A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
August 26, 2002
24 Ways Republicans Lie
by Roger Hoppe
40 percent of the people are strongly Republican and 40 percent are strongly Democrat. Only dishonor or some other major event will move them to the other side. That means that every election is determined by the 20 percent of the voting public who don’t have strong views. The battle over the middle ground is nasty. Republicans have found that lying works well.
In political campaigns, the two parties fight for time on the six o'clock news. Whoever gets their sound bites heard wins. You can't rebut a day later. That's too late to fix all the damage.
The point is to make the people believe what you say and disbelieve what your opponent says. Here are the many ways this is done:
1) The end justifies the means: Republicans have no moral qualms about this. Their philosophy is that the end (Republican rule) justifies the means (lying to the electorate). Democrats, on the other hand, make their bread and butter off of their honesty and character, which makes them particularly vulnerable to character assassination.
2) Unfacts: Some statements sound like facts when they're really just opinions or at best half-facts. I call them unfacts. An unfact is a statement that sounds like a fact but isn't a fact. Most people can't recognize an unfact when they hear it. A few examples would be: "There is a growing threat of terrorism", "SUVs are safer than lighter vehicles", "family values are on the decline". If challenged on these points, you can easily defend them, because they're not real facts. Simply back up the unfact with another unfact! This can go on ad infinitum. Republicans never use a fact when an unfact will do the job just as well.
3) "Everything he just said is either untrue or incorrect": In a debate, it's best to start off by claiming that nothing the opponent says is correct. If you condemn everything in blanket statements, then even if some things are successfully refuted, some of the mud still sticks. Also, question the motives of the opponent. If the crowd loses faith in the opponent, he can say anything and they won't believe him.
4) Disarm your debating opponent: Many people are not capable of determining the truth of even a simple remark such as "the capital of Texas is Houston". This makes it easier to lie, because only a few people catch you in it even if you're bold about it. In a debate, a well-placed lie or unfact can disarm the opponent or color the way the audience interprets the remainder of the debate. If a statement can't be refuted immediately or is allowed to pass without comment, everything said afterwards will be interpreted differently. Even if the statement is refuted at a later time or in a different place, you've won this debate today.
5) Misguided Science: The Republicans create their agenda first, and then find a scientist to support it. Even if a thousand scientists agree that a particular set of scientific evidence is valid, there is always one scientist who says that it might be false. Republicans have found that they can effectively combat valid scientific claims by finding the one scientist who is willing to refute the claims of the thousand. On the 6 o'clock news, his opinion is given as much weight as the one supported by the scientific community. This is false science, because it isn't derived from the scientific community as a whole or from scientific research. Nevertheless, Republicans have begun saying, "It's not sound science" or "science doesn't support that" or "we can do this scientifically and protect the environment", etc. They've found that they can use Science as a rationale for supporting the conservative agenda simply because they know no matter what viewpoint they have, they can find a scientist willing to back any claim they care to make. Thus they promulgate lies – total fabrications - with the apparent backing of ostensibly reputable people.
6) Speaking to a crowd: If you want to be heard, first be understood; then be believed; always elicit an emotional reaction. Republicans know how to speak to crowds. They speak differently than Democrats. They speak to the less intelligent members of their audience, not the more intelligent listeners. They speak to the emotions of the audience, and thus have less need to prove facts. They speak fewer facts and more unfacts, thus have an easier time backing up what they say. They make their opinions sound like facts: e.g. "the police are overworked", "teachers are overpaid", or "Democrats rarely tell the truth".
7) Sleight of mouth: Republicans say they're doing one thing when they're really doing another thing. The classic example is the Clear Skies Initiative, which guts the Clean Air Act. The "Healthy Forests Initiative" hands stewardship of the forests over to the logging industry and allows renewed cutting of Old Growth. Saying he's helping the Environment, Bush destroys it. He said he wouldn't allow drilling in the National Parks and then allowed drilling in the Padre Island National Seashore.
8) Denigrate, exaggerate and ridicule: Exaggerate any crack in the Democratic defenses. A good example is Gore’s "invention" of the internet. Take what they say and exaggerate it to the point where it seems immoral or unpalatable. Make him deny it. The Republicans would love to have the air waves full of Democrats saying "I am not a crook".
9) Find the weak spot: Republicans are constantly perusing all public comments by democrats to find just one sentence that they can pull out of context and quote to make the democrat sound duplicitous.
10) Make him explain it: The American media crowd being what they are, they can be manipulated. With one well-placed sentence, a politician can cause his opponent to be hounded many times over by reporters asking him to explain it. Or worse, the opponent will feel it necessary to explain it over and over. It's not so much about "make him deny it", Richard Nixon’s favorite trick, but simply making the opponent spend all of his time explaining why the lies are not true instead of explaining his positions. The lies do double duty – first, they make the Democrats look bad, and second they make the Democrats waste all their time explaining how the Republican claims are false.
11) Make him deny it: Like a good game of chess, the aim of political debate is to quickly put the opponent on the defensive, and keep him there so that all of his energy is spent defending himself and refuting your statements, instead of making his points. When Republicans clearly state their policies, people vote for the Democrats instead. The Democrats must show the Republicans for what they are. A good example is "compassionate Conservatism" – an oxymoron. Republicans, when faced with a damning accusation or a withering piece of logic, will not debate it. Instead, they'll sling mud. Their goal, in any forum of debate, is not to let the listeners know the truth, but to destroy the opposition by any means possible. The truth takes a backseat to that because once the opposition is destroyed there's no need to explain the facts.
