Those who do not watch Fox News are well aware of the fabrications sold nightly as objective news on conservative television and radio. Reality does not treat conservatives well, so they create a parallel universe in which truth is defined as anything stated more than once by more than one pundit in one news cycle.
John Stewart illustrated this point nicely on his March 3 show when he aired multiple Fox News hosts complaining identically that President Obama was "shoving health care reform down the throats of the American people" and that "72% of Americans are against this bill." In reality numerous polls show a majority of Americans support the health care bill.
Nobody is more adept at this art of fabrication than Michele Bachmann, the Republican representative from Minnesota. Her lies are so frequent and robust, and her grip on reality so tenuous, that her continued presence on the national stage says more about us than her. She can only exist as a political figure because we allow her to, which is shocking when we consider even a few examples of Bachmann's paranoid world view. These are interesting not because they expose a deep hypocrisy and loose relationship with facts, but because however loony her views, they represent millions of Americans, most of whom vote.
Bachmann Claim: President Obama is to blame for the swine flu; more broadly, swine flu epidemics happen only under Democrats. Bachmann cited as evidence the last outbreak under President Carter. "I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out then under another Democrat president Jimmy Carter."
Reality Check: The last swine flu outbreak happened during President Ford's term, not Jimmy Carter's. So of the two swine flu outbreaks, one happened under a Democrat, one under a Republican. But notice something important here: Bachmann got the facts wrong, completely undermining her premise, but got away with the bizarre idea that somehow a Democratic president can be responsible for an influenza outbreak without ever offering a plausible mechanism for such causality. If by chance the last outbreak had happened during Carter's presidency, Bachmann would assume her ridiculous conclusions were valid for no reason other than she believed it to be so.
Bachmann Claim: Presidential Candidate Obama and his wife, and liberal Democrats in Congress, are un-American. She called upon the nation's newspapers to do "a penetrating expose" on members of Congress to "find out if they are pro-American or anti-American." (Could not make this stuff up).
Reality Check: We see here a perfect example of how those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it. Bachmann appears to be channeling Republican Joseph McCarthy, and seems to be calling for reactivating the House Un-American Activities Committee. She seems to be proudly calling for us to return to our darkest days of American fascism.
Bachmann Claim: In criticizing Obama's health care plan, Bachmann explained that in Japan the citizens "had the government takeover of health care" and as a consequence the government puts people who criticize the health system on "a list" and denies them treatment. "And so people are afraid. They're afraid to speak back to government. They're afraid to say anything. Is that what we want for our future? That takes us to gangster government at that point and absolute abject corruption. We're not that kind of country. That's not who we are."
Reality Check: Nothing about Bachmann's statement is factually true; the government of Japan does not put anybody on "a list" to deny coverage because of political views, or for any other reason. This is pure fabrication. She just made this up; and her followers simply believe the lie. The lie then becomes truth to them. But also note a deep contradiction in Bachmann's concerns about our ability to challenge our government. She is the one who called for anybody who challenged her views of government to be investigated as un-American. So maybe she is the one advocating for the creation of a gangster government while warning falsely that Democrats are trying to create a gangster government. The inherent hypocrisy of this goes unmentioned.
An invitation to a Tea Party headlined by Bachmann urged "Real Americans to unite" to "help stop the socialist agenda" and stand up against "A president who isn't even a U.S. Citizen; Death panels that plan to exterminate our seniors; Propaganda aimed at brainwashing our children; Plans to remove "In God We Trust" from our currency; Making gun ownership illegal." These are views fully endorsed by Bachmann. Let's take a few specific examples.
Bachmann Claim: When asked directly if she believed Obama was born in the United States, Bachmann refused to say yes. Bachmann in fact is a member of the Birther Caucus, members of which among other activities worked to block the resolution celebrating Hawaii's 50th anniversary of statehood because the resolution included a line citing Hawaii as President Obama's birthplace.
Reality Check: Questioning Obama's place of birth is akin to doubting we landed on the moon but nothing will stop a good conspiracy, even incontrovertible proof, which of course we have showing that Obama was indeed born in Hawaii. That would include a copy of his birth certificate and testimony from Hawaii's Department of Health that the certificate is valid, original and real. There are also birth announcements in local Hawaiian newspapers. Not enough for data for Bachmann, who on the other hand believes there is sufficient data to prove climate change a hoax.
Bachmann Claim: Declaring herself a professional meteorologist, Bachmann explains that climate change cannot be real because "CO2 is a natural byproduct of nature." Which begs the question, is there an unnatural byproduct of nature? Bachmann digs deeper by stating that "not one study" has ever shown that carbon dioxide is harmful. She believes that solar flares cause climate change, something apparently the scientists never thought of during their investigations.
Reality check: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has published numerous studies, endorsed by 2500 scientists from 166 countries, concluding that climate change is real, caused by human activity increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Even if you dismiss the conclusion of these reports, and the hundreds in the scientific literature on climate change, the statement that "not one report shows CO2 to be harmful" is blatantly false.
Bachmann Claim: Bachmann believed like Sarah Palin that current health care legislation created a death panel, a group of government bureaucrats who would decide who was worthy of receiving healthcare. When others pointed out that the actual proposed language simply provided funding for people who wished to seek end-of-life counseling, Bachmann abruptly changed her definition of death panel. "Unelected bureaucracies will decide what we can and can't get in future health insurance policy. That's why they're called death panels. "
Reality check: Neither claim by Bachmann has any basis in fact; no health care legislation contained any language remotely implying such rationing. These claims are easy to prove false because the proposed language is in black and white; but even easily dismissed lies, unambiguous falsehoods, are fed to a constituency that accepts the obvious lie as truth.
