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Terry Krepel Headshot

Liberty and Tyranny -- And Misinformation

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For all of the conservative media's rapturous reviews of radio host Mark Levin's new book, Liberty and Tyranny, you'd think the book would have something new to say.

Rush Limbaugh, for instance, found the book "readable, understandable, inspiring." The Washington Times insisted it "will convert many Americans to conservative thought the way Milton Friedman's Newsweek essays converted an earlier generation." Terry Jeffrey effused that Levin "writes with unmatched authority and clarity about the conservative vision."

In reality, Levin's book is just right-wing talking points served up in a different format -- as the beliefs of "Conservatives" and how they differ from "Statists" (spoiler: conservatives are good, statists are bad), concluded by a bullet-point "conservative manifesto." Anyone familiar with hard-right conservative ideology already knows what's in it.

Term limits for judges? Yep. Flat tax? Sure. Eliminate tenure for teachers and unions for federal employees? Check. Attacks on immigration and "multiculturalism"? Check. Calling Social Security "a scheme whereby a grandparent would be stealing future earnings from his own grandchild"? Double check.

And the misinformation Levin displays to back up his conclusions? You've heard most of that before too.

Levin put the Community Reinvestment Act at the top of the list of culprits for "the housing bust of 2008," asserting that the amount of "CRA-eligible loans" tops $4.5 trillion. In fact, the vast majority of subprime loans were made by financial institutions not subject to CRA guidelines, and according to the article Levin cites for that $4.5 trillion number, the figure covers all loans made under the CRA since its 1977 inception, not recent loans, as Levin suggests.

Levin also falsely attacks the Employee Free Choice Act, writing that if it passes, "Gone will be the secret ballot." In fact, the act would shift the choice of whether to hold a secret-ballot election to form a union from the employer to the workers.

In railing against "Enviro-Statism," Levin writes that "numerous experts are now claiming that, once again, the world is cooling," citing the work of Marc Morano, a former aide to global warming skeptic Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). Meanwhile, actual experts say the Earth remains in a long-term warming trend and that human-caused global warming is very much a reality.

Levin misleadingly claims that Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards "have not reduced America's importation of oil," ignoring the fact that the number of cars and light trucks on the road has nearly doubled from 132 million in 1975, when CAFE standards were introduced, to 243 million in 2006. Moreover, the Government Accountability Office reported that "many experts have concluded that CAFE has helped save oil," noting, for instance, a National Academy of Sciences study estimating that "in 2002 CAFE contributed to saving 2.8 million barrels of fuel a day, or 14 percent of consumption in that year."

Levin exhibits more than a little cognitive dissonance in declaring that conservatives believe in the "rule of law" as the basis of "civil society," while also asserting that expecting the Bush administration to obtain court approval in order to wiretap people in the United States "is contrary to all legal precedent, historical practice and highly impractical."

On the subject of waterboarding, Levin claims that it "reportedly led to securing important information that prevented dozens of planned al-Qaeda attacks." He doesn't mention other reports supporting the argument that waterboarding resulted in little usable information from at least one detainee subjected to it.

Peddling such misinformation is old hat for conservatives like Levin. More disturbing is Levin's attack on immigration, which seems to betray a tinge of racial animosity.

Levin quotes an assertion by the late Madeleine Cosman that "many illegal aliens harbor fatal diseases that American medicine fought and vanquished long ago." While Levin provides no data to back this up, Cosman falsely asserted in the 2005 article Levin cites that reported cases of leprosy in the United States had "suddenly" increased from 900 to more than 7,000 "in the past three years."

Further, Levin complains that a 1965 immigration law permitted "a substantial increase in immigration from Latin America, Asia, and Africa -- to the detriment of previously favored aliens from Europe" and frets over "another problem with the mass Hispanic migration to the United States": a "fertility surge" among Hispanic teenagers and unmarried women.

Levin attempts a pre-emptive defense of these views, writing that "those who dissent" from the "Statist" view on immigration "are often characterized as exclusionists, nativists, xenophobes, or even racists." But at least some of those nouns might indeed apply to Levin.

Levin's book could be called old wine in new bottles, but since Levin resorts to the same old misinformation to sell his brand of conservatism, the bottles aren't all that new either.