Facts? What Facts?
By Chez Pazienza: In case you haven’t seen this yet, it’s pretty much guaranteed to make your day. Or give you a brain hemorrhage. Or possibly both. Yesterday morning on CNN’s Starting Point, Soledad O’Brien got into a contentious on-air back-and-forth with Mitt Romney surrogate and talking scrotum John Sununu over the Obama and Romney plans for Medicare. The reason it was contentious is that O’Brien refused to simply let Sununu spew the usual nonsense talking points and instead actually held his feet to the fires of reality.
Via Mediaite, here’s a look.
I get that Sununu is an especially stubborn and combative viewpoint delivery device for the right, but his response to O’Brien’s attempt to bring a little empirical evidence into the discussion — namely that she should just go right ahead and “put an Obama sticker on (her) forehead” — was the kind of revelatory moment you wait for whenever one of these blowhards is put on the spot but which rarely comes. As far as Sununu is concerned, anything that contradicts firmly established conservative orthodoxy, regardless of its basis in actual fact, is nothing more than pro-Obama propaganda and therefore isn’t worthy of serious consideration. It should immediately be deemed suspect and the person disseminating it a political enemy.
Fellow Banter-ite Oliver Willis put together a nice little column a couple of days ago which attempted to draw a distinction between what many conservatives these days expect from the press and what many progressives do. His point was that, by and large, those center-left don’t have an issue with the leaders they support and the surrogates who speak for them being subjected to tough questioning by the media, so long as it’s fair. Those entrusted to create policy in this country should at all times face the scrutiny of a Fourth Estate beholden only to the facts. More and more on the right, however, we’re seeing what Sununu demonstrates: an almost pathological demand that only the version of reality approved by party purists and propagated by a series of strictly adhered-to talking points is acceptable from anyone in the media. In other words, the conservative movement as it operates right now wants obedient stenographers rather than independent journalists.
I’ve said on more than one occasion that the problem with our media-saturated culture is that we’re now able, and are generally willing, to narrow our focus so that we watch, read and listen only to the press outlets that confirm our already firmly held biases. The problem this creates is that we often have no common well to draw from anymore when we debate, say, politics; each side can now present not only its own opinions, which is perfectly acceptable, but its own sets of facts or wildly off-base spin on facts, which shouldn’t be acceptable at all. The question becomes, where do you go to get the unbiased truth? Well, these days, when it comes to crunching the numbers in Washington, DC, you generally go to places like the impartial Congressional Budget Office, which O’Brien did, and when it comes to verifying the claims made by the various political camps, you go to places like Fact Check, which O’Brien also did. To spin an old and legendary phrase from Chicago, it’s the job of these types of organizations to hear the truth above the roar.
O’Brien knew full-well that citing CNN analysis wouldn’t shut somebody like Sununu up because he’d simply make the claim that CNN is a partisan outlet in bed with the Democratic agenda — which trust me is complete horseshit — and so she attempted to inject into the equation the findings of the CBO and Fact Check in the hope that it would make her point crystal clear and provide an inarguable reality over which she and her guest could debate the intricacies. Obviously, those findings didn’t convince Sununu either.
And that says everything you need to know about him and his ideology: both are impervious to contradictory fact, which means that both openly traffic in intellectual dishonesty. This kind of obstinacy and obstructionism in the face of proven reality ensures, in the end, that every political debate can be the victim of crass reductionism, broken down into an endless battle between two supposedly equal sides. No right or wrong. No truth or lie. Just a perpetual stalemate, with each side of the fight only hearing what it wants to hear anyway.