Calling Out the Right Wing Lie Machine

Language is important. The words we use to describe situations help shape other people’s understanding of those situations as well as their understanding of our opinions and intentions. As we move deeper into the 2010 campaign season, we can see the corporate media choosing words for news stories that focus attention toward or away from various political ideas.

For example, the corporate owners of the mainstream press are anxious to restore Republican control to government, so that they can go back to the days of no-bid contracts, no enforcement of mine safety regulations, and similar profit-centric policies. But saying such things on Faux News or CNN or in the NY Times isn’t calculated to get much popular support.

So, when South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford stole taxpayer money to pay for his personal travel, we got fed a diet of stories about his extra-marital adventures and his cloying, mewling protestations of renewed religiosity. There were only a few stories about his financial shenanigans, and they all talked about “misreporting” how funds were used. None of the mainstream stories said that taking state money, put up by the tax payers, for personal spending, was simply stealing from the taxpayers.

Similarly, when Republican Party head, Michael Steele, announced that he was going to put Neil S. Alpert in control of the RNC’s money, a few people in the press pointed out that Alpert had taken $70,000 out of a $100,000 pot designated for aid to poor children, and spent it on himself. And he then refused to repay a dime of the money, even after a government Order to do so, in July, 2007.

The corporate press called this “mismanagement” of the funds. The truth is that Alpert simply stole money from the poor children who were legally entitled to it. He stole $7 of every $10 the charity raised for the purpose of helping inner-city children. But the corporate media doesn’t want to use such a harsh word as “steal” when talking about how Republicans act.

They also didn’t call it stealing when Tom Delay took money from a charity to pay for his personal expenses. They just said that this is Republican money management. Like Michael Steele using $2,000 of RNC money to pay for an evening of fun at a lesbian-themed bondage bar in West Hollywood.

Republican candidates shout about fiscal responsibility. They condemn deficit spending and claim to want to return to the “good old days” of Shrubya’s presidency. But neither they nor the corporate press want to remind anyone of the actual language that Bush’s Treasury Secretary tried to write into the Republican bill to respond to the Wall St. collapse.

Henry Paulson, Treasury Secretary in 2008, promoted a Republican plan to “rescue” Wall Street banks by handing them $7++ BILLION dollars of taxpayer funds. His proposed bill included the provision that “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.”

Republicans and the corporate media now condemn Democrats for the bailout, noting that the Dems wouldn’t support Paulson’s bill the way it was written. What the critics always avoid mentioning is that what the Democrats stripped out of the bill was that language guaranteeing no oversight, no court review, no chance to protect the tax payers from a straight rip-off.

Teabag Republicans carry this misuse of language into the politics of patriotism. Elected representatives who voted for health care reform have been accused of treason. Teabaggers claim that the Constitution is under attack by these treasonous politicians who voted to limit the greed of insurance companies.

But that very same Constitution actually defines treason: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Article III, §.3, clause 1. How is voting to improve national health care levying War against us? How does making us healthier give aid or comfort to our enemies? Why do the Teabag Republicans insist on using this anti-Constitutional language?

What if you actually take up arms, practice with them, and plan to kill some local police, with the idea that at the funeral of your victims, you will mow down their families, friends, and police colleagues? That sounds like “levying War against” us, doesn’t it?

Not according to the corporate media. When the FBI arrested a group of Michigan Teabag militiamen (and one woman) for planning and practicing to undertake cop murders, and more murders at cops’ funerals, the conservative U.S. Attorney for Michigan decided that these militia teabaggers should only be charged with “seditious conspiracy.”

Conspiracy is “agreeing to do something.” If the thing agreed to is actually taking up arms against the nation, that’s not conspiracy. That’s treason. The Teabag militia reportedly practiced their murder plans, with live ammunition. They reportedly made efforts to purchase explosives to use in attacking cops. That’s not just “agreeing to do something,” it’s actually taking up arms. It’s treason.

Except that the Republican Party and the corporate media say “no.” They don’t want this particular intention to levy war against our nation to be called treason. Why not? Because shooting at Democrats, or people who claim that Jesus preached non-violence and charity toward the poor, is the natural consequence of all the firebrand hate rhetoric that’s being used to enflame the Teabag movement.

And because there has been a campaign to politicize loyalty. Those who hate government are loyal. Those who cling to old fashioned ideas that politics should be “of the people, by the people, and for the people” are disloyal. Those who question no-bid contracts for inadequate body armor, unsafe housing for our troops in war zones, or Bush’s $7++ billion gift to Wall Street bankers, are enemies of freedom.

This was the business plan behind the Patriot Act. It is the business plan given by Faux News, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Republican Party to their foot soldiers. It is a plan to replace democracy (a political system) with capitalism (an economic system). And this business plan depends on careful, repeated misuse of language to keep people’s attention focused away from the plan.

So we hear endless “news reports” about sex-related things. Mark Sanford’s and John Edwards’ infidelities. “The homosexual agenda.” Priests molesting children. Tiger Woods’ incessant pick-ups. The casting couch in Jesse James’ motorcycle shop. Instead of news about what Republicans would do if they were returned to power.

This becomes particularly ridiculous when the sex focus needs to be distracted when one of the Republican faithful crosses the line. When homosexual Republican Senator Larry Craig sought gay sex in a public restroom, party machinery had to kick in to criticize the police for “entrapment” and “misinterpreting” Craig’s gay moves, as it consistently has to distract from our own local homosexual Republican Congressman, David Drier’s use of his congressional office and budget to financially benefit his common-law husband.

tom_hall_2.jpgProgressives need to push back against Republican and corporate media efforts to keep attention off the important issues and facts. We need to keep voters reminded that our “world’s best” medical system ranks behind not just Cuba, but the Asian nation of Macau and Eastern Europe’s Czech Republicm in infant mortality. And that mining companies can buy the right to ignore mine safety regulations. And that drivers in Europe were warned about faulty Toyota gas pedals months before American drivers saw news stories of a couple of spectacular, fatal crashes in California. And that the “high speed” internet access the FCC’s wants everyone to have, in the future, would still be slower than the regular speed internet access South Korean children get at home, right now, for less than any American pays for access.

Tom Hall

About Tom Hall

Tom Hall is a family lawyer in West Los Angeles. He is from Boston, and was raised in Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Quakers) to think that religion was a progressive force. During the Vietnam War, he organized draft counseling centers and worked with groups training people in techniques for disciplined nonviolent demonstrating. After the war, he became just another yuppie working to make a comfortable life. The Bush administration shocked him back into social concerns. Now he’s working to see that the Obama administration lives up to its progressive promises. Tom can be reached at ProgBlog@aol.com

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