Conservative Myths, Memes, & Lies
There comes a point where the sheer volume of fault- and falsehood-ridden conservative “facts” and ideas is rather breathtaking to behold. With sadly lowered expectations of what passes for logic and standards of evidence, and then to be assaulted with such claims on an almost daily basis, we sometimes fail to appreciate the startling number of assumptions and opinions held by conservatives which are not only demonstrably false, but usually obviously so.
Here is a list of ones that come to mind at the moment. I had to stop at fifty, the list was getting so long.
You cannot say the word “God” in the public square. Yes you can. God is everywhere, in every public oath and on every piece of currency. How many children are compelled daily to mention God in the pledge in public schools? How many television and radio shows and even stations are dedicated to preaching 24/7? Clearly, you can say the word all you want. Myths about people practicing religious freedom in public and being arrested for it are inevitably about people failing to secure parade permits and the like. If this claim is instead made to mean that god cannot be mentioned in government buildings, then a person claiming such may be referred to any American legislative session at any level, virtually all of which are initiated, daily, by a clergyman saying a prayer.
You cannot say the word “God” in a public school. Of course you can. The only restriction is that no one representing the school may advocate a specific religion to the exclusion of others.
Children are not allowed to pray in public schools. Wrong. Students can and often do pray in public schools. Any “private, voluntary student prayer that does not interfere with the school’s educational mission” is allowed.
There is a war on Christianity in American society. Quite the contrary. It is other belief systems that are discriminated against; Christianity is safely dominant in American society. The perceived “war” on Christianity is nothing more than (1) appropriate and yet often-less-than-wholly-effective resistance to unconstitutional encroachments by Christianity in violation of the First Amendment, such as resistance against teacher-conducted prayer in public schools; or (2) fictional “attacks” on religion which are nothing of the sort, such as a business using the expression “Happy Holidays!” to greet all customers, including Christians.
Conservatives fight for freedom of belief. Not true; they do so only when the religion in question is Christian; all other belief systems are second-class or worse. Religious discrimination is in fact practiced in the United States—only it’s conservative Christians who are the most often guilty of it. Blocking the building of mosques, demanding atheist billboards be taken down, shouting down a Hindu cleric delivering an invocation—even harassing a Jewish family when they object to their daughter being pressured to convert to Christianity.
Secularism is anti-religious. Secularism is not the banning of religion, it is the policy in which no one religion is allowed to be presented as the official religion of the state, as it is a historical fact that when a belief system is endorsed by the state, all other belief systems suffer as a result. Christians who want state officials and representatives to overtly promote Christianity are in violation of this principle, but do not see things that way. They see their dominance in state affairs as a given, only natural and right; they see secularism as a means of preventing their “religious freedoms,” i.e. to impose their religious beliefs (which they see as moral imperatives) on others. In a way, this is similar to the claim that science is anti-religious when it announces observations such as life evolves from simpler forms or that the universe is billions of years old; these claims do not attack religion, but instead simply contradict religious excursions into realms in which religion has no right to dominate.
Separation of church and state is an offense to religion; the founding Pilgrims would have abhorred it. Very similar to the claim above. The invocation of the Pilgrims is especially ironic, as their plight was one of the reasons that separation of church and state was established, and serves as an excellent example of why the principle is sound. The Pilgrims were driven out of England when the state-endorsed religion enacted a series of laws requiring all subjects to attend state-sponsored churches and to read from state-authorized prayer books, else face fines and imprisonment. The only way to allow all belief to flourish is to do so in a state where no one belief system is allowed to dominate; the only way to assure that is to maintain a strict separation of church and state.
Corporations are job creators. As Nick Hanauer pointed out, businesses, by nature, are opposed to creating jobs. Employing people is an expense, and businesses avoid every expense possible. Businesses hire people only when there is no other choice, and fire people whenever possible. Job creation is most accurately attributed to demand for goods and services, which is mostly driven by middle-class consumption.
