Part 3—The Court rules, then the deluge: Disinformation has ruled our discourse over the past thirty years.
In general, this disinformation has worked against progressive interests. Disinformation sent George W. Bush to the White House. It helped him proceed once there.
(If we lower our tax rates, we get higher revenue! Every American knows this.)
That said, does anyone care about this vast intellectual breakdown? Do “mainstream journalists” care? Do liberal elites seem to care?
Consider what happened on June 28, when a hoary old piece of disinformation was dragged center stage once again.
On June 28, the Supreme Court issued its now-famous ruling about the health care law. As part of that ruling, Chief Justice Roberts said that, “for constitutional purposes,” the penalty payment which supports the individual mandate “can be read as a tax,” even though that may not be “the most natural interpretation of the mandate.”
In the low-IQ world of American journalism, these statements meant that Roberts had said that the penalty payment “is a tax.” But that wasn't all:
Within hours, a disinformation machine swung into action. Using a hoary old line of attack, it built a disinformation campaign around that piece of simplification.
Presumably, tens of millions of American voters got misled in the process. As major elites chose to look away, disinformation was in the saddle again!
Within the past thirty years, the presence of such disinformation has been as American as cherry pie. Even worse, it’s abundantly clear that no one cares about this type of misconduct.
The mainstream press corps doesn’t care. Neither do “liberal leaders.”
In fact, the health law isn’t “the biggest tax increase in history;” it doesn't even come close. But so what?
Within hours of the court’s ruling, millions of voters were being told that it was. And this disinformation campaign wasn’t restricted to the Fox News Channel. Mainstream journalists played along, in acts of omission and commission.
Meanwhile, liberal leaders barely noticed that this hoary campaign had transpired. By now, disinformation is our culture’s life blood. To appearances, no one notices or cares when this sort of thing goes on.
No, Virginia: The health care law is not the biggest tax increase of all time. It doesn’t even come close, although there are some tax increases in the law.
But so what? The bogus cry of “biggest tax increase in history” had worked quite well, twenty years before, against Bill Clinton’s tax plan. Within hours of the court’s ruling, major figures on Fox News had repurposed the hoary old claim:
HANNITY (6/28/12) Jay, I'll start with you. From a legal standpoint, so a victory for the President, a victory for President Obama is the largest tax increase in American history, which may be followed up with the second largest tax increase in American history when the Bush tax cuts expire?“Right,” Jay Sekulow replied. If you were watching the Hannity show, the health law was “the largest tax increase in American history.”
By Friday evening, June 29, Hannity was pushing this disinfo hard.
“This is now the largest tax increase or will be the largest tax increase in American history and then we got a double whammy because come, you know, January 1, the Bush tax cuts expire.” So Hannity said at one point in his show on that Friday night. Later, speaking with Sarah Palin, the disinformer said this:
HANNITY (6/29/12): That was Nancy Pelosi yesterday gleefully reacting to the controversial Supreme Court ruling and like the President and members of his administration, the former speaker is refusing to acknowledge even still that Obamacare is nothing short of the largest tax increase in American history.The health law was “the largest tax increase in history.” Pelosi, of course, was a dingbat.
And we continue with former Alaska Governor, Fox News contributor Sarah Palin.
You know, I listened to Nancy Pelosi. Listened to David Axelrod. Listen to the White House today, they still cannot acknowledge what this is, which is a tax. Largest tax increase in history. The president wants to follow that up with a double whammy and that is not extending the Bush tax cuts. Politically speaking, how should Congress deal with this and how should the Romney campaign deal with this if you were to give advice?
PALIN: Well first off, Nancy Pelosi is a dingbat and she is the perfect spokesperson for this whole agenda of the far left running the Democrat [sic] Party.
On Fox, the hoary old claim was widely spread. On June 29, Mike Huckabee offered it to Neil Cavuto. (“Yes, Neil, it is a tax, which means every Democrat now gets to go out and defend the largest tax increase in the history of country.”) On June 30, Jim Pinkerton told the gang on Fox News Watch. (“Roberts has now declared this to be the giant, biggest tax increase in the history of the universe.”)
