paft (paft) wrote in talk_politics,

Rolling Down the Haystack

The “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, her autobiographical account of growing up in a 19th century pioneer family, are entertaining and educational classics of children’s literature. One especially memorable incident involves a childish bit of deceit Laura tries out on her father. As I recall it, young Laura solemnly promises him she won’t slide down a recently constructed haystack. Then, as soon as his back is turned, she climbs the haystack and has a wonderful time rolling down it. This, of course, does as much damage to the haystack as sliding would have done, but when confronted later by “Pa” she righteously insists that she kept her promise. She didn’t slide down the haystack, you see…

It’s a funny story because it portrays the innocent brashness of children and their fungible conception of truth.

When an adult approaches truth that way, it’s less amusing.

Paul Ryan (in video clip): When he visited that plant, candidate Obama said, ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.

Reporter: You know, Eric, that the decision to close that plant was made in June of 2008, when President Bush was in office. What Paul Ryan said there was clearly misleading.

Eric Fehrnstrom: Well, no, he didn’t talk about Obama closing the plant. He said candidate Obama went there in 2008. And what he said was, ‘with government assistance, we can keep this plant open for another hundred years. Here we are four years into his administration and that plant is still closed…

Adults understand -- or should understand -- the complexity of lies. Frame a statement in just the right way, and it can qualify as a lie because its intent is to deceive. In Ryan's case, he framed the account of Obama visiting the factory in a manner intended to mislead the listener into believing that A) The plant closed during Obama's presidency and B) Obama had promised that he would keep the factory open. Neither is true, of course, but Fehrnstrom's reaction, when confronted with it, is similar to the child, Laura Ingalls Wilder's faux innocent reaction when her father finds the wrecked haystack.

“Paul Ryan didn’t slide down that haystack,” says Paul Fehrnstrom. “He rolled down it.”

And this, people, is apparently the approach to the truth that Republicans have quite consciously adopted. "We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers," announced Romney Pollster Neil Newhouse. Remember the Jon Kyl campaign defending a brazen lie he told about Planned Parenthood by saying it was "‘not intended to be a factual statement?" That was just the beginning.

It's only going to get worse. Even if the Republicans lose this election (and I think it's very likely they will) they'll just come back in 2016 even further to the right and even further on the wrong side of the truth. The right wing is nothing if not ambitious.

This is not about winning an election. It's about altering a society's concept of what is moral, and what is just. It's about changing the American public's very conception of what qualifies as "truth."

George Orwell just got it wrong by 32 years.

Crossposted from Thoughtcrimes

Tags: elections, gop, propaganda
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