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Blind Belief

August 17th, 2005

This is so like the right wing. Even in the upper echelons, they listen to and blindly follow each other’s spin and rhetoric. Too many times I’ve observed this on Blogd, conservative commenters coming on and simply regurgitating what their favorite pundits are mouthing without even a cursory glance at well-documented and easily-found facts which contradict the right-wing claim. Very little fact-checking, but a lot of rumor-mongering. A much more public display of that came from Pat Robertson today.

Robertson was appearing on Fox News (where else?), on the Hannity & Colmes show. From the transcript:

COLMES: You know he’s going to get in. Most Democrats are not speaking out against him. There may be a few who probably have some difficulty, but this is really not a question about whether or not this is going to be a done deal, right?

ROBERTSON: I don’t think there is any question about it. He’s an outstanding nominee, but you mentioned Barbara Boxer. I’m absolutely appalled at what she had to say. I don’t know if you read all the transcripts.

COLMES: I did.

ROBERTSON: But she says first, “I’ve got to wait on Ralph Neas of the People for the American Way to see what he says about it.” She’s supposed to be a senator from the biggest state in America. And then she says, “I’m going to follow the lead of Chuck Schumer. I trust him.” And he’s the senator from New York, of course. [emphasis mine]

This caused a few people to scratch their heads. Would Senator Boxer really say that? It sounds so outrageous. So unlike Boxer. And of course, it was. She never said that.

It turns out that Robertson or one of his flunkies read a blog called “Radio Blogger,” an apparently well-read ultra-right rag. One of the posts on that blog was a look at an interview Boxer did with Wolf Blitzer on CNN. At one point, the blogger inserts his own “translation” of Boxer’s statement into the transcript, noting it with bold text (the pertinent parts I have colored green):

It might just be easier to translate Boxer’s answer as we go.

WB [Blitzer]: Based on what you know right now, are you ready to vote to confirm the nomination of John Roberts as the next Supreme Court Justice?

BB [Boxer]: I don’t know enough to say yes or no. I have to hold my fire until Ralph Neas and [Alliance for Justice president] Nan Aron hear what is said in the hearings later this month. I may well vote yes. Not a chance, but I have to show some semblence [sic] of fairness. I may well vote no. More likely. I may even have other options that I look to. Screw what the Gang of 14 thinks. If I think Roberts will overturn Roe [v. Wade] at some point, I’m going to filibuster him myself. At this point, I don’t have enough information, remember I’m a little dense, and we’re working on getting the information, posing the questions. People For the American Way, NARAL & the Alliance For Justice are still digging through Roberts’ trash cans. I have tremendous faith in the Judiciary Committee. I serve Chuckie Schumer completely. I will be watching those. I’ll do whatever Schumer tells me to. I will be submitting questions. Pro-choice interest group talking points. As a matter of fact, the women Democratic senators are getting questions from all over the country to ask him. Actually, it’s only one question, and it’s only about abortion. We need to know, because our freedoms hang in the balance. I know that’s a little over the top, but when abortion is at stake, no rhetoric is too extreme. Where is he on the important freedoms that we cherish so much? The cornerstone of modern liberalism is abortion on demand, and if we lose it because of this judge, the world will most certainly come to an end as we know it.

In short, the “quotes” were actually the clearly marked (and rather obvious) comments inserted by the blogger. This makes Robertson and/or his staff appear like complete idiots. Did Robertson believe that Boxer actually said “Screw what the Gang of 14 thinks” and admitted to being “a little dense” on live TV? Apparently so, because he took direct quotes from before and after that from the blog.

If you think that I’m taking Robertson out of context or simply believing a misleading Media Matters story, then check the Hannity & Colmes transcript for yourself. Sure enough, Robertson is not jesting, he’s straightforwardly claiming that Boxer really said that. And a search on Google News and plain Google reveal no such actual statements made by Boxer, nothing even close–such “quotes” had to come from “Radio Blogger” and nowhere else. And Robertson is clearly not trying to say that Boxer “thought” this in a non-literal fashion; he refers to her “saying” these things, as recorded in “transcripts.”

Look at the path this takes: from Boxer on CNN, to a sarcastic right-wing blogger, to Pat Robertson on Fox News–and now, doubtlessly, millions of right-wingers now have it firmly entrenched in their faith-based belief database as if it really happened. And to think I wonder at how some right-wing commenters on this blog get such screwed-up “facts.”

Just think about the arrogance that requires of Robertson & company in addition to stupidity: you read it on a right-wing blog and swallow it whole. It would have taken a minute and a half to find the actual transcript and confirm it, but instead, Robertson believes it unquestioningly and acts like it’s a well-established fact on national TV.

Hell, I’m biased myself, but at least I check things out pretty well before posting on them publicly, even if they are making the rounds in the liberal blogs. This is a common theme in the left vs. right: verification and independent thought vs. blindly believing what others on your side say. Fact-based vs. Faith-based. These are hardly absolutes, but are well-enough defined to make a clear general distinction.

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  1. Morgan
    August 17th, 2005 at 09:07 | #1

    “…commenters coming on and simply regurgitating what their favorite pundits are mouthing without even a cursory glance at well-documented and easily-found facts…”

    You mean like the “facts” regarding the CBS memo about Bush and the Air Guard, or the Newsweek article about flushing a Koran (a rather large book) down a toilet?

  2. BlogD
    August 17th, 2005 at 09:10 | #2

    I mean stories which can be easily checked, not falsely reported stories which are reported as fact and until disproven are indistinguishable. Or did you not read the entry?

    As for the Koran report, I am not familiar with it much; I stayed away from that story myself. But even a large book can be torn page by page and flushed. All that’s beside the point, however.

  3. August 17th, 2005 at 10:04 | #3

    This post really got my attention, mostly because I have seen Barbara Boxer speak many times while living in Southern California (and yes I voted for her). I couldn’t imagine such a thoughtful speaker spilling such a cheesy, ill-mannered quote. But regardless of which side of the political fence you fall on, this was not simply a mis-quote — this quote was fabricated. And it was displayed as fact on national television. For people who value critical thinking, this should really make every political stripe pretty mad.

  4. Tim Kane
    August 19th, 2005 at 04:38 | #4

    Morgan:

    Or howabout those “facts” that Colin Powell laid out at the United Nations concerning Saddam’s WMD.

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