Summary: Finally an answer to a vexing question! Left or Right in America, who has the greater contempt for truth? Which tribe exaggerates the most in their propaganda? Looking at the big picture of America, the answer seems obvious. Considerable efforts gets expended to hide the answer. In a tribal nation like ours, speaking this truth is bad for business.
A common way for this logical fallacy to be perpetuated is one shared trait between two subjects is assumed to show equivalence, especially in order of magnitude, when equivalence is not necessarily the logical result.
The pattern of the fallacy is often as such: If A is the set of c and d, and B is the set of d and e, then since they both contain d, A and B are equal. It should be noted though that d existing in both sets is not required, only a passing similarity is required to cause this fallacy to be able to be used. (from Wikipedia)
Many posts on the FM website have described similarities between the Left and Right in America. Some discuss their similar policy recommendations (eg, economic policy should benefit banks, foreign policy should be dominated by the military and advance our global hegemony). Some note how both Left and Right are OK with lies to start our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to support torture and shred our civil liberties. Some discuss their similar method of gaining public support: use exaggeration of threats to build fear that stampedes the public (DDT, ALAR, nuclear winter, climate change, government debt, creeping Sharia, al Qaeda).
This raises another question with which I’ve long grappled: magnitudes. Magnitudes matter. While similar, which party does this the most — and the most egregiously? This debate usually focuses narrowly, allowing easy conclusions. Such as that about the Federal government’s deficits. The GOP’s positions are largely fraudulent, disguising unpopular policies that shift the tax burden from the rich and cut benefits to the public. While the Democrats do their share of evasions and slight-of-hand, there’s no equivalence between the two. As James Fallows has documented so well in his columns at The Atlantic, such as these:
- “False Equivalence: It’s Worse Than We Think“, 21 February 2013
- “False Equivalence: The Ur-Text“, 22 February 2013
But if we look at a wider range of policies the score changes. The news media has done an adequate job reporting the propaganda of the Right — especially their faux economics and faux history (both frequent subjects of analysis on the FM website). But there’s far less debunking of the equivalence propaganda from the Left.
(a) Nuclear winter
Nuclear winter was a terrifying prospect, largely fraudulently sold to the public by scientists Left to build support for disarniment (for details see “Nuclear winter: science and politics“, Science and Public Policy, Brian Martin, October 1988).
(b) Green horrors
Although preserving the environment is a vital issue, the Left has routinely used fraudulent propaganda to advance their policies. This goes back to the battles of the 1960s, when they killed the useful and environmentally benign pumped-storage facility planned for Storm King Mountain in NY (see the classic article “Environmentalism and the Leisure Class,” Harper’s Magazine, November 1977). The 1986 hysteria over ALAR shows how easily the US public panics under Green propaganda.
(c) Social Security
The Federal government has spent every dime of the social security taxes, stuffing the Trust Funds with IOUs. These are nothing but an accountant’s convention (an IOU to yourself is not an asset), since even the government can spend money only once. When the system goes cash flow negative soon (see projections from the 2012 Trustees Report) the system changes from a source of income to a cost — a drain instead of a supplement to the Government’s income. Despite this clear reality, the Left dogmatically insists that Social Security is well-funded do to the security of the Trust Funds.
(d) Global warming (then Climate Change, then Extreme Weather)
Global warming, and the resulting effects, might become a serious challenge to humanity. But the marketing has been largely fraudulent since they turned off the air conditioning to the 1988 Senate hearing room to set the stage. Research that advances the narrative goes on the front page; contrary research goes down the memory hole. For example, wild statements attributing every incident of extreme weather to global warming goes on the front page — research saying otherwise remains hidden from the public. Scientists skeptical of the consensus about climate are smeared as “deniers”. Articles about debated aspects of climate portray the opposite position “denying global warming” — a use of the false dilemma logical fallacy that would make Goebbels smile.
“Mr. President, if that’s what you want there is only one way to get it. That is to make a personal appearance before Congress and scare the hell out of the country.”
— Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s advice to Truman about how to start the Cold War. On 12 March 1947 Truman did exactly that. From Put yourself in Marshall’s place, James P. Warburg (1948); in 1941 Warburg helped develop our wartime propaganda programs.
There is no false equivalence. There is only equivalence. Both Left and Right draw from the same pool of Americans, and so adopt similar methods. Effective techniques become frequently used techniques. Our elites have seen how easily they can stampede us by manipulating our fears (a fearful people is an easily led people). So they’ve made our news media into cesspools of fear — mixed with entertainment about celebrities and sports. It’s an odd brew, probably a source of endless amusement to future historians.
This fearfulness makes us a gift to our leaders. Each tribe, Left and Right, clinging to its carefully nourished delusions — obediently deaf to the often trenchant critiques from the other tribe. The other tribe always lies, as though we live in the famous Robbers Cave Experiment, with our leaders manipulating us as easily as Sociologist Muzafer Sherif did those children in 1954 (see this fascinating story here).
This will continue until we change. Reform will remain impossible to achieve. Heaven will send no Savior to run for High Office and save America (this delusional hope animated many in 2008, showing how desperate and passive we’ve become). The Republic — embodiment of the America-that-Once-Was — will fade away at an accelerating rate, as the New America arises on its ashes. We can change, but we must first wish to change.
“Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson, perhaps apocryphal. My guess is “sooner”.
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For More Information about us
- Concrete evidence of government info ops against us, but it’s OK because we are sheep, 2 December 2008
- Attention fellow sheep: let’s open our eyes and see the walls of our pen, 16 October 2009
- Hear the cattle bellowing in the chutes. Will they revolt?, 8 September 2011
- Our leaders explain that we’re sheep. Our role: to obey. Rebel sheep will be imprisoned or destroyed., 7 March 2012
- At the Tampa Convention Right & Left display our great illness: Tribalism, 2 September 2012