April 25, 2011

THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BIRTHERS AND TRUTHERS:

Inside the GOP's Fact-Free Nation: From Nixon's plumbers to James O'Keefe's video smears: How political lying became normal. (Rick Perlstein, May/June 2011 Issue, Mother Jones)

IT TAKES TWO THINGS to make a political lie work: a powerful person or institution willing to utter it, and another set of powerful institutions to amplify it. The former has always been with us: Kings, corporate executives, politicians, and ideologues from both sides of the aisle have been entirely willing to bend the truth when they felt it necessary or convenient. So why does it seem as if we're living in a time of overwhelmingly brazen deception? What's changed?

Today's marquee fibs almost always evolve the same way: A tree falls in the forest—say, the claim that Saddam Hussein has "weapons of mass destruction," or that Barack Obama has an infernal scheme to parade our nation's senior citizens before death panels. But then a network of media enablers helps it to make a sound—until enough people believe the untruth to make the lie an operative part of our political discourse.


Trig Trutherism: The definitive debunker: Salon investigates the conspiracy theory: Is Sarah Palin really the mother of Trig Palin? (Justin Elliott, 4/22/11, Salon)
Trig Trutherism, the surprisingly resilient conspiracy theory that Sarah Palin is not actually the mother of 3-year-old Trig Palin, is experiencing a boomlet thanks to a new academic paper that endorses the concept. Long pursued by the blogger Andrew Sullivan and a significant segment of the Palin-hating left, Trig Trutherism holds that Trig's real mother is either Bristol Palin or some third party, and that Sarah Palin herself faked the pregnancy to avoid embarrassment for her daughter or for political gain or some combination of reasons.

In light of the recent attention this subject has received and the considerable passion it has stirred, Salon embarked last week on an investigation of the circumstances surrounding Trig's birth. The exhaustive review of available evidence that we conducted, along with new interviews with multiple eyewitnesses who interacted with a pregnant Sarah Palin up-close in early 2008 -- most of whom had never spoken publicly about the matter before -- has produced one clear conclusion: Sarah Palin is, indeed, Trig's mother and there is no reason to suspect any kind of a coverup.

We've learned, for instance, that an Associated Press reporter in Alaska who was covering Palin during her pregnancy in early 2008 (before she became a national figure) thoroughly investigated rumors that the pregnancy was a hoax. The reporter directly questioned Palin about the matter in a private meeting in her Juneau office before she gave birth. Gov. Palin responded by voluntarily lifting her outer layer of clothing, offering a clear look at her round belly. The reporter quickly concluded that there was no truth to the rumors and never wrote about them.

So why dive into this old conspiracy theory now?

After all, there's a strong argument to be made that politicians' private lives should not be subject to investigation unless there is suspicion of hypocrisy (e.g., Larry Craig) or some public policy implication (e.g., Mark Sanford). As Atrios put it, "if Trig was sired by Lucifer and birthed from a hippopotamus it's really none of our business." Sullivan has claimed that the birth of Trig, a baby with Down syndrome, played a key role in Palin being chosen for the GOP's 2008 ticket, because it solidified her pro-life credentials. But the idea that this had anything to do with John McCain's decision to tap Palin is easily debunked.

Still, for all of this, Trig Trutherism seems to have gained a significant following. There doesn't appear to be any polling on the Trig question, but when we ran a dismissive post about the Trig Truthers last week, we were deluged with angry emails and tweets. (Sullivan, one of the leading doubters of Palin's pregnancy, wrote a post accusing me of incuriosity and laziness.) Fed up with the attention the subject has received, the Huffington Post took the step this week of banning Trig Truthers. Whether we like it or not, this is a conspiracy theory that has gotten big enough to warrant a response.


MORE:
Analysis: Obama went too far in critique (FACTCHECK.ORG)

- Obama claimed the Republicans' "Path to Prosperity" plan would cause "up to 50 million Americans "¦ to lose their health insurance." But that worst-case figure is based in part on speculation and assumptions.

- He said the GOP plan would replace Medicare with "a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry." That's an exaggeration. Nothing would change for those 55 and older. Those younger would get federal subsidies to buy private insurance from a Medicare exchange set up by the government.

- He said "poor children," "children with autism" and "kids with disabilities" would be left "to fend for themselves." That, too, is an exaggeration. The GOP says states would have "freedom and flexibility to tailor a Medicaid program that fits the needs of their unique populations." It doesn't bar states from covering those children.

- He repeated a deceptive talking point that the new health care law will reduce the deficit by $1 trillion. That's the Democrats' own estimate over a 20-year period. The Congressional Budget Office pegged the deficit savings at $210 billion over 10 years and warned that estimates beyond a decade are "more and more uncertain."

- He falsely claimed that making the Bush tax cuts permanent would give away "$1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire." That figure — which is actually $807 billion over 10 years — refers to tax cuts for individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000, not just millionaires and billionaires.

- He said the tax burden on the wealthy is the lowest it has been in 50 years. But the most recent nonpartisan congressional analysis showed that the average federal tax rate for high-income taxpayers was lower in 1986.

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Posted by at April 25, 2011 5:45 AM
  

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