Friday, February 01, 2008

Is the conservative movement a cult?

The Center for Public Integrity recently released a report documenting hundreds of false statements from the Bush administrations preceeding the invasion of Iraq. Within minutes movement conservatives knew what to say about that: George Soros!

Is there any information that movement conservatives find ideologically objectionable that can not be dismissed instantly by speaking the name George Soros? I'm finding it difficult to distinguish between this and creationists or 9/11 Truth conspiracists. I'm guessing that most of them had never even heard of the CPI before the report came out, but almost instantly - like some kind of hive mind - hordes of bloggers concluded that the report was untrue because "George Soros funds the Center for Public Integrity."

Well, here's the funders page. As far as I can tell, none of those funders are related to George Soros or the Open Society Institute. Why aren't they all the evil masterminds behind the study? Er, they are Human Events answers. It turns out that "their Supporters Page is a veritable Socialist, Anti-Bush, Anti-War What’s What and Who’s Who." I guess Jim Lippard, whose blog I read regularly, would be surprised to know that he's a socialist and not a libertarian.

"Now that we have established the bias of the organization(s)... ," continues the Human Events author. Um, no. You've established that the Open Society Institute is a donor to the Center for Public Integrity. Those donations are usually tagged for specific programs and what not ... do any of these folks know if OSI money went into this report? Of course not, that would require more than the 3 -5 seconds of thought that passed through their minds before they started writing about how the media has been duped by Soros once again. Have they in anyway, shape, or form explained how OSI money and/or Soros have influenced the report? No. Have they in anyway, shape, or form made an attempt to demonstrate that the CPI has a history of bias or partisanship? No.

Have they entertained the possibility that the Open Society Institute donates money to causes that promote the open society, which is the reason it gave money to an organization dedicated to investigative journalism? No.

But that didn't stop them. Michelle Malkin declared the report "moonbat briefs" and repeatedly put non-profit in quotations. Does she know something we don't know? Are the organizations in fact for profit? She links to another blogger who states that CPI is funded by far left activists, which apparently means that CPI is some sort of communist front. Another link reiterates and dismisses the report on the grounds that it's bunk and the product of "known political activists."

This is another perfect case study of the nihilistic relativism that lies at the heart of the conservative movement. The basic premise of the hive mind is that because this report was issued by an organization that received grant money from a philanthropy created by a critic of President Bush, the authors of the report are biased and the report itself is nothing but anti-Bush propaganda. Or in other words, they can disbelieve anyone who disagrees with them on some issue on the grounds that the disagreement is the result of "bias" or "partisanship." You either agree with them or you're biased and partisan.

Almost all of the responses are pure genetic fallacy (i.e. study came from Soros therefore study is bunk) but when the content was addressed it was equally as ridiculous. Captain Ed chooses as his example that the study is full of "shopworn quotes taken mostly out of context and misrepresented" the president's 16 words about uranium yellowcake from the 2003 State of the Union speech. That's one of the most blatantly indefensible comments made in the run-up to the invasion, yet the Captain seizes on a former Niger prime minister stating his personal belief that an Iraqi businessman had given him a coded message that Iraq wanted to purchase uranium, ignores the problems with that notion, and then concludes this somehow outweighs all the other evidence demonstrating that the notion of Iraq seeking uranium from Niger is absurd, not least of which being the fact that the main source of the claim were documents that the IAEA determined to be forgeries within minutes of looking at them.

What's more, the standard that these folks are using to dismiss the report is not possibly one than they would expect to be applied universally. Because these are people who exist within a hermetically sealed pseudo-reality operated by partisan ideologues and funded by wealthy "political activists."

Or as Hendrik Hertzberg put it in "Can You Forgive Him", The New Yorker, March, 11 2002

Like the American and other Western Communist parties in their heyday, the American conservative movement has created a kind of alternative intellectual and political universe-a set of institutions parallel to and modeled on the institutions of mainstream society (many of which the movement sees, or imagines, as the organs of a disciplined Liberal Establishment) and dedicated to the single purpose of advancing a predetermined political agenda. There is a kind of Inner Movement, consisting of a few hundred funders, senior organization leaders, lawyers, and prominent media personalities (but only a handful of practicing politicians), and an Outer Movement, consisting of a few thousand staff people, grunt workers, and lower-level operatives of one kind or another. The movement has its own newspapers (the Washington Times, the New York Post, the Journal's editorial page), its own magazines (Weekly Standard, National Review, Policy Review, Commentary, and many more), its own broadcasting operations (Fox News and an array of national and local talk-radio programs and right-wing Christian broadcast outlets), its own publishing houses (Regnery and the Free Press, among others), its own quasiacademic research institutions (the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute), and even its own Popular Front-the Republican Party, important elements of which (the party's congressional and judicial leadership, for example) the movement has successfully commandeered. These closely linked organizations (the vanguard of the conservative revolution, you might say) compose an entire social world with its own rituals, celebrations, and anniversaries, within which it is possible to live one's entire life. It is a world with its own elaborate system of incentives and sanctions, through which - as [David] Brock discovered - energetic conformity is rewarded with honors and promotions while deviations from the movement line, depending on their seriousness, are punished with anything from mild social disapproval to outright excommunication.
If the CPI report is bogus because the CPI has received funding from the OSI does that mean:

- We can ignore everything in the Washington Times because it's owned by Rev. Moon?

- We can ignore everything from Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, Weekly Standard, and the New York Post because they're owned by Rupert Murdoch?

- We can ignore all the global warming denialists who receive money from Exxon-Mobil?

- We can ignore all the bullshit conspiracies about the Clintons that were funded with money from Richard Mellon Scaife?

- We can ignore all the stuff that comes out of the think-tanks and organizations that receive money from Scaife, Koche, Coors, Olin, Bradley, etc?

- We can ignore all the industry funded "experts" who tell us that toxic sludge is good for us? People like Michael Fumento who has admitted that his livelihood is dependent upon being paid by industry to write about how great industry is.

- We can ignore all the books from Regnery publishing because it has an ideological agenda? That would include the books by Malkin that it has published.

- We can ignore all the folks like Dinesh D'Souza who have spent their entire careers operating within this pseudo-world?

-We can expect to stop hearing about The Bell Curve given that it was written with money received from the racist Pioneer Fund?

- We can ignore everything that comes out of talk radio?

What these movement conservatives seem incapable of understanding is that holding an opinion does not automatically equal bias or partisanship. Objectivity is a matter of methodology and honest open inquiry. Yet for them it's agree with us or you're one of them and we don't have to take you seriously. Then cue ad hoc rationalizations. They're motto seems to be that of Carrol's Red Queen: "Sentence first, verdict after."

Is it any wonder that these folks seem incapable of understanding how a democracy is supposed to function? If you believe that truth is a matter of ideological partisanship then there is no space for the type of public discourse that is the lifeblood of democracy to occur. Maybe that's why so many of these pundits want to eliminate their "liberal" enemies. It's like what Karl Popper said but in reverse: if there's no way to settle things with the pen the only thing left to put your "truth" on top is the sword.

1 comment:

NAL said...

Movement conservatives certainly have the intellectual dishonesty of creationists. Like creationists, when they can't argue the facts, they slime the messenger. What will happen to the cult when the cult leader is no longer president?