12) "Repeat after me!": Radio talk show hosts can say anything they want. In fact, that's their job. What they say can be a bald faced lie, it doesn't matter. The listeners believe and repeat everything they hear. When a radio talk show host makes statements of extreme opinion (unfacts), those unfacts are repeated as fact the next day in millions of conversations. Those unfacts are thrown up as facts millions of times thereafter during political discussions. In this way, the conservatives can spread all sorts of misinformation and yet disavow it if necessary. Since the unfacts are mean-spirited, misleading and one-sided, the radio talk show host wins merely by saying them once.
13) Create an Urban Legend, meme, catchphrase, or slogan: In much the same way as they repeat the radio talk show unfacts, the fans of the Conservative Right willingly promote new urban legends, memes, catchphrases and slogans. They're fans, so they accept without question the statements of the extremists whom they idolize.
14) Everyone knows ads lie: Advertising is the American way. You expect advertisers to lie. Often, when Republicans make their spiel, they're being like other advertisers trying to sell their products. People don’t mind this because they experience it hundreds of times a day in other advertising.
15) Say it again!: In its effect on the listener, repetition is almost like proof of a statement's validity. It helps if many people repeat the statement, but even if only one person (or a commercial) repeats something over and over, people believe it more each time they hear it. This is especially true if they don’t hear a rebuttal.
16) It's not just black and white: Imagine pouring water into two glasses: one you fill to the brim and the other you fill about a quarter full. Now imagine that those glasses of water are appropriations for protecting the environment or for destroying the environment. Republicans claim to be doing something for the environment because they fund environmental bills. In fact they're doing a lot less than the Democrats would on those things and a lot more on projects that are anti-environmental. This makes it difficult for the Democrats to say the Republicans don't care about the environment, etc. because the issue isn't a clear cut yes vs. no but rather is one of degrees. The Republicans support the environmental bill. They just don’t want to spend as much money as do the Democrats.
17) Sum of the Lies: Republicans promote many versions of disinformation on a topic, coming from many different sources. News network pundits, conservative celebrities and conservative radio talk show hosts add their versions of a story to the voices of legislators. By throwing out several versions of the story, they confuse the public about what is really the truth. The democrats give only one version – the true version. Of the many versions, only one is true. The law of averages says that the true version will be believed less often than the sum of the lies.
18) Dress up like a sheep: In Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf dressed up like grandma to fool Little Red. Several times I've heard listeners call a radio talk show and say they were Democrats who voted for Gore, but in their opinion (insert a Republican viewpoint here). As a listener, you want to believe the person is who speaking truly, but you have no way of knowing based solely on the caller's comments. Often, if the talk show host follows up on the issue, the caller will reveal a deep conservative bias. But most often, the caller just makes his point and hangs up, leaving the audience thinking that liberals might possibly grant his warped viewpoint some credibility. This technique is especially insidious.
19) Bulldogs: Rarely does a member of Congress make a bald accusation of a public official, for the simple reason that their daily business is scratching each other's back and making compromises. The fewer enemies one makes the more one can get accomplished. But the Republicans have learned the value of bulldogs – people like Rush Limbaugh and George Will who will make those bold statements.
20) Gerrymandering: After the 2000 census, Republican-controlled state legislatures gerrymandered districts so that they'd be more Republican. In states controlled by Democrats, Republican judges overturned fair redistricting and told the legislators to redo the work so that Republicans had more representation.
21) Reverse bribery (buying votes): Since the Republicans won control of the federal House in 1994, legislative districts that voted Republican have received on average $600,000,000 more apiece than those that voted for the opposition.
22) Character Assassination #1: If you can paint your opponent as a liar, then he will never be believed again. The Republicans jumped on Al Gore early in the campaign, impugning his integrity in several ways. They said he said he "invented the internet". Gore should have defended himself. As a senator, he was there at the inception of the Internet, and did his part as a senator (not as a scientist) to give it the early impetus that it needed to get started. In addition, he saw its promise long before others did, and called it the "Information Superhighway". He never said "I invented the Internet". Instead of explaining his comments, he let people continue to think he’d made exaggerated claims. Journalists joined in on this feeding frenzy, which made it even worse.
23) Character Assassination #2: The best way to negate your opponent is to make people believe that he is of bad moral character, is stupid and misinformed, or has questionable motives.
In politics, lying is legal. It's been established in court that you can lie about your opponent and he can't sue you for it. If you can get people to stop listening to your opponent, then it won’t matter what he says. That's why half of all statements by Republican candidates are slanderous statements against the opponent. Casting aspersions on the opponent's moral character is one way to make people ignore the opponent.
24) Character Assassination #3: Play tag team politics. Republicans always pick on a single key Democrat – right now it's Tom Daschle, the senate Majority Leader. Later it will be the front-runner in the 2004 race – maybe John Kerry. They'd have a field day with Al Gore, of course...
Reporters, news networks such as Fox, conservative think tanks, columnists, radio talk show hosts, administration officials, as well as politicians bombard the public with lies about the one chosen target, on many issues, in many ways, in a constant barrage. In this way, the combined weight of all their lies is to destroy the target's reputation.
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