Truth vs. Propaganda (part 31)

As the battle for the “soul” of the Republican party (and our democracy) rages, let’s take a look at the sometimes subtle difference between a thing proven to be true and something widely believed to be true, although shown definitively to be false.

Let’s leave aside the contentious issue that is motivating the GOP’s energetic changes to voting and protest laws in so many states, The Big Lie. We can agree (hah, watch this NY Times move) that many see The Big Lie as the one about a rigged and stolen election, and constant violent rioting by protesters while millions of others, trusting in Trump, see The Big Lie as the one about the “rigged and stolen” election NOT being rigged and stolen and the liberal myth that police and right-wing militia violence is worse than that being constantly perpetrated by lawless Blacks and crazed antifa terrorists who are destroying our nation.

That kind of agree-to-disagree compromise, by the way, is the sort of meaningless question-begging truth-telling that minimizes truth itself.

The Big Lie seems too obvious a black and white, plainly true or clearly false wedge issue to resolve at the moment, beyond what each side insists is the case, no matter what objective facts exist. It’s like the controversy over the January 6 Trump-instigated riot at the Capitol [1]. We’d need an actual bipartisan (or better, nonpartisan) commission to get to the bottom of that one, and at least 39% of the population is dead set against that kind of thing. These investigations, they believe, are partisan witch hunts — like impeachments — designed to make our country’s greatest former leaders look weak and corrupt.

I saw a couple of items yesterday that struck me as good examples to look at when assessing what is actually true and what is the kind of exciting fiction that can be weaponized as propaganda. I will leave it to the reader to decide which is likelier true and which has a funny smell. The opinion silo you live in will play a large role in which way you go on these, but see if you can tell which of these counter-narratives are more likely true and which more likely propaganda.

On the perennial debate over whether unregulated gun ownership is a right or a privilege, American deaths by gun far outpace those of any other country (I think there is one Central American country, or possibly Sudan, in our league for gun deaths — oh, my! look, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela and Hondoras all beat us!). Simply a fact, we’re at the bottom of the pack worldwide for highest total killing by gun. We don’t include in our gun death statistics (at the insistence of the gun lobby) the tens of thousands of annual suicides by gun. Hear the familiar “guns don’t kill people, people kill people (including themselves, which doesn’t count)” mantra. Look at these two stories side by side:

Disapproval of Biden’s gun policies might well reflect a desire for a stronger stance. In April, a Morning Consult/Politico poll showed that 64% of registered voters supported stricter gun control laws. We have had an average of ten mass shootings a week in 2021, 194 in all. (A mass shooting is one in which four people are killed or wounded.)

source

You can see a nice example there of how definitions are so important in any discussion. If you only shoot three people and grievously wound or kill them, that’s no mass shooting. Fair is fair. Let’s contrast this permissive attitude toward gun homicide and mass shooting with this recent example from another country:

In Russia, at least nine people were killed and 13 others hospitalized after a pair of gunmen reportedly opened fire at a school in the city of Kazan. Russian media reported one of the shooters — believed to be a teenager — was arrested by police while another attacker was shot dead by security forces. School shootings are very rare in Russia. Immediately after Tuesday’s assault, President Vladimir Putin said he had ordered Russia’s government to immediately begin work on tightening gun ownership regulations.

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Maybe Putin is lying when he says he ordered a tightening of gun ownership regulations, or maybe he actually did order it. Hard to know, but we’ll know by and by. When new Russian gun regulations are enacted it will be announced, and it will make world news.

Voter suppression to insure election integrity and electoral purity? All of the fire and fury in the lead up to the 2020 election was against the massive fraud that was predicted to result from mail-in voting and votes dropped into drop-boxes by people afraid of catching COVID-19 by showing up to vote in person.

The entire claim of a rigged election that could be stolen by Biden (the only way he could win, according to Trump) was based on the massive fraud that could be pulled off by voters not showing up in person to vote. That’s why Louis DeJoy removed high speed mail sorters and took mailboxes off the streets in Democratic leaning areas. Attorney General Bill Barr supported the unfounded claim, scoffing that the likelihood of such fraud was too obvious to need more than a snorted “it’s obvious” by way of explanation. A few months later, after all his thundering to the contrary, and threats of federal prosecution for anyone found guilty of voting fraud, Barr admitted that there had been no fraud on a scale that could have changed the results in any state. Then, a traitor to Trump, he quietly left the administration he had served so zealously.

The states that are making voter harder are all restricting mail-in voting, making dropping ballots into drop boxes harder, criminalizing giving water to people waiting on lone voter lines and enhancing the ability of strangers to challenge Black and brown voters, and the young (particularly hipsters), at the polls.

Only the last of these affect what Texas voter fraud conspiracist Russell J. Ramsland, Jr. laid out as the motherlode of voter fraud: electronic voting machines.

ADDISON, Tex. — Key elements of the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald Trump took shape in an airplane hangar here two years earlier, promoted by a Republican businessman who has sold everything from Tex-Mex food in London to a wellness technology that beams light into the human bloodstream.

At meetings beginning late in 2018, as Republicans were smarting from midterm losses in Texas and across the country, Russell J. Ramsland Jr. and his associates delivered alarming presentations on electronic voting to a procession of conservative lawmakers, activists and donors.

Briefings in the hangar had a clandestine air. Guests were asked to leave their cellphones outside before assembling in a windowless room. A member of Ramsland’s team purporting to be a “white-hat hacker” identified himself only by a code name.

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I know, the wellness technology that beams light into the human bloodstream has a very familiar ring, but let’s look past that. Ramsland lost an election for state office and was convinced he’d been robbed by fraud. Couldn’t prove it, but was still convinced that he’d been cheated by cheaters. Several of his lies about electronic voting machines wound up coming out of the mouth of Trump and his allies after Trump “lost” the election. Oh, well — voting machines, mail-in, drop box, fraud is fraud!.

The real reason Republicans are intent on making it harder for poor people, people of color and young people (all predominantly Democratic voters) to vote is much more likely (in the absence of any credible proof of electoral fraud or problems with “voting integrity” or “ballot purity”) this:

Another set of data from Catalist, a voter database company in Washington, D.C., shows that the 2020 election was the most diverse ever, with Latino and Asian voters turning out in bigger numbers than ever before. Black voting increased substantially, while Asian-American and Pacific Islander voters had a decisive increase in turnout. The electorate was 72% white, down 2% from 2016 and 5% from 2008. Thirty-nine percent of Biden-Harris voters were people of color (61% were white); only 15% of Trump-Pence voters were POC (85% were white).

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Millions will be offended by the following paragraph, but I don’t think it will be for it’s lack of truthfully reporting known facts:

Indeed, it is more than a little odd that party leaders are bending over backward to tie their party to a former president who, after all, never broke 50% favorability ratings—the first time in polling history that had happened—and who lost both the White House and Congress.

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The shit gets curiouser and curiouser, as Democrats Kirsten Synema and Joe Manchin continue to insist that the filibuster ensures bipartisan fairness in the crippled partisan Senate of Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer.

[1] Here’s House Minority Leader, Trump’s friend “My Kevin,” Kevin McCarthy, on January 13 and April 25th:

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