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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Political Perceptions That Differ from Reality

The Tea Partiers, and other conservatives and low-information voters seem to have some strange ideas about wasteful government spending -- and equally mistaken ideas about the savings by equivalent providers in the private sector.

The reality of that was demonstrated by the preceding POGO report.

And the way the right wing media contributes to that misinformation, disinformation, is shameful.

An example has been Bill O 'Reilly of Fox News who early on made an honest mistake in his statements, but so far as I could tell, he did so without any critical examination, any questioning if it was true or accurate.

When I first came across the story, having arranged my share of meetings in my day, I wondered immediately if this was a case of the labeling for the expense being a catch all term for the expenses per person - which is what turned out to be the case.  There was no consideration for the other side of the story - the more complete explanation - just repeatedly O'Reilly and other entertainment pundits pounded on this faux fact.

What is more significant to me is that as the real story came to light, as the news presented by less partisan media reported the facts of the $16 conference charge.

But not O'Reilly, as reported here on politifact.com, and on an appearance on the Daily show.

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The problem is the persistent lack of correction.  There was no update, no correction, no walk-back here - OR ANYWHERE. John Stossel joined in with the $16 muffin story here.  And Stuart Varney of Fox  here - well AFTER the AP had reported the real news, the factual information.

It isn't just the media that perpetuates these falsehoods; we also have Senator Chuck Grassley, reported here, long after the truth was out.  Grassley went so far as to demand, bombastically, for the firing of the person who made those conference arrangements - despite the fact that by doing so, he actually contracted for services cheaper than were available otherwise.  Grassley is an extremist right-wing ideologue from Iowa, who is on a par with Michele Bachmann (both were born in Iowa - maybe being factually inaccurate is an Iowa thing).  He doesn't give a damn what he says so long as it serves his political narrative.

So....how bad was this misreporting by the right?

According to a story on Huffington Post, there were 178 stories perpetuating the wrong version of events, but only 37 stories which corrected it.  That tracks pretty darn well with my own searches for posted stories and corrections.

This has not ONLY been a problem for the $16 bogus muffin story; this is an example of a larger problem, as I have tried to report here many times.  The 'snow plow slowdown' was another example that springs to mind, or any of the false voter fraud stories, or the Breitbart/O'Keefe ACORN story.  It tends to be the case with EVERY story, varying only in degree HOW wrong it is.

That the facts will be wrong has - in my experience - been true of the right wing media, the right wing politicians, and especially of the right wing blogosphere.

Again, it raises two questions.  WHY does the right media and blogosphere condone such abysmally low standards and lack of ethics for their sources of information?  And why do these same people on the right not do their OWN fact checking, given this deplorable track record for factual information.  There is no way to solve a problem without accurate information and accurate context.

So, either the right really isn't interested in participating in solving our national problems, or they are happily willing to put partisan rhetoric and false narratives over reality.  There seems an element of malice in at least some of it, rather than honest error.  Either way, this is unacceptable from our electorate, and we are past due for regular and frequent reality checks. Most of all, there is money, filthy lucre, shameless profit that requires the devil's bargain of sacrificing integrity.

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