Wealthy people are job creators. Untrue, for many of the same reasons listed above. Consumption by rich people is far less responsible for creating jobs than is consumption by other groups, including the poor. Investment by wealthy people does not create jobs, rather said investment is a response to demand that presents an opportunity to a wealthy person to gain more money by purchasing ownership in a business which will attempt to hire the fewest number of people possible to respond that that demand.
Cutting taxes raises tax revenues. The idea that the government can raise more revenues by cutting the amount of taxes people pay is dubious at best. There may be stimulative tax cuts if they are targeted precisely, but it is more likely that there are far better stimulative alternatives—amongst which the strongest include issuing food stamps and spending on infrastructure projects. Worse, conservative tax cuts are aimed primarily at the wealthy, a type of tax cuts which is rather plainly not stimulative.
Cutting taxes for wealthy people and businesses spurs investment in businesses which create jobs. This is usually argued when conservatives wish to cut the capital gains tax, or other taxes which mostly affect wealthy people. It is patently untrue. If a market is depressed and no one is spending, you can give all the money in the world to wealthy people and businesses, and they will not invest it in job-creating industries—precisely because no one is buying anything. Why should a wealthy person build a factory to create things when no one is buying them? In contrast, if you give wealthy people and businesses no tax cuts, or even if you raise their taxes, they will always find revenue to invest (by using their collected wealth or by borrowing from banks) if people are buying something.
Wealthy people will stop working if you raise their taxes. And people will stop eating if you take away most of their food. Or, wait, that’s incredibly stupid.
Reagan cut taxes and doubled revenue. Net taxes actually went up under Reagan, and most revenue increase claimed to his credit was inflationary.
Conservatives want to cut taxes for all Americans. This is contradicted by the most recent election cycle, in which conservatives wanted to repeal both the estate tax and slash the capital gains tax and corporate taxes—and at the same time also advocated raising taxes on the poorest Americans, most specifically by eliminating tax credits and breaks aimed squarely at low- and middle-class earners. This was proposed under the infamous “47%” claim, in which it was usually asserted, either overtly or by inference, that 47% of Americans paid no taxes. The number referred to those who owed no federal income taxes, but who still paid sales, property, payroll, and many other taxes, some even in excess of the percentage paid by the excessively wealthy Republican presidential candidate himself.
Liberals are “takers” who tax hard-working conservatives so they can live off of government entitlements. It is usually not directly stated that liberals are the takers and conservatives are the makers, but that is clearly what is meant. What is ironic is that it is conservative states that take more than they contribute, conservative areas that take more than they give. Generally speaking, the division is much closer to equal than otherwise; there are takers and makers on both sides. However, it is clear that conservatives are just as enamored of entitlements as liberals are; they are just less willing to pay for them when they go to other people.
Democrats are tax-and-spenders; Republicans want to cut the budget. Everyone in government is a “tax and spender.” If there is a differentiation, it works out that Republicans are “spend-and-debtors,” in that they are less willing to pay the bills at the end of the day. The vast majority of spending, the deficit, and the debt has been incurred by Republican administrations and policies over the past several decades.
Business owners built their businesses without any government help. Nobody lives in a vacuum, nobody lives cut off from everyone else. Everyone depends upon resources created by others, many created by or nurtured by the government. Everything from trade deals to education to infrastructure contributes to every business; without the government, business as we know it today would be completely unrecognizable, and certainly far less robust. The assertion to the contrary is part of the recent conservative desire to stop having to pay for what they receive by denying they receive anything at all.
Freedom on the Internet is threatened by government regulation. To the contrary, the “regulation” claimed to be throttling Internet freedom is that which prevents private industries, primarily telecommunication firms, from asserting ownership over a public resource, which would result in diminished freedom, not to mention higher costs.
