CONSISTENT CONFUSION

Posted in Rants on October 9th, 2012 by Ed

I'm puzzled here, guys. Maybe you can help me out.

The right is crowing about Mitt Romney's post-debate bump in the polls. But I thought polls were all bullshit and they're not to be trusted. Please clarify.

Late last week everyone decided that the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment number is fabricated. For the past four years Republicans have been repeating it like they have Tourette's. Any light you can shed on this discrepancy will be appreciated.

Of course there's nothing to explain here except that intellectually dishonest hypocrites are doing more of the same. Conservatives are great at this. Hollywood is a cesspit of moral depravity and celebrities are all airheads, but they practically soil themselves with excitement when some star endorses a Republican or talks about running. Experts and academics in the ivory tower are never to be trusted, but hey did you see this new Exxon-funded study from Dr. Shameless at Texas A&M that totally disproves global warming? He's a scientist, so it has to be true. Government is bloated and expensive and must be drowned in a bathtub, except for the military, farm subsidies, the prison system, massive and politically expedient handout programs for seniors, and more.

Of the many forms of lying that make up the bulk of our public discourse, I find this type the most intolerable. I am used to people telling partial truths, massaging statistics, spinning, taking anecdotal evidence out of context, and all of the other tricks necessary to make things like trickle-down economics and Intelligent Design sound plausible. It comes with the territory for those of us who choose to follow politics. But there is nothing lazier, more damaging, or less intellectually honest than a constantly variable weight that gives different values to the same information at different points in time. In the case of the poll data and unemployment statistics this phenomenon is stretched to the limit – when the data do not confirm your preconceived idea of the world around you, they must be fabricated. Yep. Anything that contradicts your belief system is made up.

Virtually any news item can be discredited this way (having come from the Librul Media, of course). The entire economy can be selectively re-imagined from cherry picked data. The reverse scientific method – start with the conclusion, throw out all the contradictory evidence, and declare the issue resolved by whatever remains – is the foundation of their worldview. There's no point in trying to debate them; they believe all of their own conclusions as articles of faith, and nothing is capable, by definition, of undermining them.

Such people are, in an intellectual if not literal sense, brain dead. They're not processing any new information except to sift it through the filter of their beliefs and reject anything that doesn't fit. Yet at the same time, and at a more basic level, they seem incapable of believing anything. Do the polls matter, or are they made up? Does the unemployment rate measure the health of the economy, or is it politically manipulated? Are the troops being removed from the Middle East too soon, or not soon enough? If the answer to any of these questions is "It depends on who's winning / who's in power", congratulations. You're what's wrong with America. This is why we can't have nice things, like a half decent debate about our problems and how we might go about solving them.