Sunday, January 29, 2012

Fact Checking the SOTU and GOP Response

Non-partisan fact-check website checks the accuracy of claims made by President Obama in his State of the Union speech last week as well as those made in the GOP response by Republican governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels.

Politifact rated four statements by Obama resulting in a True, two Mostly True and one Half-True rulings. It rated two statements by Daniels resulting in a False and a Pants on Fire ruling. This illustrates my biggest problem with the current GOP: its allergy to factual accuracy. The Republican base lives in a largerly fictional Fox News bubble as documented by conservative blogger David Frum.

But the thought leaders on talk radio and Fox do more than shape opinion. Backed by their own wing of the book-publishing industry and supported by think tanks that increasingly function as public-relations agencies, conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics. Outside this alternative reality, the United States is a country dominated by a strong Christian religiosity. Within it, Christians are a persecuted minority. Outside the system, President Obama—whatever his policy ­errors—is a figure of imposing intellect and dignity. Within the system, he’s a pitiful nothing, unable to speak without a teleprompter, an affirmative-action ­phony doomed to inevitable defeat. Outside the system, social scientists worry that the U.S. is hardening into one of the most rigid class societies in the Western world, in which the children of the poor have less chance of escape than in France, Germany, or even England. Inside the system, the U.S. remains (to borrow the words of Senator Marco Rubio) “the only place in the world where it doesn’t matter who your parents were or where you came from.”

We used to say “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Now we are all entitled to our own facts, and conservative media use this right to immerse their audience in a total environment of pseudo-facts and pretend information.

--Ballard Burgher

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