When lies triumph over facts, we’re done

These days, facts seem overmatched by falsehood, too slow to catch them, too weak to stop them.

BY LEONARD PITTS JR.

“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care.” – Sarah Palin, August 7, 2009

The death panels are back.

Sarah Palin’s vision of a dystopian society in which the elderly and infirm would be required to justify their continued existence before a jury of federal functionaries has been widely ridiculed since she first posted it on Facebook three years ago. It was designated “Lie of the Year” by Politifact, the nonpartisan fact checking website, something that would have mortified and humiliated anyone who was capable of those feelings.

Last week, Palin doubled down. “Though I was called a liar for calling it like it is,” she posted, “many of these accusers finally saw that Obamacare did in fact create a panel of faceless bureaucrats who have the power to make life and death decisions about health care funding.” Note that that’s not actually the claim she made in 2009. Of course, “Obamacare,” a.k.a. the Affordable Care Act, was upheld by the Supreme Court Thursday, which must gratify Team Obama.

But we are not here to discuss that. Neither are we here to litigate Palin’s claim about “death panels.” That you could fertilize the Great Lawn of Central Park with that lie has been well established. No, we are only here to ask whether that matters, given the increasingly obvious impotence of fact.

Not long ago, if you told a whopper like Palin’s and it was as thoroughly debunked as hers was, that would have ended the discussion. These days, it is barely even part of the discussion. These days, facts seem overmatched by falsehood, too slow to catch them, too weak to stop them.

Indeed, falsehoods are harder to kill than a Hollywood zombie. Run them through with fact, and still they shamble forward, fueled by echo chamber media, ideological tribalism, cognitive dissonance, a certain imperviousness to shame, and an understanding that a lie repeated long enough, loudly enough, becomes, in the minds of those who need to believe it, truth.

That is the lesson of the birthers and truthers, of Sen. Jon Kyl’s “not intended to be a factual statement” about Planned Parenthood, of Glenn Beck’s claim that conservatives founded the Civil Rights Movement, and of pretty much every word Michele Bachmann says. It seems that not only are facts no longer important, but they are not even the point.

Rather, the point is the construction and maintenance of an alternate narrative designed to enhance and exploit the receiver’s fears, his or her sense of prerogatives, entitlement, propriety and morality under siege from outside forces.

This is the state of American political discourse, particularly on the political right, where a sense of dislocation, disaffection and general been-done-wrongness has become sine qua non, coin of the realm, lingua franca of the true believers — and of their true belief in the desperate need to turn back the unrighteous Other and his unwelcome change.

To score Palin for being unfactual, then, is to bring boxing gloves to a knife fight. The death panels are not about fact. They are about fear and the shameless manipulation thereof for political gain.

The result of which is that Americans increasingly occupy two realities, one based on the conviction that facts matter, the other on the notion that facts are only what you need them to be in a given moment. That ought to give all of us pause because it leads somewhere we should not want to go. When two realities divide one people, the outcome seems obvious.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/30/2876574_when-lies-triumph-over-facts-were.html#storylink=addthis#storylink=cpy

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14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Syrin
    Jul 01, 2012 @ 12:46:35

    When lies triumph over facts, we’re done  
    Well that seems to have been why Sarah Palin debuted in 2008 to a national crowd. Of course here in Alaska, we were done 2 years prior, when this lie, fraud, imposter was elected to the highest office in my state! The left and right continue to reference this woman! Every time it happens it gives her un-earned credibility. Stop! Left references her to be used as a representation of a conservative. The right by including Palin as an expert or politically competent has defeated any chance of furthering the cause.

    Reply

  2. LisaB
    Jul 01, 2012 @ 14:22:38

    Completely agree. Pitts had a really good piece a week ago about the importance of real journalists and journalism. The standards we used to live by –in the good old days some folks are so fond of referencing and are dying to claw their way back to — are crumbling before our eyes.

    Reply

  3. Wolfbitch
    Jul 01, 2012 @ 16:30:44

    You know how you people felt in Alaska two years before she ran for VP?

    Imagine how we people in Massachusetts feel about Romney.

    Fear always trumps facts. A panicked population is a population that is easy to control. If we want facts to win out, we need to out-shout Fox News, no small feat.

    But it’s a doable feat if enough of us join in.

    Reply

    • Syrin
      Jul 01, 2012 @ 17:52:13

      Forgive me, but I don’t think you had it all that bad with Romney. He gave the people of Mass what seems to be what was wanted and it’s sustained for the most part… RomneyCare…Regardless of what you think of Mitt Romney, he in NO way should be compared to Sarah Palin..whether you support Mitt Romney or not, he’s prepared on issues and is a somewhat reasonable individual with an actual political past. That past being more positive than negative… imho Some like him and some do not, so it goes during an election cycle.. But, luckily, he’s not even close to the imposter that is Sarah Palin..

      Reply

      • WakeUpAmerica
        Jul 01, 2012 @ 18:02:21

        I get what Wolfbitch is saying, but I have to agree with you, Syrin. The Queen of Makes-Crap-Up-Istan is WAY worse and caused tremendous damage to AK. I really can’t think of one good thing she did for her state.

      • batgirly
        Jul 01, 2012 @ 20:56:38

        I’m afraid that only Alaskans can truly realize just how completely unqualified Sarah Palin was for Vice President of the United States. I was literally shaken to my core when I heard the news. It felt like a really bad episode of the Twilight Zone!

        Okay, maybe there is another group of people who understand how bad that choice was………………..John McCain’s presidential campaign team. I am looking forward to reading the book written by Nicole Wallace.

        When I heard that she described her fictional VP as “Cuckoo For Cocoa Puffs”, I knew that it was the book for me!

  4. Xenon
    Jul 01, 2012 @ 16:49:16

    When facts triumph over lies, Palin is done.

    Reply

  5. WakeUpAmerica
    Jul 01, 2012 @ 18:09:10

    There were and are death panels. They are the insurance companies who decide who and what would be covered. They decided who could afford to even have health care by continually jacking up the prices until it became a privilege to have health insurance. Thank God ObamaCares.

    As for Romney, I couldn’t vote for him if he were the only candidate running. He is a proven liar, bully, and flip-flopper. He and his wife along with their trainer were party to defrauding the buyer of one of their horses. They are still working with that trainer who happens to be the rider of their Olympic horse. What does that say about character? He couldn’t care less that he was selling a lame horse for several thousand dollars. So what if they buyers lost wll of their investment in an unrideable horse? I would vote for Obama over Romney any day based on his character and compassion.

    Reply

  6. WakeUpAmerica
    Jul 04, 2012 @ 09:14:13

    YEAH, BOY!!! The “Life’s a Tripp” turd-fest has been officially flushed. Funniest tweet on Twitter:
    “The U.S. government is stockpiling episodes of Bristol Palin’s reality show to be used as an alternative to waterboarding.” @FrankTheDoorman

    Reply

  7. guest
    Jul 04, 2012 @ 11:11:33

    Speaking of lies triumphing and all that, Syrin, what do you know about Shailey Tripp?
    Did you ever meet her around Wasilla? Did you ever see her with the Palins?

    Reply

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