Bachmann Claim: Quoting Thomas Jefferson out of context, Bachmann is calling for an armed revolution to save our freedom from Obama's economic Marxism. "Economics works equally in any country. Where freedom is tried, the people rejoice. But where tyranny is enforced upon the people, as Barack Obama is doing, the people suffer and mourn." For most, such an extreme position would be an end point, but only the beginning for Bachmann; she goes on to say that the White House was trying to put in place "re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward" and that youngsters would "then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums." (However outlandish, that is an actual quote). Bachmann has also accused Obama of creating an army of "thought police."
Reality Check: Bachmann speaks loosely of tyranny without providing a single example of where Obama is attempting to abridge our rights, except for the bizarre reference to reeducation camps. She ignores at the same time her support for Bush policies of suspending habeas corpus, arresting American citizens on American soil with no access to lawyers or family, and illegal wire tapping. These actual, serious assaults on our most basic freedoms get a pass, while some paranoid potential threat from Obama commands Bachmann's attention. But she has support. Sean Hannity said of her claim about Obama's tyranny that "you are not overstating the case...and as a matter of fact it's refreshing." So calling our current president a tyrant bent on forcing youth in reeducation camps is "not overstating the case." This is the position of the political right.
Bachmann Claim: Bachmann divulged a secret plan by the Democrats to force Americans to save energy. "This is their agenda. I know it is hard to believe, it's hard to fathom -- but this is 'mission accomplished' for them. They want Americans to take transit and move to the inner cities. They want Americans to move to the urban core, live in tenements, take light rail to their government jobs. That's their vision for America."
Reality Check: Wow. Our plan is to force everybody to move to the inner city to work for the government. She caught us. Damn.
Bachmann Claim: With unrecognized irony, Bachmann declares that she will defy the U.S. Constitution, that document she holds up reverently whenever defending gun ownership or attacking Obama as a tyrant committed to subverting the Constitution. She openly stated that she would refuse to answer the Census beyond noting the number of people in her household, a clear violation of the law. Her rationale includes the idea that the census was used to round up Japanese citizens and put them into internment camps, with the odd implication that Obama has similar plans for his youth reeducation centers or other unnamed victims.
Reality Check: When the Constitution proves inconvenient to Bachmann, she willingly beaks the law and dismisses the Constitution like just another piece of trash. Again, Bachmann has proven too crazy even for her right wing colleagues. Republican representatives from North Carolina, Georgia and Florida issued a statement that, "Boycotting the constitutionally mandated Census is illogical, illegal and not in the best interest of our country." Oddly, with no explanation, Bachmann suddenly supported a measure encouraging Americans to participate in the 2010 census! Crazy does not require consistency. And her constituents do not call her out on the flip-flop, because the inconsistency can be ignored and forgotten in the parallel universe of the right wing.
Bachmann Claim: In another example of going beyond extreme limits, Bachmann introduced legislation that her colleagues thought was too scary even for them: "to ensure that the U.S. dollar remain the currency of the United States." She feared that Obama was going to replace the dollar with a foreign currency. (No, really, she did).
Reality Check: This Bachmann claim is so far out that no reality check is warranted, but let's dive in. She was reacting to news that the Chinese government proposed replacing the dollar as the global reserve currency. Obama immediately came out and said that no such change could be considered. Of course this has nothing to do with changing the U.S. currency, and ignores Obama's position against any change in how global reserves are managed. Bachmann's concern and legislation are borne from complete fantasy, detached fully from reality.
Bachmann could easily and rightfully be dismissed as a nut case, but that would be a mistake in spite of her obvious paranoia and messy divorce from the real world. She has strong support from Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, and O'Reilly, who collectively have tens of millions of followers. This audience believes her outlandish claims without ever getting to the reality check. Her bizarre claims are their reality.
This is what we are fighting, fact versus fiction. And that creates an imbalance in the struggle for the core of this nation, because facts are constrained by reality while fiction has infinite possibilities. That Bachmann's truly bizarre and fantastical views could gain traction with the electorate proves sadly that we are at a significant disadvantage in this fight for our country. So when Bachmann says "not all cultures are equal" she means that her culture is superior, and such a claim needs no factual support. When she denies as "urban legend" her quotes caught on video and radio, reality creates no barrier. And that is the Republican advantage. That is what we must overcome. And this is why any further attempts at bipartisanship makes no sense. The opposition is not presenting ideas based on a different philosophy, they are creating myths detached from reality.
Democrats won the election with a mandate to promote a rational agenda; the time has come to push through necessary reforms, including the pending health care legislation, using all legal means necessary. We can no longer afford the luxury of accommodating what any reasonable and dispassionate third party observer would call insane views on the side of the opposition. Really, what else could one call youth indoctrination camps, forced urbanization and swine flu caused by Democrats but completely insane ideas? Not all opinions are equal. Fallacy and fantasy are not equivalent to truth; not every Republican utterance deserves equal coverage in the name of balance. Irrational fear of a new U.S. currency does not deserve the same attention as fear of losing health insurance.
So while we acknowledge with great sadness that millions of Americans believe and support the likes of Michele Bachmann, the time has come to use our victory to push our agenda with gusto regardless of their bizarre opposition, fear mongering and radical reactionary views. Reform the financial market, push through real health care reform, leave Iraq, close Guantanamo, properly execute the war in Afghanistan and then get out, address the issue of climate change, energy efficiency and green energy technologies, reclaim our leadership in science, once again lead the world by example, and reaffirm the rule of law at home. Too bad if Bachmann and friends wish to drag us back to the Dark Ages; we will fight that as long as we have the political might to stop them.