How The Right Wing Rewrites History

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.

America Transformed

On the anniversary of the 9/11 attack radical Islam and the American right remain engaged in a fierce competition to demonstrate which hates America more for its freedom. Barack Obama marked the day with a call for religious tolerance:

“As Americans we are not — and never will be — at war with Islam,” the president said. “It was not a religion that attacked us that September day — it was al-Qaida, a sorry band of men which perverts religion.”

The American right is celebrating a day with another hate fest hosted by Glenn  Beck and Sarah Palin, but fortunately the planned Quran burning has been called off. A major issue on the right remains protesting a planned Islamic cultural center to be located near (not on) the site of the terrorist attack. The proposed cultural center includes a prayer room–not unlike either a sanctuary at many Jewish Community Centers or even the Islamic prayer room previously located in the twin towers.

It is unfortunate that Osama bin Laden got exactly what he wanted on 9/11 due to the irrational response from the American right, which has turned the United States into a country we would not have recognized in many ways back in 2001.

Do Conservatives Consider This “Gentlemen’s Club” Hallowed Ground?

Conservatives opposing the proposed Islamic community center in New York argue that it would be wrong to place the “Ground Zero Mosque” on “hallowed ground” near ground zero. “Ground Zero Mosque” is an inaccurate, and intentionally inflammatory, description and these pictures certainly question the Republican concept of “hallowed ground.”

The pictures show what is actually in the neighborhood surrounding Ground Zero. It hardly appears to be any sort of “hallowed ground,” including everything from the Gentlemen’s Club pictured above to a McDonald’s. Now maybe if we’re speaking of the Irish some would consider the item below to be hallowed ground, but there is clearly nothing hallowed about the area which would prevent the building of an Islamic cultural center or Mosque.

More Accurate Framing On The Proposed Islamic Community Center

Yesterday I objected to both the mischaracterization of the proposed Islamic Community Center at Park 51 near the site of the 9/11 attack as a “Ground Zero Mosque” along with objecting to how politicians of both parties are handling the controversy. “Ground Zero Mosque” is both intentionally misleading and intentionally inflammatory on the part of conservatives who hope to fuel Islamophobia. Today the Associated Press came to a similar conclusion issuing a staff advisory to avoid this terminology. Their recommendations correct the location but unfortunately leave it optional as to whether to call this a mosque or more accurately a community center which contains a mosque.

AP’s statement also notes President Obama’s position. Actually Obama could have done much better, such as in this proposed statement from Ed Brayton:

The proposed opening of an Islamic center a few blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood has sparked a good deal of controversy in some circles. The families of those who died in the terrorist attack on 9/11 are divided on the question, with some of them opposing the project and some supporting it. In either case, their emotional reactions are understandable and all too human.

But this is a nation of laws that respect well-defined freedoms and the freedom of religion and the right to own property are at the top of the list of liberties that the constitution seeks to protect. And we do not condition those rights on the feelings of other people, nor do we take them away because others may be bothered by how one exercises those rights.

And no matter how understandable the emotions it provokes on either side may be, the organization that owns the building are in full compliance with the legal zoning regulations and there is no possible legal basis for denying them the right to open the Islamic center that they wish to open. Any attempt to deny them that right would, quite correctly, be overturned by the federal courts.

That does not make the owners of the building immune from criticism. For those who are offended by the project, the same First Amendment that protects their right to open the center also protects your right to speak out against it. And the courts and my administration will guard your right to protest the project as strongly as we will guard their right to complete it.

But if you seek to deny the right to open the Islamic center, either through futile legal filings or through direct action of some kind, you will not only be damaging the rule of law, you will be damaging this nation’s ability to fight a comprehensive war on terrorism inspired by the radical views of some Muslims around the world.

That war is absolutely dependent upon the cooperation and bravery of moderate, pro-American Muslims both at home and abroad. At great risk to their own lives, thousands and thousands of such people work every day with the FBI, the CIA, the NSA and with our nation’s armed forces both here and in Iraq, Afghistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other nations where Al Qaeda operates.

By pushing the idea that all Muslims are a threat to the United States, you demean and dehumanize the courageous efforts of those people who are fighting on our side and play directly into the hands of the most radical and dangerous elements within the Islamic world.

Osama Bin Laden sells his followers on the idea that the United States is at war not merely with him and his violent cohorts but with the entire Muslim world, that America is a Christian empire seeking to wipe out Islam. That is a powerful recruiting tool for Al Qaeda all around the world and the more this nation behaves in ways that support that position the more powerful it becomes and the more moderate and otherwise peaceful Muslims will be pushed into the terrorist fold.

That is why it is more important than ever that we remain a nation that treats all religions equally and fairly and that we apply the law to individuals and organizations of every religion with scrupulous fairness. Anything less than that is a confirmation to the Muslim world that Bin Laden is right. Anything less than that undermines our ability to win the hearts and minds of Muslims around the world and undermines our ability to win the battle against the extremists among them.

We must not stoop to their level. We must not demonize Arabs or Muslims in the same manner that the Muslim extremists demonize Americans, Jews and Christians. We must not deny American Muslims the right to practice their religion freely and equally in this country in the same manner that many Muslim nations deny Christians, Jews and others the right to practice their religion in those nations. Doing so is not only contrary to our own laws and values, it also damages our national security.

That is why my administration is supporting the full application of the Bill of Rights to all sides in this controversy, both the right to build the center and the right of others to speak out against it.

For the most part in is excellent, although if we are to nitpick I do agree with a commenter who wrote:

I like it. There’s not a single point that I disagree with. My sole problem with this framing is that it leaves me with the impression that the primary reason to uphold the Bill of Rights is that it helps in the “War on Terror.”

Now, I don’t think that helping in the fight against al Qaeda is a bad thing, but, personally, I think it’s even more important that both freedom of religion and freedom of speech be upheld just because it’s the right thing to do.

Planned Islamic Community Center Turns Politicians Of Both Parties Into Babbling Idiots

The planned Islamic Community Center planned near ground zero has resulted in a lot of nonsense. Most of it has come from the right, who mischaracterized it as a Ground Zero Mosque, with the right wingers showing no respect for either freedom of religion or property rights. Some of the nonsense also came from the Democrats. I really don’t know what Nancy Pelosi is talking about here, as she speaks of looking into “who is funding the attacks against the construction of the center.”  Her clarification does not make much more sense. (Of course this is not the first time I’ve questioned if Nancy Pelosi was making sense).

What is obviously going on here (along with Harry Reid trying to sound like a conservative on this in the midst of a tough election campaign) is that the Democrats still have absolutely no idea how to counter the the hateful and ignorant rhetoric from the far right. Instead they look at the polls and find that a majority of Americans support the conservative position in this and fear saying anything meaningful.

If  Islamic terrorists who had flown planes into the World Trade Building had wanted to build a mosque near ground zero I would understand the opposition. Of course those who desire to build the Community Center had no more connection to 9/11 than Saddam Hussein did.

As long as the Democrats fail to provide leadership and manage to speak out intelligibly on such issues a majority of people will listen to the right wing position. Democrats need to counter Republican rhetoric and misinformation with intelligent and factual responses. They won’t win by chickening out and hoping that Rachel Maddow or liberal bloggers will manage to bring some sense to the debates.

Update: Not Howard Dean too.