The religious and political right-wing has learned that if you repeat lies over and over, eventually people will believe them and the mainstream media will repeat the lies as if they are just as respectable as the truth. Especially when the opposition is too afraid to call them lies.
How many times do we hear the lie repeated even in “the paper of record,” The New York Times, which reported otherwise at the time, that Saddam Hussein kicked the UN weapons inspectors out of Iraq?
How many times do we hear one of the Bush administration’s biggest lies repeated: “Everyone thought Iraq had WMD’s.” The UN weapons inspectors didn’t. Former inspector Scott Ridder didn’t. The whole anti-war movement didn’t.
How much repetition will it take before we believe one of the latest Bush lies: “No one anticipated the breach of the levies.”
Is it only Al Franken who’ll label them Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them? Is the best the right-wing can do to someone who labels right-wing lies lies to say that they’re just as radical as — horror of horrors — Michael Moore?
They know it works and they know that most liberals are too scared to say so. When a Democrat does come close, the right-wing knows how easy it is to scare Democratic leadership right back into Republican-lite.
One of the most persistent liars is critiqued in the Winter 2005 edition of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s always hard-hitting investigative journal, Intelligence Report. He’s the junk researcher whose lies about LGBT people are repeated ad nauseam, but effectively, by right-winger preachers and politicians looking for cover to cloak their obsessive prejudices against LGBT people.
Two articles, “The Fabulist” and “Garbage In Garage Out,” take on professionally discredited right-wing darling Paul Cameron. It’s not the first national organ to expose the 66 year old chairman of the Family Research Institute, who has had to pay off publishers to have dozens of discredited “studies” in vanity journals with no peer review processes such as Psychological Reports.
The fact that he lies is not only worth repeating but demands repetition to counter his on-going drumbeat of deceptions. We must remind everyone regularly that Cameron, as the New Republic reported on October 3, 1994, “is the architect of unreliable ‘surveys’ that purport to show strains of violence and depravity in gay life.” Otherwise Cameron’s “professional sham” will become mainstream opinion.
Thrown out of both the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association for misrepresenting his findings, Cameron’s gory pseudo-statistics on gay sexual activity and death rates are still popular. It doesn’t matter to the bigoted that the American Sociological Association determined: “Dr. Cameron has consistently misinterpreted and misrepresented sociological research on sexuality, homosexuality, and lesbianism.”
You can assume that if you hear any statistics that contribute to the oppression of LGBT people, even from less suspect sources, they’ve come originally from the pseudo-science of Paul Cameron. His latest claim is that gay sex is more dangerous than smoking. So, expect to hear that mantra from the religious right.
Dr. John Whiffen, the chair of the board of the right-wing National Physicians Center for Family Resources, already has no moral compunctions with repeating Cameron’s lies. Intelligence Report quotes Whiffen: “It’s fairly well-accepted that smoking is not a good idea. It takes seven years off your life. It appears that male homosexuality takes more than that off your life.”
Science is prejudiced, the right-wing says, but not Paul Cameron, because he says what the right-wing wants to hear. And the right-wing is so convinced of its religious and moral superiority that it has no interest in anything other than what it wants to hear. President Bush isn’t alone in his rejection of any facts that don’t support his ideology.
Coupled with the idea that it’s okay to cheat and steal from the devil, lying is often a first response from the religious and political right-wing. It’s often second nature.
While the world watched, Pat Robertson told his Christian Broadcasting Network audience on Monday, August 22, 2005: “You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he [Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who’s standing against US imperialism in Venezuelan oil fields] thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.”
On the following Wednesday his first reaction to mounting criticism was simply to lie about the whole thing. He was — he thought he could get away with saying — “misinterpreted.” He blamed someone else. It was the fault of the Associated Prress, even though his statement was recorded on his own 700 Club.
“I said our special forces should, quote ‘take him out,’ and ‘take him out’ can be a number of things, including kidnapping,” Robertson lied, sporting that smile that charms the millions of supporters who rely on his distribution network for the religious fix that makes them feel they’re on the side of the angels.
But Robertson couldn’t sustain this deception in the name of his god for long. There were too many people who knew what he had said, and who refused to be silent. They may have covered up past offensive statements, but he was caught. After another day of criticism, on August 25, Robertson apologized, admitting he had said it but not apologizing for the fact that he had then lied to the country: “Is it right to call for assassination? No, and I apologize for that statement,” Robertson said.
Politically, right-wing Republicans were elected to government office believing government is evil, the cause of our problems, not a means of helping US citizens. We need, right-wing operative Grover Norquist said, “to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”
From this group we’d expect lies, deception, cheating, and all sorts of lobbying evils. They feel justified as if they’re fighting a greater evil.
But this can only happen because people enable it. They refuse to call these lies because that’s not a nice thing to say and it might offend the liars themselves. Enablers allow even big lies to become believable truths.
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Kansas where he taught for 33 years and was department chair for six years, Robert N. Minor (he/him), M.A., Ph.D is the author of 8 books as well as numerous articles and contributions to edited volumes. He is an historian of religion with specialties in Biblical studies, Asian religions, religion and gender and religion and sexuality. His writing has been published in Whosoever since 2005 and he continues to speak and lead workshops around the country. In 1999 GLAAD awarded him its Leadership Award for Education, in 2012 the University of Kansas named him one of the University’s Men of Merit, in 2015 the American Men’s Studies Association gave him the Lifetime Membership Award, and in 2018 Missouri Jobs with Justice presented him with the Worker’s Rights Board Leadership Award. He resides in Kansas City, Missouri and is founder of The Fairness Project.