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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Conservatives in Wackyland

The right is still pushing the "weaponized IRS" scandal. Alas, they came up with that memorable bit of nomenclature -- "weaponized IRS" -- a little late in the game. But they're using it now.
At a tax symposium at Pepperdine Law School last week, former IRS chief counsel Donald Korb was asked, "On a scale of 1-10 ... how damaging is the current IRS scandal?"

His answer: 9.5. Other tax experts on the panel called it "awful," and said that it has done "tremendous damage."

I think that's right. And I think that the damage extends well beyond the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, I think that the government agency suffering the most damage isn't the IRS, but the National Security Agency. Because the NSA, even more than the IRS, depends on public trust. And now that the IRS has been revealed to be a political weapon, it's much harder for people to have faith in the NSA.
The mind reels when one confronts such a verbal debris field. Where to start?

Are we really to presume that an opinion aired at the notoriously conservative Pepperdine University (where the equally notorious Ken Starr was given a cozy sinecure) somehow counts as objective fact? Are we really to believe that the fake IRS "scandal" is the main reason why people have come to mistrust the NSA?

Seriously? That's the reason? Not the Snowden material?

Sorry, but the NSA scandal is a real scandal. It's backed by good investigative reportage and hard documentation and revelations from whistleblowers, one of whom had to leave the country.

The IRS "scandal" is more pseudo than the boobs on an '80s porn star. The IRS did not target or muzzle Tea Partiers. The only groups to get into actual trouble with the IRS were liberal/progressive. The IRS used both progressive and conservative key words to scope out possible partisan violators of tax exempt status -- but the teabaggers received only one-third of the overall scrutiny, and, in the end, emerged unscathed.

The real scandal is that the Tea Partiers have been able to flout the laws and maintain their non-partisan status, even though they are clearly partisan. The conservatives whipped up this fake "scandal" in order to cover up that key fact.

The article referenced above links to this Wall Street Journal hit piece...
President Obama and Democrats have been at great pains to insist they knew nothing about IRS targeting of conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofits before the 2012 election.
That's a lie. Let's say it three times, in boldface: Conservative groups were not targeted. Conservative groups were not targeted. Conservative groups were not targeted.

Although the truth of the matter was exposed last August, conservative propagandists hope that the passing months have rendered memories fuzzy. If you want the facts, look here:
Darrel Issa spent months holding “hearings” trying to suggest the IRS was out to get the Tea Party and trying to find a link between this and the White House. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul led the vengeance crusade to shut down the IRS based on the latest “scandal” that never was.

Our Sarah Jones reported on the unredacted IRS Treasury’s report’s conclusions. The report revealed that Issa was lying (again) and so was the Inspector General. In fact, the whole audit was skewed to make it appear that the IRS targeted the Tea Party when the reality was that organizations across the political spectrum faced scrutiny.
And here:
Officials at the Internal Revenue Service were encouraged to flag groups with the word "emerge" in their names as well as potential successors to the anti-poverty organization ACORN, according to documents released by Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.
Groups with the word "emerge" in the name tend to lean more Democratic. As The New York Times previously reported, three such organizations -- Emerge Nevada, Emerge Maine and Emerge Massachusetts -- all were denied tax-exempt status because the IRS determined that they existed strictly to benefit Democratic candidates.

"Once again it is clear that the Inspector General's report left out critical information that skewed the audit's findings and set the stage for Republicans to make completely baseless accusations in an effort to tarnish the White House," said House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) in a prepared statement. "These new documents make it clear the IRS scrutiny of the political activity of 501(c)(4) organizations covered a broad spectrum of political ideology and was not politically motivated."
Actually, the IRS did not target a "broad spectrum." They went after liberals. Only liberal groups got into actual trouble.

The reactionary propagandists know full well that they are telling long-exposed lies. Make no mistake: The propagandists have utter contempt for the scarlet-necked rubes who buy into their deceptions. As Paul Pillar of Consortium News once put it:
The power of the Big Lie comes partly from its sheer audacity but also from the repetition: the serial drumming of an idea into the heads of an unwitting public.

In societies with free speech and a free press there is some deterrence against telling outright whoppers. Usually fact-checking critics, who include energetic journalists as well as some who are trying to protect opposing political interests, are ready and eager to point out falsehoods. Even that is not enough of a deterrent to some who do not consider themselves part of the reality-based community and who merrily dispense their own odd version of the truth.

For those deterred from telling outright falsehoods, the same sort of repetition that helps to make the Big Lie work can be used to considerable effect with a more indirect technique. This is to cultivate an idea in the public mind by asking it as a question, raising it as a possibility, or just associating two otherwise unrelated things by speaking of them in the same sentences.

Do this enough times, over and over, and even a proposition that has no basis in reality takes root in the public consciousness. Once rooted, it becomes resistant to uprooting and has a good chance of becoming conventional wisdom that, as such, becomes repeatedly referred to even more. The technique that gets the false idea started is not the Big Lie; it is the Big Insinuation.
This IRS meme began as a strong insinuation and has now attained "outright fabrication" status.

I'll give you another example: In right-wing Wackyland, the True Believers remain convinced of two facts: That Obama supported the Occupy movement and that the Occupy movement supported Obama. Nutball teabagger artist Jon McNaughton even celebrated that "marriage" in a painting.

If you look at old headlines on Pam Geller's site (avalaible now only via Google cache), you'll see some jaw-dropping pieces of agit-prop lying:

The reality: OWS was an anti-government protest movement and thus, by definition, had an adversarial relationship with this government. Obama's administration did not support OWS -- in fact, the administration coordinated a crackdown on the Occupy protesters.
It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.
The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations' knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI – though it acknowledges Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization – nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a "terrorist threat"...
That's what really happened.

The right-wingers who lap up the nonsense spewed by people like Geller must be made to understand one key truth: Reality is not football. One does not attain a clearer view of reality by choosing a team and rooting for it (and against the opposing team) on a daily basis. The "sports fan" mentality is fine in the world of sports; everywhere else, that attitude is disastrous.

It's easy for a liberal of my stripe to be honest about Obama's actual relations with OWS because I am not a blinkered Obama admirer and I didn't particularly care for OWS. That is to say: I admired the spirit of the protestors and I agreed with some of their ideas. But their whole "leaderless" approach struck me as inane and self-defeating. As I said from the start, the endless search for consensus was narcissistic and infuriatingly unworkable.

But even as I scoffed at the inherent absurdities of the OWS way of doing politics, I never fell for the crude lies about the movement told by the likes of Pam Geller and the Breitbarters.

Facts are facts: Obama targeted OWS for destruction while allowing the Tea Party groups to prosper and to defy the law. You can never get a conservative to admit what I've just said, but truth remains truth even when it rankles.

A modern conservative is someone who can look at a photo of a jellyfish and say "That's a kitty-cat" -- if doing so could somehow help propagate the Republican party's line of the day. How can we have a dialogue with people who demand that we accept their hallucinated universe as three-dimensional objective reality?
I have been banned from commenting at the Patriot Action Network. PAN banned me for simply speaking well of Bill Clinton's record and defending Hillary Clinton from insane blatherng comments left by others.

So how can this group purport to be eligible for non-profit status if they have a clear conservative agenda and actually ban people from disagreeing?
Facts are facts: Obama targeted OWS for destruction while allowing the Tea Party groups to prosper and to defy the law.

Well of course he did. He's a Republican, after all.
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