By Monday, July 2, one apostle, Dana Perino, was spreading the claim into other lands. She spread the treasured disinformation on Imus' program that morning:
PERINO (7/2/12): If your new best friend in Washington is going to be Chief Justice Roberts, if you're on the left, you might—it would be honorable to quote him accurately. What he said is you are not allowed to do it [the penalty payment] under the commerce clause, but you are allowed to do it under the tax provision, therefore this can stand, it is a tax. And to try to say anything else is foolish.“It is what it is,” Perino declared, having just said what it isn’t. That evening, she sanded her claim a bit on The Five, declaring the health care law “the biggest tax increase in the last 20 years.”
I can understand why the White House doesn't want to, they don't want to be labeled in trying to defend the largest tax increase in American history on top of the other ones that could be coming at the end of the year, but it is what it is.
We’ll return to Fox before we’re done, but here we reach a key point of departure: The disinformation was widespread on Fox. But the disinformation wasn’t restricted to that disgraceful channel.
On CNN, on network news broadcasts, members of the mainstream “press corps” spread the disinformation too. For a truly pathetic example, here is CNN’s Gloria Borger on the day of the ruling:
BORGER (6/28/12): You can almost read between the lines that the chief justice was sort of admonishing the administration for saying, you know what, call a tax a tax. If it looks like a tax, walks like a tax, it's a tax. Call it a mandate, a penalty, a fine, it's a tax.Truly, that is pathetic. Ignore the part where Borger describes what we “can almost read between the lines” in the Roberts opinion.
So I think you're going to be hearing a lot more about what Mitch McConnell just said with Republicans saying that— They're going to say this is the largest tax increase to come down the pike, maybe in history.
BLITZER: But it's a little awkward for the Romney campaign to be doing that because Romney supported a mandate, an individual mandate in Massachusetts with penalties, i.e., tax increases in Massachusetts.
In our view, Borger’s account of what Roberts "almost" said is impossible to square with the words found in his opinion. But good God! She then mouthed the “largest tax increase in history” line, telling us that this is what Republicans are going to say!
With people like Borger around to perform, Republicans don’t have to say it! And Blitzer permitted the hoary old point to stand. After Borger advanced this claim, he offered no challenge or warning.
Borger was first of many. As the days went on, many mainstream journalists would put the disinformation in play. Example:
On Friday’s CBS This Morning, Jan Crawford played tape of Rush Limbaugh saying this: “What we now have is the biggest tax increase in the history of the world. Obama lied to us about that.”
CBS viewers saw Limbaugh advance the hoary old disinformation. And Crawford simply let it stand. Having played tape of Limbaugh’s misstatement, she made no attempt to challenge the hoary old charge.
Blitzer, Borger and Crawford were just the start of the charge. All over TV news, “mainstream” figures stood politely aside as hustlers advanced the old charge. On the morning of June 29, CNN’s hapless Soledad O’Brien deferred to Governor Bob McDonnell during the 7 o’clock hour. She then rolled over and died for Michele Bachmann one hour later:
BACHMANN (6/29/12): Number one, what we can do is we can, instead of being the highest taxed nation in the world for job creation, we can lower our taxes. But Obamacare is the biggest tax increase in American history. That's what Obamacare does.Praising Bachamn for being so feisty, the worthless O’Brien rolled over and died, as she so frequently does.
O'BRIEN: It sounds like she's not going to answer your question. Congressman Israel. Congresswoman Bachmann, thank you for being with us this morning.
ISRAEL: Thank you.
O'BRIEN: We certainly appreciate the feisty debate.
How poorly prepared (or compliant) are your “mainstream” press figures? This hoary old claim had first been used—incorrectly, of course—against the Clinton tax plan. Twenty years later, the RNC had unloosed the same bogus claim against the Obama health law.