Government never creates jobs. This claim is obviously ludicrous, considering the 22 million jobs held in federal, state, and local governments, many of them life-long, in fields ranging from education to the military. One can only assume that the claim being made is that specific stimulative spending does not create jobs in private industry, under the assumption that “creating jobs” means permanent lifetime employment. However, no matter how absurdly you parse the claim, it is utter nonsense; the 2009 stimulus saved millions of jobs, and helped create millions more. Claims of its “failure” are as unfounded as all the other conservative claims on this list.
Conservatives support higher wages and better working conditions, which can only result from a free market system without government regulation. This is one of a class of statements which predicts riches for everyone if only the government stops interfering and businesses can do virtually anything they like. Needless to say, the relentless drive to deregulate business, dismantle unions, and block minimum wage raises has resulted in a workforce remunerated far less than before. It is a rule of business that, unless forced otherwise, wages must be driven down and benefits cut wherever possible, while “efficiency” (fewer people doing more work for less pay) is driven as high as it can be. Witness the rare exception, Costco, paying better wages and benefits—and being castigated by Wall Street for doing so.
Academic excellence can only be achieved through government-regulated standardized testing. Which, when you think of it, is kind of ironic when you consider how conservatives are against anything being government-regulated. Unless, of course, it is something they don’t like, in which case, the government should regulate or ban it. Suffice it to say that standardized testing is a horrible way to run public education.
Conservatives freed the slaves. Conservatives to blacks: “You’re welcome.” This claim is dredged up when conservatives feel like minorities, for some weird, inexplicable reason, seem to be voting less and less Republican. The logic: conservatives today are Republicans, the Republican Party was founded by Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln freed the slaves—therefore, conservatives freed the slaves and are champions of civil rights. They even sometimes try to claim that liberals supported slavery, hinting that liberals oppose religious groups (another common conservative fallacy), and religious groups were abolitionists (most religious groups of the day were not).
Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed corrective or reparative measures against racism. An old idea to combat Affirmative Action by citing King’s statement about judging a person only by the content of their character—whilst conveniently ignoring that King was speaking of a future devoid of racism, not a present in which racism flourishes and corrective measures are the best manner to at least partially counteract such forces.
Racism is no longer an issue in America; the country is color-blind, and corrective measures are reverse racism against whites. This is essentially what the conservative bloc on the Supreme Court recently decided. Within hours of that decision, states which had formerly been restrained by the Voting Rights Act immediately begin passing and enacting strongly discriminatory redistricting and laws, aimed at robbing minorities of the ability to vote and elect representatives for their interests. So, no, we’re not color-blind, and the Voting Rights Act was not reverse racism.
Laws intended to offer equal protection to women and minorities are “special privileges.” “Special privileges” is one of those code words for equal rights and treatment under the law. How a law, for example, requiring equal pay for women and allowing them to sue when they do not receive it, is a “special privilege” is somewhat difficult to reason. Conservatives will likely point to hate-crime legislation as a “representative” example of such special treatment; however, such laws apply to everyone—including violence against whites—and are in effect not to give special treatment to minorities, women, or gays, but to protect society from individuals who pose a special threat as they wish to do violence against entire classes of people.
Businesses and workplaces are often forced to hire unqualified women and minorities in order to satisfy quotas. If such a thing ever happened, it would only as a misapplication of the law, usually due to people believing this very myth. No quota ever required any business or office to hire someone unqualified for the job.
The free market is self-regulating. No it’s not. Oh, it regulates certain economic factors in very crude ways, but it does not self-regulate the behavior currently handled by government regulations. Left to itself, it would abuse employees, pollute the environment, and cheat people to no end. Its chief goal is to make money; all other considerations fall in that wake of that prime directive. It does not react to consumer complaint by cleaning itself up and regulating itself; if it did, government regulation would never have been necessary in the first place. Besides which, non-governmental factors which would help regulate certain aspects of business—such as unions—are consistently opposed by conservatives.
