little fibs. They're intentional and meant to keep the power of the liars in place. They protect the powerful and lead to suffering and even death for the rest.
The lies being told about healthcare reform, we know, will result in 45,000 more Americans dying this year. The lies being told about wars will result in thousands more deaths this year. The lies being told about LGBT people resulted in at least thirty murders in 2011, the highest number ever.
We can't be in denial about this. We must get over our shock that the right-wing lies.
This does not mean that the rest of us are always truth tellers. It means that the lies right-wing leaders are telling are consciously so.
They know they are. Even when confronted by that fact, they repeat them for their purposes. Even right-wing religious people believe that it's okay to tell a lie if it promotes their own sectarian Truth.
We can't turn our heads. We can't live off of our privileged positions and act as if lies don't matter because they aren't hurting us personally right now.
We must be truth-tellers. That doesn't mean we have to be mean, but we have to make sure that we express our view of how things are.
We can't act as if all views are equally valid either. We have to stand for something.
We can't afford to turn away or turn inward. If we do, when the lies do come down on us we will be alone while we face the consequences.
We have to present a model of beliefs for which we stand. We must act as if we mean it and it's important, or we're telling people it doesn't really matter.
We can't afford to be relativists, thinking that all views are equally right. Relativism, too, is a privileged position that supports those who already have the power to maintain the status quo.
The oppression of others is always evil. And lies supporting it are just plain reprehensible - and often deadly.
Robert N. Minor, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas, is author of When Religion Is an Addiction, and Scared Straight: Why It's So Hard to Accept Gay People and Why It's So Hard to Be Human and Gay & Healthy in a Sick Society. Contact him at www.fairnessproject.org.
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