The Widdershins

Falsies and their equivalents: Part Two…

Posted on: December 4, 2015

Continuing to springboard from MB’s call for reestablishment of the Fairness Doctrine through a deep dive into false equivalency, we, as a nation, was just subjected to a prima facie display of just how intellectually vile false equivalency can be. Tucker Carlson

Yesterday, a vote was held on whether or not to subject those individuals on the Terrorist Watch List to a background check for gun purchases.  The measure failed in the Senate.

All day prior to the vote, Republican candidates were asked what they thought about the measure.  To a one, they said it was wrong and anti-Murican.  Politically that is to be expected and is a policy position aligned with their hard-core base.

Here is where the false equivalency comes in.  The reasoning these candidates advanced to support their position was this:  We should enforce the laws on the books and if someone is on the Terrorist Watch List we should indict them and then they would not be able to buy a gun.

Let’s unpack that shall we?  People are on the Terrorist Watch List because there is not enough evidence to indict, let alone convict them.  That is why it is called a Watch List – same as it was when Dubya created it.  Therefore, to make the logic of these people who would be President operative, we would either have to suspend habeas corpus or effectively dismantle the Terrorist Watch List.

FishWhittled down:  Their solution to guns is less surveillance of suspected terrorists or dismantling the Constitution.

That insanity was not challenged once by any interviewer – not ONCE!  It was treated as a legitimate policy position – treated as a considered policy position right along with reporting on 14 deaths in San Bernardino.  That, my friends, is false equivalency in its most powerful incarnation.

Since we know the “what” of false equivalency, how about the “how” and the “why”?  There has always been, at some level, false equivalency floating about, but never has it been as rampant as it is in today’s political atmosphere.  The reason of the insidious infection seems to be Fox and as you will see, that is not opinion, but scientific conclusion.

Before I begin, let me stress that the points I’m about to make are not opinion.  They are points underpinned by pure scientific study – studies that are just as valid as if they came from a chemistry or physics lab.  In some cases more so since they are meta-analytic studies – studies of studies that wring out the statistical noise making their findings even more robustly accurate.Psalm 31

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears mentioning again – if you are a sole source news consumer, like 70% of Fox viewers are, you are better off if you watched no news than just watching Fox.  Simply put, you are better informed by turning off your television than watching Fox.  A myriad of academic studies have proved it, but this year a former Reagan and H.W. Bush official named Bruce Bartlett joined the chorus.

By restricting themselves to only one major news source, refusing “to even listen to any news or opinion not vetted through Fox” and accepting as truth information that appears on the channel, many Fox News viewers have become victims of “self-brainwashing.”

After the September 11, 2011 attacks, Fox News shifted farther right and transformed from a network set up to present news with a conservative tilt into one peddling misinformation and propaganda to the effect that Fox News viewers became the least informed among media consumers.

This answers the “how,” but not the “why” – and that answer seems to be as simple as this:  Conservative brains can’t help themselves but be attracted to Fox like a moth to a flame.

People and PenguinsIn a 2009 meta-analysis, it was proven conservatives, i.e. Fox viewers, have a much higher psychological need for closure on a subject.  In other words, there must be a concrete, simple answer for every issue.

Within this closure seeking group, there is also a group of right-wing authoritarians (RWA).  These RWA believe authority figures must be obeyed and deferred to in all circumstances.  They also “are more likely to select themselves into belief-affirming information streams, like Fox News or right-wing talk radio.”

There is a difference between no information and disinformation.  Choosing to be uninformed is a valid choice in a free society, but actively choosing disinformation is a worrisome cancer upon democracy.  For instance, actively denying climate change as a network policy or running 1,100 contrived stories on Benghazi in 20 months or agitating unhinged anti-abortion fanatics  – all of which Fox did – is voter manipulation of the lowest kind.

One of the other insidious methods Fox uses to corner the market on close-minded conservative viewers is constantly reminding them that the rest of the media is against them.  This is where “Fair, Balanced, and Unafraid” finds its genesis.  In a 2011 study, 72% of conservatives said they trust Fox, but also say they strongly distrust NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN.  Liberals and moderates, in contrast, trust all these outlets more than they distrust them.Psychiatrist

Simultaneously, Fox is both the deceiver and the enabler.  It makes the drug and then peddles it – complete disinformation vertical integration.

Once hooked, there is a strong emotional attachment to a trusted news stream that psychologically allows conservatives to escape from the challenges presented by nuance as reported in the “liberal media”.  It is only in this world where facts must be treated as criticism to advance the victimization narrative.

Personally I have no issue with this Mobius strip of conservative beliefs.  It is a belief system based upon a reality of their own making and one in which they seem to thrive.  It only becomes dangerously problematic when they confuse their world with the reality in which the rest of us must live.

Enjoy your Friday and take this conversation in any direction you might want.



19 Responses to "Falsies and their equivalents: Part Two…"

Great post Prolix and now I’ve got to read all of the links.