Treatment for drug addicts is coddling criminals / a waste of money. All evidence to the contrary. People have a tendency to reject treatment over incarceration because it means spending money to help people they disrespect or outright despise. No matter that it costs far more to incarcerate, and creates an incredible drag on the economy as well as general damage to society as a whole. Like drug laws overall, it is not about what makes sense or is best for people, it is about appearances and appearances only.
The context of the Second Amendment has not changed at all in 222 years, but the context of the Voting Rights Act has completely changed in 48 years. Do I even need to go into details?
We have never executed a person innocent of the crime for which they were executed. Wrong. Statistical evidence proves it beyond any rational doubt. Most individual proof is extremely difficult as states regularly destroy all evidence after someone is executed, and police and prosecutors refuse to investigate the crime further. Not to mention the fact that we do know of such specific cases. Ironically, conservatives who claim the government never does anything right and do not trust the government at all to regulate business, educate children, or run health care, nevertheless seem to trust the government explicitly to never wrongly execute someone.
States rights must prevail. Except when they want to do something conservatives don’t like. If a state, for example, wants to legalize marijuana, allow gay marriage, or permit people dying of terminal illnesses the right to end their own lives, then states do not have rights over the federal government. But if a state wants to ban abortion, relax gun control, or outlaw gay marriage, medicinal marijuana, and right-to-die, then state’s rights becomes the absolute principle that must be respected. Historically, “state’s rights” has a powerful racial impact due to its use to defend slavery, and later, segregation; like “strict constructionism” and “judicial activism,” “state’s rights” is really just a code word for advocating conservative agendas; these are by no means actual “principles.”.
Conservatives are against “big government.” Funny, then, that every time they get control of things, we get bigger government. Not that Democrats are much better at it—but at least they don’t pretend to be against something they clearly support. For conservatives, “big government” is yet another code word, this one meaning “spending we don’t like.” Medicare, for example, is “big government,” while an exploding military budget which vastly outspends the rest of the world combined is somehow defensible.
Conservatives want to “save” Medicare and Social Security. By dismantling them and replacing them with programs given the same name but not resembling the original programs at all.
Conservatives support the troops; liberals hate the soldiers. Remember how liberal protesters spat on returning Vietnam vets on the tarmac of airports? So do a lot of people—which is strange, as it never happened. In fact, war protesters were usually supportive of vets, which is evidenced by the fact that so many of the protesters were themselves veterans. The specific story as well as the general myth that conservatives are pro-soldier is false. Conservatives have gained the reputation for being pro-military primarily for their support of military spending, in addition to their generally hawkish stances. They mouth support for the troops, but fall short of actually giving it. In fact, when it comes to supporting veterans’ causes, it is liberals who often do the best job, while conservatives do their best to block such support. Conservatives have even claimed that Obama’s efforts to increase benefits and support for troops is evidence that he hates them—I shit you not. Veterans groups typically give very high scores to Democrats for supporting veterans’ issues, and very low scores to Republicans. Republicans, despite their reputation, are much more liable to block the granting of benefits and programs for vets. As General Wesley Clark said in 2004, “Republicans like weapons systems; Democrats like the soldiers.”
If a conservative says something that offends people and results in damage to their reputation or career, their First Amendment rights are being violated. This is a common dodge to controversy. Although conservatives have no problems pushing for boycotts to punish people and causes they disapprove of, when the same happens in reverse, they often claim that the person’s first-amendment rights are being violated. This despite the clear fact that the First Amendment protects your right to say what you want, and not your right to avoid people shunning you for it.
