Marcotte sounds off at Salon: Two weeks ago, Amanda Marcotte sounded off but good at Salon. (Originally, her piece had appeared at AlterNet.)
Marcotte discussed a favorite topic of us on the pseudo-left. She was setting the record straight about the other tribe’s propaganda.
Everybody loves to hear that the other tribe is dishonest and vile! This is the way Marcotte began, with Salon’s headline included:
MARCOTTE (10/24/14): Why conservatives prefer propaganda to realityWe liberals love this kind of talk, in which those in Our Own Flawless Tribe are good and honest—devoted to facts—while those in The Other Tribe are stuffed full of lies.
Pew Research set out to find what’s behind what it considers the increasing political polarization of the United States; why the country is moving away from political moderation and becoming more and more divided between liberals and conservatives. Its first report on the phenomenon, which examines where people are hearing news and opinion in both regular and social media, shows that this is happening for very different reasons among people moving to the right than for people moving to the left.
Or that’s the charitable way to put it. The less charitable way is to say Pew discovered that conservatives are consuming a right-wing media full of lies and misinformation, whereas liberals are more interested in media that puts facts before ideology. It’s very much not a “both sides do it” situation. Conservatives are becoming more conservative because of propaganda, whereas liberals are becoming more liberal while staying very much checked into reality.
Make no mistake; given the way our discourse works, conservatives are routinely subjected to lots of misinformation. Increasingly, though, so are those who labor on our side.
As we read the Marcotte piece, we were struck by a peculiar fact. As it denounced the propaganda of The Right, it seemed to carry a propagandistic tone of its own.
By the time her piece was half-done, Marcotte was cherry-picking unflattering facts about people who watch Fox News. Truth to tell, we were already concerned about her piece after reading just four paragraphs.
It seemed like Marcotte might be truly believing. Does anything in this passage strike you as implausible?
MARCOTTE (continuing directly): That this polarization is going on isn’t a myth. Previous Pew research shows the percentage of Americans who are “mostly” or “consistently” conservative has grown from 18% in 2004 to 27% in 2014. During that same period, the percentage of Americans who are “mostly” or “consistently” liberal stayed a little more consistent, growing from 33% to 34% in 10 years. (These statistics don’t measure what you call yourself, but what you rate as on a scale of beliefs about various issues.) While liberals became more liberal, conservatives both became more numerous and more rigidly conservative over time. What gives?Without any question, “conservative media” is rife with bogus messages. Having said that, do those figures from that Pew survey seem to make sense to you?
Enter right-wing media, which has a nifty trick of convincing audiences it’s the other guys who are the liars, all while actually being much less trustworthy in reality. From conservative screaming about the “media elite” to Fox News’s old slogan “Fair and Balanced,” conservative media is rife with the message that everyone is out to get you, conservative viewer, and only in the warm blanket of right-wing propaganda will you be safe.
True believers will truly believe whatever serves their interest. In this matter, Marcotte seemed to be truly believing some rather peculiar statistics.
Question: Is it your impression that 34 percent of the American public is mostly or consistently liberal? Is it your impression that liberals outnumbered conservatives by a margin of almost two to one just ten years ago?
Marcotte plowed forward with true belief; those figures seemed a bit strange to us. Beyond that, we’ve learned a sad fact down through the years:
On a purely intellectual basis, Pew’s analytical work is often horrible—just plain flat-out bad.
For those reasons, we decided to fact-check Marcotte’s work. For starters, how did Pew come up with those statistics—statistics which didn’t quite seem to make sense?
There is no question about it! In the modern context, conservatives are subjected to lots of propaganda. Increasingly, though, so are people over here, on our flawless liberal side.
Tomorrow, we’ll show you what we found when we reviewed Pew’s work. Links are provided in Marcotte’s piece for those who would jump ahead.