Not Letting The Facts Get In The Way of Attacks on Candidates and Whistleblowers

ObamaIncreasingly, politics is a game driven by often-invented beliefs and myths that are firmly detached from facts and their interpretation.

The parties and their factions live not only in parallel universes but worlds of information that are driven mostly but what they think will work in pandering to their bases and the public.

Even as progressives complain that Barack Obama has moved right even if he occasionally talks left, the hard-core right-wing see him a black revolutionary shaped by Reverend Wright’s black liberation theology with allusions to Malcolm X and Kenyan communists thrown into the mix to “prove” their case.

Never mind that Obama threw his one time mentor Wright under the bus in 2008, or that his policies rarely speak of the needs of a black community suffering under the burden of high joblessness, foreclosures and growing poverty.

In fact, real black revolutionaries like Cornel West and so many others find the president a sell-out and embarrassment even if their community embraces him more as an identity issue or on the basis of shared pigmentation,

The recent plan by Wall Street trader Ed Ricketts to recycle the alleged Obama-Wright conspiracy into an defamatory political ad campaign spoke more to his ignorance and fears than any truth-based assessment. Had the New York Times not exposed it, this $10 million dollar race-based smear would have moved forward.

Because it was exposed, even Mitt Romney who hasn’t met a right wing talking point he won’t embrace, had to distance himself from it.

As Charles Blow wrote in the Times, “It called for using Wright to “increase the unease” and “inflame the questions” among independents using the episode “that’s never been properly exploited.” How I love the use of sinister verbs.

There was one description of the president that truly seized me: “The metrosexual black Abe Lincoln has emerged as a hyper-partisan, hyper-liberal, elitist politician with more than a bit of the trimmer in him.”

This sentence is just so deliciously ridiculous, insulting and incendiary — perfect Republican fodder.

“Let’s dissect it, shall we? Scalpel!”

How proud this News Dissector was to find a mainstream media maven finally resorting to dissection. (Hopefully it will prompt Adbusters to issue a new warning about the dangers of co-optation!) Blow blew the “logic” behind this crusade away.

But it almost doesn’t mater. This proposed campaign — and there will be other — was not offered up as part of any real debate or perspective but as a political weapon of denigration. It was a lie but its promoter knew that many, out of prejudice or ignorance would believe is true.

These campaigns are a tools of  mass distraction to fog understanding, not advance it. They play to already dumbed down base instincts. Unfortunately,  as a tactic it is not l just embraced by whack jobs.

A whole industry of  campaign political consultants immersed in negative research and manipulative advertising has mainstreamed it.

Willy Horton, meet Ed Ricketts.

This same smarmy approach is often increasingly used in the courts where well-heeled companies deliberately file gratuitous and flawed law suits against adversaries including journalists who are exposing their practices, or alerting the public to their scams and schemes.

This has been happening to a colleague of mine. Aaron Krowne created the ML-Implode websites to offer evidence of financial fraud while documenting how it brings down companies that “implode” after using sleazy techniques to enrich themselves often with government support through agencies like HUD that also victimize borrowers seeking home loans.

When writers posted whistle blowing articles on his site  showing how millions were being ripped off — even as the FHA and other agencies insured the loans thus minimizing any all risks for the scammers — he was sued  and forced into court to defend his site and work as a journalist at considerable expense.

The charges were bogus but it didn’t matter, Defending malicious lawsuits costs as much as filing them, and its hard for  a small independent website to finance that even when they are 100% right.

As Krowe explained about the companies with lawyers for hire trying to shut him down:

They get an effectively 100% loan without FHA knowing it, so there are no proper risk controls for this type of financing.  The home price may also be inflated without limit (beyond the 3% downpayment amount).  And of course, neither the seller or lender ever face any risk, which falls on FHA (and implicitly, the taxpayers).

Wouldn’t you think the FBI or the Justice Department would rush to his side? Forget it. They had enabled these practices in the first place and have bee lax in enforcing what laws there are.

What happened next is too detailed for this column — I will write others — but when a blogger exposed an unethical business practice used against homeowners as a “scam”— a word the IRS had itself used — a rich principal in the company accused of misconduct, filed a so-called SLAPP suit in a Maryland court against ML-Implode or libel and damages.

And not just against the blogger but the website that carries articles by knowledgeable journalists!

They even got — bought, it seems — an Indian tribe to join their suit to make it appear more credible.

They first tried to get an injunction against him — in effect, a prior restraint of free speech. It cost Aaron’s company $50,000 to stop it.

At the same time, the  big bucks operator behind the suit, was boasting privately in emails, that he wanted to “bankrupt” ML-Implode, while admitting that he knew the injunction attempt had virtually no chance of passing (10% was his exact number).  Of course this is all de facto bad faith. (The irony: The company Aaron exposed later imploded.)

But that, too, didn’t matter because ML-Implode ran out of money. The firm was forced to withdraw, and then the court declared ML-Implode in default.

Says Krowne who is still fighting a legal battle that has become increasingly technical, as many fights like this tend to become, “If this result stands, it will probably be the first time in history a media outlet of any kind has been penalized for speaking out against a “business” that itself acknowledged it had already been outlawed by the US Congress at the time it filed suit for libel.”

Hello Charles Blow at the New York Times, any interest in dissecting this one?

The attempt to smear Obama was so blatant and racist that it could easily be exposed, But legal battles like this one go on every day in the obscure language of law suits filed to silence free speech.

They often work because the legal system — like the society we live in — is so unbalanced with wealth in so few hands, that truth is smothered in obscure legal rulings that the press doesn’t cover and the public can’t possibly understand.

