I’m sure you’ve all had this experience before. You are conversing or tweeting or facebooking with someone and they characterize President Obama in a way that is so far from the truth that you wonder if the person is living in an alternate reality.
The prime purveyors of this alternate reality are Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. Both of those entities reach many millions of people on a daily basis and spread so much misinformation that the fact checkers and honest journalists are overwhelmed – they can’t keep up with it. If you need examples, go spend a few minutes at Media Matters for America, which does an excellent job of keeping an eye on those two propaganda machines.
I read an interesting book review in the New York Times yesterday that alluded to that alternate reality. I don’t agree with the reviewers full characterization of Obama’s first term, but he points to the above idea in a concise way in his review of Charles R. Kesler’s book I Am the Change. (emphasis is mine)
Whenever conservatives talk to me about Barack Obama, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. But what exactly? The anger, the suspicion, the freestyle fantasizing have no perceptible object in the space-time continuum that centrist Democrats like me inhabit. What are we missing? Seen from our perspective, the country elected a moderate and cautious straight shooter committed to getting things right and giving the United States its self-respect back after the Bush-Cheney years. Unlike the crybabies at MSNBC and Harper’s Magazine, we never bought into the campaign’s hollow “hope and change” rhetoric, so aren’t crushed that, well, life got in the way. At most we hoped for a sensible health care program to end the scandal of America’s uninsured, and were relieved that Obama proposed no other grand schemes of Nixonian scale. We liked him for his political liberalism and instinctual conservatism. And we still like him. […]
The Claremont Review doesn’t like Obama one bit. But it has usually taken the slightly higher road in criticizing him, and when Kesler begins his book by dismissing those who portray the president as “a third-world daddy’s boy, Alinskyist agitator, deep-cover Muslim or undocumented alien” the reader is relieved to know that “I Am the Change” won’t be another cheap, deflationary takedown. Instead, it is that rarest of things, a cheap inflationary takedown — a book that so exaggerates the historical significance of this four-year senator from Illinois, who’s been at his new job even less time, that he becomes both Alien and Predator.
It isn’t just Republicans who have this mindset, I hear very similar “inflations” from the libertarian trolls on Twitter and in the blogosphere. They seem to have molded their reality to fit their perceptions and of course take in any information that agrees with it and reject any that runs counter to it. This next passage is particularly good.
But his systematic exaggerations demonstrate that the right’s rage against Obama, which has seeped out into the general public, has very little to do with anything the president has or hasn’t done. It’s really directed against the historical process they believe has made America what it is today. The conservative mind, a repository of fresh ideas just two decades ago, is now little more than a click-click slide projector holding a tray of apocalyptic images of modern life that keeps spinning around, raising the viewer’s fever with every rotation. If you want to experience what it’s like to be within that mind on a better day, then you need to visit “I Am the Change.”
The reviewer doesn’t mention what I think has a lot to do with that rage, RACISM! I don’t, however, attribute all of it to racism. Having been an observer of politics for many decades, I know that at least some of it is rage against “liberals” in general. President Clinton had people accusing him of murder and all sorts of other batshit crazy stuff and of course you don’t get any whiter than Bill, at least on the surface.
So to me, it’s a combination of deep seated racism bubbling to the surface, the vilification of all “liberals” in the style of Frank Luntz and the effect of the Fox News/Limbaugh projects that have misinformed millions of Americans for right-wing political gain.
I miss the Republican party that used to be based on real ideas, as stupid and misguided as they were. It’s nearly impossible to debate a right-winger these days, because you can’t even get them to agree to objective facts and instead have to spend your time trying to educate them about reality.
On November 6, 2012, we can all do the country and our discourse a favor by sending every Republican packing.
Cross-posted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles