This is the way the tribes learn: Yesterday afternoon, Paul Krugman wrote a blog post which helps define the working of our increasingly tribal culture.
Increasingly, we live in a world where two different tribes have two different sets of facts. In Bosnia, three such tribes came to great misery—the Muslims, the Serbs and the Croats.
In his blog post, Krugman described a misstatement—a misstatement which is widely believed by members of one of our warring tribes. He referred to “the alleged fact that the estimated cost of the [Obama health plan] has risen by a trillion dollars—which happens to be a complete lie.”
Krugman said “lie”—we’ll stick with misstatement. But according to Krugman, this is how a gross misstatement came to be widely believed:
KRUGMAN (3/19/12): The remarkable thing is how quickly the lie has become part of what everyone on the right knows. And even if some of the people citing this “fact” could somehow be convinced that it wasn’t so, they’d brush it off, because there’s such a pattern of liberal duplicity, demonstrated by lots of other supposed facts—all of which are also lies.For our money, the key words are these: “completely unaware that it’s all fiction.”
This is the reality of modern American politics: a large and cohesive bloc of voters lives in an alternative reality, fed fake facts by Fox and Rush—whom they listen to out of tribal affiliation—and completely unaware that it’s all fiction.
Krugman describes a pattern which has obtained in our culture for at least the past thirty years. Sean and Rush (and others) pimp disinformation. Millions of people believe their misstatements, “completely unaware” that they’re false. (We will only add one small point: Increasingly, through our new liberal organs, we liberals behave this way too.)
A large bloc of voters are fed fake facts by Fox and Rush, completely unaware that it’s fiction! For at least a decade, we have begged liberals to look for ways to make the public aware of this pattern. When major figures like Rush make misstatements, that is news, we have said.
It’s news when Rush deceives the public. It should be treated like news.
The liberal world has made little attempt to make major newspapers see things that way. Nor have we tried to establish forums in which we try to inform deceived people that they have been deceived.
We do spend a great deal of time feeding our own state of fury, of course. (This is a change from the 1990s, when we simply sat napped in the woods as the deceptions advanced.) But how many people, outside our small circle, have ever heard this pattern described in the way Krugman does?
When Rush and Sean deceive the public, the New York Times should treat that as news! It should be part of a front-page news report. It shouldn’t be relegated to the status of an accurate blog post.
Having said that, ponder this:
Gail Collins enjoys telling the tale of a dog on the roof of a car. By now, she has mentioned this tale in at least three dozen columns.
Your assignment, if you should choose to accept it: How many times has this fatuous person mentioned Rush Limbaugh down through the years? Or is Limbaugh perhaps a little more scary than her tale of Mitt Romney’s strapped dog?
For fuller understanding: Krugman explained that misstatement—that "complete lie"—in this earlier blog post.
For his original column on this topic, go ahead: Just click here.