Author: Amanda Marcotte
That the conservative movement is built on a bunch of misinformation, strange fantasies and outright lies has been the subject of thorough documentation, particularly in the past few decades. Conservative leaders deny inconvenient facts, make up lurid tales to justify their beliefs, and outright lie, if it suits their agenda. But these lies and myths rarely just sit in amber. They tend to evolve and get stranger and more baroque over time. Just when you think conservative misinformation can’t get any weirder, it does. Here’s four topics where conservatives are taking the lies and denialism to the next level.
1) Climate change.The White House recently released a report on climate change outlining how climate change is no longer a “future” issue since it’s having an impact on the environment right now. Conservatives responded by abandoning all restraint. No longer content with the line that they are simply “skeptical” of the science, George Will and Charles Krauthammer (neither of whom are scientists) went on Fox News to “explain” how all this science stuff is hokum. Will basically accused scientists of making it all up for mercenary reasons, saying, “If you want money from the biggest source of direct research in this country, the federal government, don’t question its orthodoxy.” Why the federal government would make up climate change and then bribe scientists to lie about it was left unexplained.
But Michael Bresciani of the Christian Post may have come up with an even more entertaining, if still chilling way for conservatives to simply wave off the overwhelming evidence about climate change. Bresciani seems to accept that climate change is happening, but claims it’s for biblical reasons. “All that the Bible reveals about climate changed is part of the pre-millennial prophetic message. It does say that earthquakes and violent storms, fires and other natural disasters will occur with greater intensity and frequency as the ‘last days’ approach, but it clearly says these are ‘birth pangs’ for a planet about to meet its creator.” Instead of blaming carbon emissions, he blames “everything perverted, liberal and dehumanizing.”
So those are the two choices facing a forward-thinking climate change denialist these days: Either claim science is a lie or say climate change is real, but it’s caused by all the sex you perverts are having.
2) Abortion.Abortion has always been a topic that causes conservatives to spin off into fantasyland, but lately it just seems to be getting worse. Unable to admit out loud that they want to ban abortion to punish women for having sex, conservatives have taken to spinning fantastical tales of how abortion is an “industry” that deliberately tricks women into having abortions in order to make money. (Never mind that many abortion clinics are non-profits.)
But even that lurid fantasy is apparently not satisfying enough. Carol Everett worked in abortion clinics three decades ago and now makes a living as an anti-choice activist, and there’s no tale too tall for her to tell. Recently, LifeSiteNews, without an ounce of skepticism, printed some of Everett’s claims about how the “industry” supposedly tricks young women into having sex, by letting them know that it exists. “We had a goal of 3-5 abortions from every girl between the ages of 13 and 18,” she told the unbelievably gullible audience at an anti-choice function. She then explained that abortion clinic workers supposedly sneak into schools and trick kids into getting abortions by teaching them the name of their genitals. Knowing your genitals have a name apparently puts them straight on the road to having sex, something she seemingly believes teenagers would otherwise have no interest in.
“My goal was to get them sexually active on a low-dose birth control pill that we knew they would get pregnant on,” she triumphantly concluded. There you have it: Anti-choicers have taken to practically arguing that feminists invented sex so they can trick women into having abortions. It makes perfect sense if you’ve been knocked on the head in the past five minutes. (Research shows that contraception use is linked to lower, not higher, abortion rates.)
3) Gun culture.The great myth the right has pushed for decades is that people need guns for personal safety, to protect against home intruders who are bent on raping and murdering them. It’s hard to deny the right to self-defense, but the tactic is fundamentally dishonest because having a gun in the home significantly raises the likelihood you’re going to be murdered. But no longer content simply to lie to people about guns, right-wing media has upped the ante, now arguing that a little pre-emptive murder of teenagers who are not actually out to murder you is good for overall safety and security.
You see it with the attempts to turn George Zimmerman into a hero, even though it’s indisputable that he chased down and shot an unarmed Trayvon Martin. Sean Hannity recently experimented with pushing the envelope even further, by championing the cause of a man who entrapped his victims with the intent to kill them for stealing from him. Byron Smith knew that his victims—Haile Kifer, 18, and Nick Brady, 17—had no intention of harming anyone with their admittedly stupid teenage stunt of breaking into houses to steal stuff. That’s why he set up an elaborate ruse to trick them into thinking his house was empty (including driving away and sneaking back into his dark house on foot) for the sole purpose of shooting them dead. Smith was found guilty of murder.
But Hannity couldn’t resist trying to turn him into a hero, claiming it was somehow self-defense because the kids “broke into the guy’s house.” This goes well beyond the lie that guns make you safe. The argument here is that pre-emptive vigilantism and the summary execution of people guilty of nothing more than petty crime is somehow “self-defense.”
4) Terrorism. Your average conservative is deeply committed to the idea that the Republicans are better on security issues than the Democrats. Of course, now they have to contend with the fact that President Obama presided over the killing of Osama Bin Laden. How better to go about this than just go big when rewriting history?
During a recent discussion of terrorism, Fox News host Eric Bolling said, “America was certainly safe between 2000 and 2008. I don’t remember any attacks on American soil during that period of time.” No one bothered to correct him, even though the biggest terrorist attack in American history happened during Bush’s presidency, on September 11, 2001. Perhaps you remember it.
5) Benghazi. Fox News and various conservative pundits are notorious for going on and on with this hazy conspiracy theory trying to blame Hillary Clinton for an attack on an embassy in Benghazi that led to the deaths of Americans. But now it’s gotten to the point where every news story imaginable is being somehow linked back to “Benghazi,” no matter how tenuous the connection.
Recently, this trend reached a new low: Trying to use the kidnapping of hundreds of school girls in Nigeria by an Islamist cult to push the Benghazi hoax. Benghazi is a city in Libya, and is nearly 3,000 miles away from Nigeria. This did not stop Laura Ingraham on Fox News from implying that the embassy incident in Benghazi somehow caused the kidnapping. “I think part of the problem here is that we have a dead American ambassador,” she said, going on to suggest that the ambassador’s death emboldened Boko Haram to kidnap the girls.
Allen West went in a different, though no less disgusting, direction. Calling the attention paid to the Nigeria story “fishy,” West argued that the story is just a distraction from “all the scandals facing the Obama administration, especially Benghazi and the Select Committee.” The possibility that people might actually care deeply about what happens to innocent young girls is clearly implausible to him.
None of this should be surprising. Once the right embraced dishonesty as a favorite tactic, there’s no reason not to give into the urge to make the lies more elaborate and fantastical, all of which gets them more attention and gins up more hatred for their opposition. The lies are just going to get nuttier, as there’s very little reason for conservative pundits not to keep pushing and seeing how far they can go.
Amanda Marcotte co-writes the blog Pandagon. She is the author of “It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments.”