Many articles analyzing the midterm election try to attribute the problems faced by the Democrats to events of the last year or two. While these are a factor, the battle has been influenced by events going back to well before the Democrats took control of the White House and Congress. Republican use of misinformation has placed Democrats at a disadvantage, even to the degree that many plan to vote for Republicans despite disagreeing with them on the issues. There are some recent items worth noting on how Republicans rewrite the facts and rewrite history.
Michael Hirschorn has an article in The Atlantic which looks at how the right is has been burying the truth:
Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said (or is famously reputed to have said) that we may each be entitled to our own set of opinions, but we are not entitled to our own set of facts. In a time when mainstream news organizations have already ceded a substantial chunk of their opinion-shaping influence to Web-based partisans on the left and right, does each side now feel entitled to its own facts as well? And thanks to the emergence of social media as the increasingly dominant mode of information dissemination, are we nearing a time when truth itself will become just another commodity to be bought and sold on the social-media markets? Or, to cast it in Twitter-speak: @glennbeck fact = or > @nytimes fact? More far-reachingly, how does society function (as it has since the Enlightenment gave primacy to the link between reason and provable fact) when there is no commonly accepted set of facts and assumptions to drive discourse?
The article provides multiple examples of distorting the facts including right wingers on Digg banding together to bury stories they disagree with, the faked video which destroyed ACORN, distortions from Andrew Breitbart, Shirley Sherrod’s firing, Bush’s use of Jeff Gannon, and the “Ground Zero” mosque.
Tea Party rallies are notable for the massive amount of misinformation being spread and a view of American history which was fabricated to promote right wing views. Today Terry Gross interviewed historian Sean Wilentz who discussed material in his article in The New Yorker on how Glenn Beck distorts history, recycling conspiracy theories from the John Birch Society:
Wilentz, who teaches at Princeton University, argues that the rhetoric expressed by both conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck and the Tea Party is nothing new — and is rooted in an extremist ideology that has been around since the Cold War, a view that the Republican Party is now embracing.
“I think what’s happening is the Republican Party is willing to chase after whatever it can to get the party back — to get power back,” he tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “This is what’s happening in the Republican Party, so instead of drawing lines, they’re jumping over fences to look like they’re in the good graces of these Tea Party types.”
Wilentz says Beck, who has emerged as a unifying figure and intellectual guide for the Tea Party movement, finds fodder for his Fox News Channel and syndicated radio shows in the ideas espoused by the John Birch Society, an ultraconservative political group founded in 1958 that, Wilentz writes, “became synonymous with right-wing extremism.”
“It’s a version of history that demonizes the progressive era, particularly Woodrow Wilson,” Wilentz says. “It sees it as the beginning of America’s going down the road to totalitarianism, which ends in Beck’s version with Barack Obama.”
Particularly troublesome, Wilentz says, are the gross historical inaccuracies Beck makes on his Fox show, which now reaches more than 2 million people each day.
New media outlets provide people such as Glenn Beck to reach an audience far larger than the John Birch Society could reach. This is leading to extremist views which conservative leaders such as William F. Buckley, Jr. repudiated in the past now becoming the dominant views among Republicans.