Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fox News Guarding the Henhouse

The dissembling of so many conservatives, high- and low-profile, withers me. I’m constantly amazed by how often conservative perspectives on certain issues are founded on things that just aren’t true. The war in Iraq is a classic example. I distinctly remember George W. Bush saying that we needed to invade Iraq when we did and the way we did because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that he was going to use against us at any moment — a very creative interpretation of the intelligence at the time. If the Bush administration thought that invading Iraq was such a good idea, couldn’t it have come up with a better reason for doing so, a reason supported by maybe ... I don’t know ... reality! And the conservative dissembling continued when no stockpiles of weapons were found in Iraq. I vividly remember Bush and his advisors before the invasion hyping fears about the certain devastation that Hussein was about to launch onto the world with his weapons. But rather than admit that they were wrong about Hussein’s weapons, conservative Bush apologists began saying that “weapons of mass destruction” wasn’t the primary reason we went to war. What kind of denial do you need to be in to say something so false with a straight face?

Looking at so many conservative beliefs based on things that aren’t true, I have to wonder, why do conservatives think that these beliefs are good ones to hold?

This thought came to me again today after reading a letter in the Los Angeles Times in response to an op-ed about the Obama White House regarding Fox News as an opponent rather than a trustworthy source for reporting news in an unbiased way — and, incidentally, I think that the Obama administration is correct to regard the mendacious Fox News as such. I haven’t heard anything about the Obama White House trying to shut down Fox News or to get the pseudo-news cable channel to change in any way; as far as I know the administration is just giving it the cold shoulder. And — wouldn’t you know it? — Fox News and its adherents trumpet the story as Obama’s neo-Nixonian “war” on the plucky little channel.

I didn’t read the op-ed that the letter was responding to, but the letter itself read:

How about a little something called the 1st Amendment as a compelling reason for the Obama administration to stop its Nixonian war on Fox News, not to mention the likes of Limbaugh and “right-wing” bloggers?

Yes, Barack Obama won an election. No, that did not mean the country agreed to repeal the Constitution or end political debate.

When an administration wages war on such a fundamental and well-established right as the 1st Amendment, that alone should raise a giant red flag to all Americans — regardless of the supposed characterization of the speech or how many people are supposedly listening to it.


What should really raise a fed flag to all Americans is an argument based on assertions that aren’t true. Notice how the letter writer changes the story from what it really is — the Obama administration denying Fox News recognition as a news outlet — to something that it isn’t — an effort by Obama to deny Fox News its First Amendment rights. I haven’t heard anything about the White House prohibiting Fox from doing its dubious business — I haven’t even heard anything about the White House denying Fox reporters access to press conferences — but the station and its apologists are twisting this story into the government nefariously clamping down on free speech itself. So, the letter writer’s characterization of the White House infringing on the First Amendment and repealing the Constitution is just plain wrong.

Now, there may very well be reasons why logical people would disagree with the White House’s stance towards Fox News and the administrations dealings (or lack thereof) with the station. I would probably disagree with such reasons, but I can imagine a rational person making this kind of an argument. However, when you need to misrepresent the story — to twist it into something that it isn’t — to make your point, is such a point worth making? When you need to distort what is real in order for your perspective to prevail, maybe you should start re-examining your perspective. What principles are you upholding when one of them isn’t the truth?

Friday, October 30, 2009

So-Called Political Correctness

“‘[P]olitical correctness’ isn’t a real thing. Rather, the term is a sort of catch-all charge that’s used against people who ask for more sensitivity to a particular cause than we're willing to give — a way to dismiss issues as frivolous in order to justify ignoring them. It’s a way to say that their concerns don't deserve to be voiced, much less addressed.”   —Amanda Taub, Vox.com


I wanted to post something before the month was through, so I thought that I would reprint another letter of mine that was published in the Los Angeles City Beat, this one on June 2, 2007:


Thanks to Thomas M. Sipos for his informative letter on so-called “political correctness” [Re: Letters, May 26]. However, I don’t think that the letter dealt fully with the use of the phrase by the political right.

The right’s negative use of the term “political correctness” may have begun as an objection to ill-advised campus speech codes, as Mr. Sipos says, but it didn’t stay there. The term eventually came to be used against many kinds of liberal thought on the presumption that voicing conservative opposition to those thoughts was a daring thing to do. Before long, conservatives were using the phrase … well … liberally to characterize virtually all left-of-center opinions — however well-reasoned and well-argued — as inherently unthinking and doctrinaire.

Today, “political correctness” in the right’s imagination has taken on the dimensions of a pervasive, oppressive ideology that dwarfs conservatism. As a result, even though conservatives control both the White House and Congress (and the Supreme Court as well), and even though conservative organizations are much better financed than liberal ones, the right can still play the underdog courageously standing up to a monstrous behemoth. In other words, the idea of “political correctness” allows Goliath to masquerade as David.

The phrase “political correctness” wouldn’t be as problematic if it were popularly applied to conservative dogma in the way that it’s applied to more liberal ideas. But when George W. Bush refuses to consider further government funding of promising stem-cell research for ideological reasons, or when a conservative commentator instantly dismisses a substantive opposing argument as “liberal whining,” such right-wing inflexibility isn’t usually characterized as “political correctness.”

Update, August 7, 2015: I have added the quote from Vox.com’s Amanda Taub at the top of the post.