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Bookworm

Leftists play ostrich with facts they don’t like, and American discourse suffers

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Posted on March 22 2011 7:40 pm
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Cross-Posted from Bookworm Room.

The other day, Mr. Bookworm asked me to tell him “what the right wing wackos were talking about.”  Among other things, I mentioned that people were interested in the fact that Hillary had recently announced that she would not return as Secretary of State for Obama’s second term, leading to speculation that she was planning a primary challenge.

“That’s not true,” he exclaimed.  “That’s just another of those conspiracy theories that get your little blogosphere so excited.”

Since we were in the car, I mildly responded that it was true and changed the subject.  He was troubled, though.  That night, after I’d already turned my computer, he told me I was clearly (a) wrong or (b) making things up or (c) in thrall to a conspiracy theory, because his computer search didn’t turn up any mention of Hillary quitting her job.

“That’s peculiar,” I said.  “Give me your computer and I’ll find it for you in a second.”

His response startled me:  “No.  I’m not going to let you use my computer to waste time looking for something that’s not true.”

“Well, if I find it, then it is true and I haven’t wasted time.”

“No.  It’s not there so don’t look.”

Next morning, when I turned on my computer, it took me about 1 minute to find a CNN article entitled “Clinton says no to second run” (with a permalink giving the alternative title as “Clinton-running-for-president”).  The text was straightforward:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer she does not want to serve a second term as secretary of state or run for president of the United States.

[snip]

Q- If the president is reelected, do you want to serve a second term as secretary of state?

No

I wasn’t wrong; I didn’t make it up; there was no conspiracy theory.  On a liberal venue, in an on-air interview with a liberal media personality, Hillary explicitly announced her upcoming retirement.

I actually wasn’t going to write about this little interaction with Mr. Bookworm, because although silly, it was no big deal.  We go through this all the time.  I say something, he challenges my veracity, and then he refuses to look at the proof I send him.  I thought it was just one of his little eccentricities.  I only mention it now because a Lee Stranahan post establishes that Mr. Bookworm is not alone.  His behavior appears at the highest echelons of liberal thinking.

Lee Stranahan, as you may recall, is the long-time, self-admitted, well-known Progressive who wrote a HuffPo column calling out the MSM on its hypocrisy regarding civility:

Why isn’t the mainstream media talking about the death threats against Republican politicians in Wisconsin?

[snip]

Burying the death threat story is a clear example of intellectual dishonesty and journalistic bias.

Don’t take my word for it, though. Look into the story of death threats in Wisconsin yourself and see who has been covering the story and who hasn’t. Try for a moment to see this story from the perspective of those who you may disagree with on policy and ask yourself how this looks to them. Can you blame them for feeling that way? Then take a few seconds and read those questions I asked you at the beginning of this article.

And then ask why progressives shouldn’t expect more from our media — and ourselves — than we expect from our political adversaries.

What I’ve since learned is that Stranahan, rather than sparking a wave of self-analysis and honesty from his fellow Progressives, has been subject to opprobrium for having developed a working relationship with Andrew Breitbart.  He’s a sell-out, they say, making his criticism completely irrelevant.

Stranahan, in response to these attacks, has written a post explaining why he ended up in a working relationship with Breitbart, despite the fact that Stranahan hasn’t abandoned his Progressive principles.  Stranahan never expected to like Breitbart.  Their relationship started after Stranahan watched, and was offended by, the media ridicule directed at Jon Stewart for his Rodney King moment in Washington, D.C., (a “can’t we all get along” speech that Stewart’s subsequent outings on his show proved he didn’t mean).

Stranahan decided to “get along” by interviewing the most reviled conservative media figure.  He picked Breitbart.  I’ll let Stranahan explain the rest:

So I thought about writing a HuffPost piece about this idea that the left was missing the entire point of what Stewart was trying to say. I wanted to interview someone, so I tried to think of the most reviled person in the world by left and Andrew Breitbart sprung.to mind. I only know a little about him. I remembered he was involved the Shirley Sherrod thing and that ACORN thing but my knowledge of these events was pretty shallow. I knew he was called a racist, a homophobe and every other name under the sun. But I also remembered something I’d seen months earlier.

It was an appearance on Good Morning, America with Andrew Breitbart and Eric Boehlert. I’d watched it because I knew Eric Boehlert, who’d written about me and the John Edwards story in his book Bloggers on the Bus. So when I watched, I was a lot more inclined to agree with Boehlert than Breitbart.

There’s a part in that segment where Breitbart discusses the story about racial epithets being yelled at members of the Congressional Black Caucus by members of the Tea Party; a story that was widely reported in the left wing blogosphere. It was so widely reported, I just assumed it was true but here was this Breitbart guy saying he had video tapes that proved the incident didn’t happened as described. Okay, that was interesting – maybe I had the story wrong and this Breitbart guy seemed eager to prove it,

And then – on live television– Eric Boehlert & George Stephanopoulos totally blew off Breitbart’s offer to show them the video tapes.

That stuck with me for months. The story was either true or not and here was someone eager to get to the truth and the liberal host and other liberal guest weren’t a bit interested. And it seemed so dishonest. I knew if they thought the video proved their case, it’d be shown all day and night. It didn’t make me proud to be on the same side ideologically as Boehlert and Stephanopoulos.

(You should read the rest of Stranahan’s post, but that’s the point I wanted to make for purposes of my own post.)

For Stranahan, this was a light bulb moment.  For me, it’s my life.  Mr. Bookworm is the most common culprit only because he’s the one with whom I most frequently converse.  But I see the same thing with other liberals:  If it challenges their dogma, they don’t want to know.  They understand that bubbles only work if no one pokes them with a sharp object, and facts are the ultimate sharp object.  (Or, as John Adams more eloquently said, “facts are stubborn things.”)  They’re not going to let anything near them that might puncture their tidy ideological bubble.

I’m not optimistic about reasoned political debate in our country if one side of the debate, after hurling insults and misinformation, then sticks its collective fingers in its collective ears, and hollers “Nyah, nyah, nyah.  I caaaan’t hear you.”  It’s not that we’re talking different languages or different values.  It’s that, thanks to the ostrich media’s (thankfully weakening) stranglehold on the dissemination of information, we’re not actually talking at all.

Cross-Posted from Bookworm Room.

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