Prolix I’m completely with you on this:
It is a belief system based upon a reality of their own making and one in which they seem to thrive.
However, I for one don’t want to be a part of your simplified belief system and don’t want it forced on me.

By the way, did you happen to try the Deepak Chopra random quote generator? It’s hysterical.

Great follow-up post; in fact, this one is even better! I am amazed that we can’t even have gun control for people on the terrorist watch list!?! That’s crazy. What’s the point of a watch list?

You know, I actually have an aunt and uncle and a passel of cuzins out in San “Berdoo” and Redlands. They weren’t anywhere near the insanity, thank god, they are all furious & upset though, and think they need more weapons now to protect themselves. I’m pretty sure each household has a rifle and/or a little pistol, which I’m not criticizing…there are wild animals and higher crime out there. I doubt if I’ll live long enough to see a reduction of arms & violence in this country. I hope my kid will.

annie: The momster had a cousin and his wife who lived in San Berdoo (that’s where I learned the nickname). Mom and her cousin grew up together so they and his brother were more like sister and brothers. She got to make a trip out to visit with them. It was her first and only trip there. I don’t think it was particularly bad at that time.

Prolix and I were emailing and I said with the guy shooter supposedly being radicalized, there’s no way in hell that any type of gun control will pass now.

@1 & 2, thanks Fredster.

The simplicity of the binary world is what makes them so susceptible to self-inflected brainwashing, but trying to explain that logically would be impossible and resisted at every turn.

@4, thanks Annie. I’m in complete agreement. I just don’t see effective gun control happening in my lifetime and I’m not usually that pessimistic. If we can’t do something after Newtown, we can’t do it.

All it took in Australia was one horrific mass shooting at Port Arthur to spur the government into bipartisan action. What is really amazing, it worked really, really well.

@3, I did try the Chopra-canary generator. The underlying study was a good one — whether people can tell the difference and I have to admit some of the quotes, while meaningless pap, are grandiloquent.

On the Daily News headline, here’s a quote from the Editor-in-Chief:

What surprised Rich was not so much the volume, but the breakdown. “I thought it was going to be 50-50,” an even distribution of positive and negative responses. “And it’s been 80-20 or 70-30″ in favor of positive reactions, says the editor in chief.

What is also interesting, while I was reading the article which is pretty rough on Republicans for “saluting the flag of the NRA,” there was a pop-up ad for NRA membership.

Prolix said: I have to admit some of the quotes, while meaningless pap, are grandiloquent.

Oh yes, they sounded wonderful. You could picture folks nodding in agreement. to them…like this one:

“Self power is only possible in humble molecules”

or this:

“Non-judgment is inextricably connected to the light of space time events”


I liked that WaPo article. I liked what the Post’s Rich and Browne both said. They’re calling the Repubs out and that’s a good thing. Loved this part:

They are saluting the flag of the National Rifle Association.

@11, there’s something in the polling showing promise for sensible gun safety laws. I haven’t yet read what it is, but my gut tells me Hillary is seeing an opportunity to box in the Repubs on the issue.

@12, I hope you’re right! If Hillary can do something, I’m sure she will. I’m still rattled by this latest–oh, they have said its terrorism now–isil/isis/daesh, in fact. What evil, stupid people. And to abandon their baby, I can’t wrap my head around it.

@5, Fredster, I was wondering how you knew that old nickname, “San Berdoo.” I haven’t heard it in years. When we were young, we spent quite a lot of time there visiting my aunt and cousins. The families would take turns visiting each others houses. I haven’t been out that way in about 15 years, as they prefer to come up to visit us now (we live in a nicer area). I’m expecting the whole clan up sometime in January or February. I’m sure they’ll have a lot to say about this.

@13, Can’t wrap my head around it either — how do you systematically mow down people who had a baby shower for you? How does a person do that?

annie@13: Mom’s cousin and wife were from Bama – just like mom. I believe originally her cousin got laid off from yet another blue-collar type job in B’ham and they decided to pack it up and head west. Not sure how they ended up there but that’s where they ended up . They both worked as mgrs for different locations of some type of retail store in the area and both retired from the company.

Fredster took a nap earlier and now is apparently up for the duration.

I previously mentioned the Cheney bust going into the Capitol Visitor Center. Apparently that set Rude Pundit off on a rant also. Here’s his post from Thursday on the topic.

@16, who gets to decide something like that? The most hated vice president in our lifetimes if not ever, and they’re putting his bust in the Capitol? He should be in jail. His bust being in a public space only makes sense if we can throw eggs at it and birds can crap on it. I’ll check out RP.

I just screamed with laughter when I read RPs comments about the Cheney bust. Awesome!

[…] When you get beyond the hyperbole and the machismo masquerading as desperate calls for testosterone injections, the Obama policies are those advocated by the Republican candidates.  What hasn’t happened so far is that the “journalists” who interview the Republican candidates don’t follow-up with specifics.  It is a perfect example of last week’s posts about false equivalency. […]

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