But no matter how high their pedigree, your “journalists” are rarely ready to act. On NPR’s Tell Me More, Michel Martin sat and stared off into space as the “biggest tax increase” bomb dropped:
PABLO TORRE (6/29/12): There are two quick things I wanted to mention that I think in the longer term are probably huge blows against liberals. Which is the fact that the Commerce Clause, which is clearly designed to limit the powers of federal government, is pretty much gutted under Roberts' opinion. And second, that the re-branding of Obamacare as a tax—I mean, I was just looking at, you know, GOP conservative sites and everybody's proclaiming, you know, the largest tax increase in the history of the world is what Obamacare is. And it is an election year and I think that could be turn out—that could turn out to be a huge consolation prize for conservatives, coming out of this.Torre dropped the hoary old bomb. Martin simply moved right along, noticing nothing to look at.
MARTIN: Well, you know, the only other point I'd make about this is one of the things that's intrigued me all along is how many polls say that if you take the label off of it and just ask people about the constituent parts of the law, how many Republicans support it? How many Republicans support it and how many self-described conservatives support it, as long as you don't label it an Obama initiative?
Again and again, mainstream journalists failed to react to the hoary old charge. For perhaps the most gruesome example, consider the effort by New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny.
On Monday, July 2, Zeleny appeared as part of the pundit panel on the Fox News Channel’s Special Report. By now, four days had passed since the court issued its ruling.
In this passage, Juan Williams tries to rebut the hoary old charge. He tries and of course quickly fails:
ROBERTS (7/2/12): What about that last statement, that this is the biggest tax increase in history? Juan, Jeff, go with that!Williams had the right idea—but with one sharp word from Charles, he folded. He may have been unprepared. Or he may have felt, by the rules of the game, that it was time to stop.
WILLIAMS: I think in fact, the Polifact and the Washington Post say it's one of the pants on fire lies of all time. If you look at the size of the tax increase it's very small compared to anything as a percentage of GDP. It's just not true.
KRAUTHAMMER: But if you add the other taxes in Obamacare together it's huge.
WILLIAMS: This is—you can add all the other taxes on—you are trying the pile on.
KRAUTHAMMER: Pile on? It's all in the bill.
WILLIAMS: Even right now, this is just not going to determine the outcome of the election. This is not the issue.
ROBERTS: All right, let's give it to Dr. Zeleny.
Whatever! At this point, Roberts turned to Zeleny.
Roberts' question was still on the table. (“What about that last statement, that this is the biggest tax increase in history?”) This was the best the thoroughly useless Times reporter could muster:
ROBERTS: All right, let's give it to Dr. Zeleny.Simply put, Zeleny turned and ran. "It's up to the voters," he said.
ZELENY: I think it's up to the voters. Everyone has made their mind up on the tax issue, so I don't think we are moving voters through. The voters in the center of the debate, the independent swing voters I don't think will be moved by the argument. A few weeks from now neither Obama or Romney will talk about health care. Neither one of the want to talk about it.
ROBERTS: Hold it right there, gentlemen. We'll be right back.
Fox viewers wouldn’t be forced to hear the truth about that old charge.
We’ll leave it here for today, though much more misconduct has occurred, including Anderson Cooper's disgraceful July 9 roll-over. Simply put, the disinformation was spread far and wide, with mainstream "reporters" assisting Fox in spreading the bullshit around. And please understand:
Anyone who knows modern politics understands that this hoary old claim was falsely used, to great effect, against the Clinton tax plan. Twenty years later, they still refused to speak or complain when this hoary old claim was brought back.
Disinformation defines our discourse; it's been this way for decades. In the current case, millions of voters have been disinformed as this hoary old claim has been advanced. It’s hard to find genuine examples of pushback. (Though there are a few.)
The mainstream press corps didn’t push back; the career liberal world barely noticed the problem. The truth is apparent:
Rather plainly, no one cares when voters get disinformed!
The evidence could hardly be more clear: No one cares about this sort of misconduct! That would seem to include the vast majority of your “liberal” heroes.
No one cares, including our tribe! Fiery liberals, why is that?
Tomorrow: Anthropology class