Obama caused high unemployment. Conservatives who claim that Obama was responsible for high unemployment consistently and conveniently ignore that the rate began to skyrocket under Bush, who took it from 5.0% in April 2008 to 7.8 % in January 2009, a rise of 2.8% in just 9 months, and that it hit a high of 10% in October 2009, a 2.2% rise in another 9 months. However, to hold Obama responsible for the latter rise is questionable at best, and most likely completely inaccurate. Imagine Bush piloting an aircraft at 40,000 feet: he pushes the airplane into a steep dive, and at 28,000 feet, as the plane plummets, he hands over the controls to Obama. Obama struggles to level out the plane, but cannot manage to do so until it reaches 20,000 feet—at which points conservatives blame him for the low altitude and do everything they can thereafter to impede his piloting duties. In addition to sheer inertia, the fact is that the unemployment rate is a “lagging indicator,” meaning that the current rate indicates the response to what was happening in the economy 6 to 9 months previously. Meaning that Obama only began “owning” the unemployment rate when it was already at its peak—and has consistently driven it down ever since.
Obama skyrocketed the deficit. Nope. As with the unemployment rate, the deficits skyrocketed under Bush; Obama has done nothing but reduce them. The current deficit is primarily a result of Bush-Cheney tax cuts, the wars in the Middle East, and the 2008 economic collapse. Obama has initiated far less deficit spending than Bush; Bush went from incipient surpluses to a trillion-dollar deficit; Obama has only brought down spending and deficits. Historically, over the past half-century, Democratic presidents have presided over deficit reductions, while Republican presidents have exploded them.
Republicans have always fought hard to balance the budget, but are confounded by Democrats who bust it. See above. When Republicans had control of the presidency and both houses of Congress, they went from a surplus to a nearly $600 billion deficit—and that was before the 2008 collapse. They try to take credit for the deficit reduction in the 90′s, but that was due as much to the Internet boom and to Clinton’s 1993 tax hike. Even under Reagan, who supposedly tried to cut spending while Democrats foiled his efforts, the facts are that the Democratic Congress passed budgets which were lower than Reagan’s proposals 7 of 8 times.
Gay marriage will undermine the institution of marriage, leading to polygamy and bestiality. See my recent post. In short, no.
Gay marriage will undermine population growth. Again, no. Stupid claim.
Global warming is a myth. Funny that Fox News doesn’t put Al Gore’s book on the sidewalk now. Do we really need to discuss how global climate change is real? I hope not.
Scientists disagree on global warming / evolution. There is no consensus. It can be said that scientists disagree on virtually everything. When 97% believe it is happening, that’s pretty conclusive. When only 1% ~ 6% of climate scientists claim that humans have had little or no effect on climate change, claiming that the debate “isn’t settled yet” is disingenuous at best. As for evolution, only 0.15% of scientists in fields relating to evolution disbelieve in it.
Evolution is “only a theory.” So is gravity, but you ain’t floating away, are you? This chestnut is just a distortion of the meaning and use of the term “theory.” The evidence for evolution is overwhelming; we simply do not understand all of the details yet. The creationists use the “theory” dodge to avoid the mountain of evidence supporting evolution, and contradicting their own claims which are supported only by faulty interpretations of ancient scripture. As stated near the top of this list, noting certain realities such as evolution does not attack religion, but instead simply contradicts religious claims about science which religion is not justified to make.
Money equals free speech. It may be true legally, but not in fact. Free speech is free speech; money is a means to elevate one person’s freedom to speak above everyone else’s. You have the right to speak, just not the right to be heard. Money allows a very few the assurance that one will be heard. That is not a right. It is a means of granting extraordinary power and special rights to those who possess wealth, with all of the freedoms a right confers so as to avoid any attempts to level the field. Arguably, the idea that money is free speech actually degrades the freedom of speech for most people.
Corporations are people. This is a legal fiction constructed to allow corporations to create contracts, participate in lawsuits, and shield individual shareholders (e.g., prevent the collection of debt from reaching personal possessions). Although the legal fiction describes the corporation as a legal “person,” this had never been assumed to grant corporations constitutional rights—at least until the right wing of the Supreme Court made the ethically repellent decision of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and declared that corporations have First Amendment rights, as if they were actual people. This is a break from tradition, and has poisoned our political process since then, far in excess of the toxic mess it already was. The conservatives on the court, from thin air, created a right that had not existed before—as audacious a case of “legislating from the bench” as has ever been witnessed before. Suddenly, corporations could be wielded as a super-person by people who already enjoy their own individual rights, giving them extra powers—not by all shareholders, but just those few wealthy and power people who actually control them.
