Defending fact-based reality

September 7, 2012

While visiting family in the Midwest recently, I was startled when two different relatives asked me, “Have you seen that film ‘2016’?” Both were eager to see it; neither, needless to say, is a fan of Barack Obama.

As it turns out, I haven’t seen Dinesh D’Souza’s hysterical screed against the president – but I have seen D’Souza baying at the moon on “Real Time with Bill Maher” and elsewhere. And I’m familiar enough with D’Souza’s work to understand how incredible – and lacking in credibility – his film no doubt is.

But then, facts seem to be Kryptonite (and not “criptonight,” as one online wingnut spelled it) for Republicans. Why should a Republican documentary be any different?

“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” as one Romney pollster put it, after even Fox News called bullshit on much of vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention. Because, hey, what does it matter if they’re lying? Half the country already assumes they are; the other half wants to swallow the lie whole, like a large pill washed down with cod-liver oil.

More like castor oil. With the same results.

It’s not like this is anything new. Go back to 2004, when an unnamed George W. Bush aide (later identified as Karl Rove) scoffed at a newspaper reporter as being part of the “reality-based community.” Rove went on to say, “When we act, we create our own reality.”

Or as Humpty Dumpty told Alice in “Through the Looking Glass,” “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” To which Alice replied, “The question is, whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

To which, like Humpty, the Republicans reply, “The question is, which is to be master — that’s all.”

And that seems to be exactly what D’Souza’s doing. His film is part of a long-term, hardcore, right-wing approach that has not just gained a foothold but has cemented itself into the framework of American discourse.

Although, if you want to be specific, go back to Joseph Goebbels and his notion that the Big Lie – “Obama is a Muslim,” “Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.” – is much easier to foist off on the public than the small one.

As the late Sen. Daniel Moynihan famously said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion – but not his own facts.” And yet, here we are: with the wishy-washy reality-based mainstream media, and the misleading, fact-challenged Republicans and their mouthpieces on Fox News and, now, the movie theaters playing Dinesh D’Souza’s opus, creating “facts” of their own.

I know, I know – the media is there to explain the story for the “undecided” voter. And Fox News is there to make sure that the story is “fair and balanced.” Fact-check that phrase, why don’t you?

But it’s all kabuki – D’Souza’s doc, Fox’s news, both conventions. There’s a pre-fabricated template for the stories because the dirty secret is that, really, this election is about swaying the votes of that 15 percent of so-called “undecided” voters – or, to use another euphemism, the “uninformed” voter.

Or, to put it bluntly, stupid people.

Because, really – after 30 years of the right-wing noise machine and its ineffective counterpoint on the Democratic side, after three decades of right-wing ascendancy broken up by brief spells of semi-sanity (pock-marked with more destructive right-wing obstruction) – if you’re still undecided, then you obviously haven’t been paying attention. If you haven’t figured out what you think by now, do we really want people like you to vote?

Realistically, that’s the voter-fraud initiative I’d like to see: not a voter-ID law but one that proves the voter has an awareness – if not an understanding – of the issues and has enough information to cast an intelligent vote, instead of one driven by fear, ignorance and bias.

As for D’Souza’s film, it isn’t a documentary – it’s propaganda. I’ve read enough of his stuff – and heard his arguments in other places often enough – to invoke the “Life is too short” clause in my contract and give that one a pass.

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