You can find out more from this ML-Implode Resource page.

News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at NewsDissector.net. Schechter’s new book Blogothon features blogs and essays on key issues (Cosimo Books). He hosts the News Dissector Radio Hour on Progressive Radio Network (PRN.fm). Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org.

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  • Andrew

    > Increasingly, politics is a game driven by often-invented beliefs and
    myths
    > that are firmly detached from facts and their interpretation.
    >

    > The parties and their factions live not only in parallel universes
    but worlds
    > of information that are driven mostly but what they think
    will work in
    > pandering to their bases and the public.

    I’d totally support having being a Democrat listed as a neurosis and being a Republican listed as a psychosis in the DSM-5.

  • rtb61

    I am getting the real impression that the big Fox not-News attack was all a masquerade for Obama to hide his neocon roots behind. One great big show, all with no basis in fact, simply a whole lot of noise Obama could hide behind.
    Basically Fox not-News conned progressives and liberals for 4 years with a great big Obama is a progressive liberal lie, all so that progressive liberals would not attack Obama for breaking so many of his progressive liberal promises, basically the biggest Democrat betrayer in history.
    People are catching on, in the primaries he lost 40% of the vote to nobody, nobody was actually preferable to Obama to 40% of the electorate voting in the primaries. It is going to be one ugly election, racist red necks will be the number one voting group.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Preaching to the choir, Dan. I get enough odd looks from my Fox-watching relatives when I agree with them that Obama is terrible…then state point blank that he’s terrible because he’s the worst republican president since Bush. Over half of America voted for the guy after being threatened with images of Stalin, Marx and Mao, and truth be told…after 8 years in Bush hell…we wanted that…a fire breathing Marxist from Satan to stomp the rightwing neocon gestapo out of existence and boot the Christards to the curb…and we got a guy slightly to the right of Reagan in exchange for our votes. We ordered a DNC Extra Bold…and the waiter brought us a GOP Lite…and now the waiter wants a tip. The only tip I’ll give them is : “Get used to expenditures on riot gear…because until we get what we vote for…its going to ugly.”

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Still, it might be worth an inquiry as to just WHY this wrong-headed contempt for factuality is so persistent.  One would think that the vicious evolutionary pressures beyond their ideological control would eventually force a concession to reality, but if it eventually will, it sure is taking its own sweet time coming.

      Like you, I have a hoard of unreprentently backward family members.  When the ole man went to his reward a while back, I did a lot of thinking about how a single family could spawn such totally opposite characters as us two.  I came to some unsettling conclusions:

      1.  In reality, we were not so different from one another, the old man and I [self-conscious melodramatic trope].  Basically, we’re completely irrascible, continually angry, tetchy souls, constitutionally incapable of affable equaminity beyond the occassional 5-10 minute stretch.  Yes, I was the beneficiary of a much more substantial education than he, but at our core, past the decades’ worth of accretions of re-interpreted experience, our essential ‘ur’ beings were startling similar.

      2.  The difference in our world outlooks, then, had to be the result of some profound, but seemingly arbitrary choice each of us had made at a very early stage in our developmental process.  Months later, I think I’ve identified that choice:  “Which strategy is more survival-adaptive–Solidarity or Dissent?”

      Of course, from the position of objective detachment that you really need to answer that question, the right answer is, “Neither.  This is a false dichotomy; Solidarity and Dissent are complementary strategic notions that are completely meaningless in isolation from one another.”

      But when you’re some scrawny little kid with no father but a funny, foreign-sounding name growing up in a very un-friendly neighborhood, you don’t have a lot of time to make in-depth, balanced inquiries.  No matter how much raw candle-power you may or may not have upstairs.  Your decision is influenced almost entirely by some totally random, ugly incident provoked by some bain-addled thug who accosts your famly while on your way home from Mass some Sunday morning.  Elegantly reasoned debates from Ha-vahd type pinheads figure into your reasoning not at all.

      I’m pretty sure that’s the basic reasoning behind the conservative critique against factuality.  In high-stake, winner-take-all situations, unreasoning Solidarity is actually a far more adaptive strategy.  The old man would have never made it to twenty if he tried playing Aristotle in his neighborhood.

      But of course, to leave matters there would be to ignore the fact that his life WASN’T a series of continual, unmittigated existential threats.  In fact, beyond the confines of that neighborhood, it was a pretty good thing to be free, white and single, regardless of your socio-economic origins.  He grew to manhood and raised a family during the Golden Era of the American white middle class.  By any standard of historical fact, the old man had so many things easier than any of his kids ever would.

      It was too late for him personally, though.  Very young, he’d latched on to the lesson that Fear should be your teacher–and surprise!  All it taught him was more Fear.  He locked into a cycle that lasted until his dying day, whereby precedent and authority invariably attached to the Scariest M*thahf*cker, not the wisest or most far-seeing.

      My failure to acknowledge the supremacy of Fear was a deep disappointment to the old man.  He certainly experienced a sense of sorrow and loss when he realized that I’d committed myself to the socially Darwinian disadvantaged dead-end of Dissent, but he also institinctively knew that there was nothing to be done about it but to move on.  Airy fairy contemplation was for the weak, and he had a duty to his family never to be weak.  NEVER BE WEAK.

      Of course, he’s dead now, so clearly there is a limit to his philosophy’s application.  I would have loved to point that out to him while he was still alive, but I see now that every attempt to do so was actually seen as an attempt to infect his family with the horrible, fatal contagion of evolutionarily counterproductive thought disease.

  • Redacted

    Facts are irrelevant. Now more than ever rhetoric is what is important.

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