Just saying something doesn’t make it so. Unless, apparently, you bloviate from the Right wing. Don’t get me wrong, there are idiots and fact-averse blowhards left, right, and center. It is particularly creepy, however, to see the culture of “don’t bother me with facts” that has become a replacement of logic on the Right. This culture started with the bumblings of Reagan and the insidious architecture of Gingrigh. It perpetuated through the pseudo-christian machinations of Dobson and Buchanan. Today it is exemplified by that Querulous Quartet: Beck, O’Reilly, Limbaugh, and Palin.
I had an embarrassment of riches when choosing examples:
- First, there’s the recent Bill O’Reilly hypocrisy over the use of Nazi rhetoric (good summary here). If anyone else does it, it’s abominable. If Bill does it, he’s taken out of context. If people don’t buy that, he just repeats it REALLY LOUD. That’ll make it true.
- Republican leaders in Congress maintain that the Affordable Care Act is Socialism while gladly accepting their own generous government-sponsored health care.
- How about the invention of the phrase “activist judge” to describe anyone who does something the Right doesn’t like, going to such extremes as ousting judges for doing their jobs. Of course, pretending that corporations are people isn’t activist at all.
- A great non-fact is the myth of the leftist media. The pundits cry “First Amendment” when Juan Williams is fired for violating his contract and shriek ‘BIAS” when Katie Couric actually dares to interview Sarah Palin. Meanwhile, FauxNews dominates in the ratings and corporate-owned news outlets put profits ahead of stories.
- Of course, the good old First Amendment doesn’t matter if you want to censor an art exhibit. It’s especially handy if you can pretend that it was publicly funded (even though it wasn’t). That’s right out of the “public broadcasting is all government funded” playbook of lies.
- It’s also fun to argue that “homophobia” isn’t a real word, unless, of course, you can take a test online that proves you aren’t a homophobe when you spread lies and vicious invective against the LGBT community for a living.
Pundits and politicians on the Right are happy to create these deceptions to reinforce their worldview. If questioned by anyone, they scream about the left trying to silence them, which would be laughable if it weren’t so tragically, transparently false.
Ask for a fact, get a talking point, never a simple response or an honest “I don’t know.” Sadly, the American public are more and more like Yahoos, snatching up the non-facts like they were the last McNugget in the box.
This is especially apparent when you look at public responses in online forums of any sort. Leftist commenters are capable of being strident and rude just like anyone else, but they tend to at least try to make a supportable point. The rightward comments come straight from the great bible of non-facts.
A great example pops up any time a forum starts dealing with gay rights issues. A simple kiss on a popular television program turns into an opportunity for a screeching double-standard about affection. A conversation about the wrongful dismissal of a gay student teacher summons up the old “why must the gays always bring up the bedroom?” canard, ignoring the fact that it’s the Right that seems strangely obsessed with sex whenever the word gay pops up. More insidiously, playing the bedroom card skirts the central fact that the agenda is control over civil rights, not real concern about propriety.
Right-wing bloggers are as prone to play the “because I said so” card as the pundits and the prowlers. Recently, the blog NW Republican took exception to our Bigot of the Week award. The thrust of the initial post was that the word “bigot” is loaded and mean-spirited. When commenters pointed out that the word was used in context and with substantiation, the reply of the blogger was quite telling:
“MY POINT WAS NOT TO DEBATE THE ISSUES IN THE VARIOUS POSTS.”
That’s right, the context and the issues aren’t relevant. All that matters is that the blogger found the certain words “loaded” even though they were used in contexts that substantiated them, linking back to the words and deeds of the people who were discussed. Ironically, he simultaneously labelled the bigot award as fascism, quite a loaded word in itself. The whole comment thread is a great case study in the Right-wing approach to argument. Point your finger, scream a label and a talking point, and ignore any facts that are presented. Those who debate you are mean-spirited fascists who use loaded language. The actual issues at hand are not relevant.
Arguing with someone who takes the non-fact, because-I-say-so approach to discourse begins to feel like Heinlein’s quip:
“Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”
Bonus points to our regular readers Jan (PenguinLad) and Lex (WebWordWarrior) for offering the singing lessons in this particular sty.
As futile as arguing with the unreasoning may be, we must not lose heart. In fact, we cannot afford to do so. Although we might prefer not to, we must gaze into the darkness presented by the non-facts. We cannot stop the Right from playing the “because I said so” game, but we can counter it by making sure the facts are out there. If we give up, the narrative is theirs, and we cannot afford to let them decide what rights we’ll get to have if everyone begins to believe that the can choose their own facts.