Capital gains tax is double-taxation. No it’s not. Corporate shareholders are shielded by the “body” of the corporation; the price for this is that the corporation is treated separately from the shareholders. It is not double taxation when an employer is taxed and then an employee is taxed. The same principle applies here. Those who make this claim simply want all the protections a corporation supplies without paying any of the costs—an all-too-common conservative theme.
Liberal justices legislate from the bench; conservatives are strict constructionists who want to preserve or “restore” the original constitution. In simple terms, a conservative will define any decision that conservatives disagree with as “judicial activism” and “legislating from the bench,” no matter what the grounds. It is little more than a reflexive response to dismiss judgments that go against them.
Actual judicial activism is when a decision is handed down that goes beyond or contradicts precedent, engages in judicial overreach (the court going well beyond what is necessary to settle the case), and defies standards of judicial restraint.
While it can be argued that both liberal and conservative judges and justices have practiced such activism, there is ample evidence that this is far more a practice among conservative jurists than of liberal ones. Roe v. Wade is the primary and usually sole arguable example of liberal judicial activism. Conservatives, however, have been going on a spree of such activism in recent years. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Bush v. Gore, District of Columbia v. Heller (rewriting the Second Amendment to match current conservative views), or the recent fiasco of Shelby County v. Holder (essentially gutting the Voting Rights Act)—there has been a long string of outrageous decisions by conservative jurists which go beyond any precedent and often any standing law and create completely new legal assumptions based upon little else than a egregiously unrestrained conservative agenda. In 2005′s McCreary v. ACLU, for example, Scalia attempted to rewrite the Establishment Clause.
This flies in the face of “strict constructionism,” which has historically been, according to William Rehnquist himself, a philosophy used when a judge is not “favorably inclined toward claims of either criminal defendants or civil rights plaintiffs.” Strict constructionism, nominally at least, is supposed to be about interpreting the law very narrowly. It holds that anything not clearly expressed may not be interpreted, and—in complete contradiction to the Ninth Amendment—that if a right is not positively granted by the constitution, it does not exist.
Not only is this “philosophy” patently unconstitutional, it is not even consistently applied—as the many cases of conservative judicial activism, exemplified by the cases above, evidence more than clearly. In addition, for a group that claims to be “preserving” the constitution, it seems strange that they are constantly trying to amend it.
Voter fraud is a serious issue. No it’s not. Voter fraud is rare, and conservative claims to the contrary are completely unevidenced. Usually cited are cases where people hired to collect registrations create false documents to collect more money—documents which are found, trashed, and never result in actual stolen votes, mostly due to the fact that there was never any intent to do so.
Election fraud, on the other hand, is copious these days—and is quite notably a completely conservative practice. From Katherine Harris’ historical perverting of the Florida Central Voting File throwing the 2000 election illicitly to Bush, to the current right-wing judicial activism allowing conservative states to gerrymander and rewrite voting laws to specifically disenfranchise minorities, conservatives have rigorously and rather openly driven to abuse their legal power in order to win elections dishonestly.
The media has a liberal bias. I’m not even going to dignify that long-standing piece of excrement with an explanation; if you are not fully aware of why it is wrong, then there’s no talking to you; you may return to viewing Fox News, which is totally unbiased.
If conservatives comment on this list, they will most likely do so in their usual fashion: to ignore the bulk of the list, go after the one or two points they believe are weakest, and within those points focus on only one contention or a subset of the entire point—and never, ever concede everything (and possibly anything) else. We’ll see.