There are lies, damned lies, and right-wing zombie lies. What's a right-wing zombie lie? It's an untruth that -- no matter how many times it is debunked, no matter how many times it is killed -- keeps coming out of the mouths of right-wingers. Most of the rank-and-file conservatives with whom we might interact get their information from conservative media sources. They live inside a right-wing information bubble. Republican politicians are ensconced within it as well. Inside the walls of that closed environment, facts that do not jibe with conservative ideology or the conservative interpretation of events are twisted, turned on their head, or simply ignored. The lies live on.
Remember David Horowitz? He's a notorious race-baiter who recently published Black Skin Privilege and the American Dream. The cover, of course, depicts President Obama as the personification of black privilege, which the book's description characterizes as "the most insidious bias in our culture today." A real lover of the truth, that one. In 2006, Horowitz was forced to retract two very specific claims he had made about supposed liberal bias in university classrooms. In an interview conducted after the retractions, he actually said that "everybody who is familiar with university classrooms knows" that what he said is true, and who cares if he doesn't have, I don't know, evidence. But back to his recent lies about race-baiting.
Last week Horowitz was a guest on the "Eagle Forum Live" radio program, hosted by another infamous right-winger, Phyllis Schafly (herself caught in a lie about Barack Obama earlier this year). The two were talking about Michael Brown and the ongoing protests that followed his shooting death at the hands of Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson this past summer. Horowitz characterized Brown as "just a thug" and condemned the protesters as people "who destroyed a city to get a cop who was defending himself. Look at the picture of him in the hospital with his eye socket practically blown out." Also, let's not forget Horowitz's final point, another "truth" only he's brave enough to speak: "There's no community that's more racist in America than the black community. And everybody knows it, but nobody will say it."
Right. Black skin privilege and all. So we have Horowitz's big lie, buttressed by a smaller lie, but a very important one that helps convince right-wing listeners about the truth of the big one. That's the lie about Darren Wilson's eye socket. Of course, if Michael Brown had blown out the eye socket of the cop who shot him, that would be a pretty strong point against the protesters and in favor of Horowitz's broader points about race in America. One small problem: It didn"t happen.
You might be thinking: Yeah, that sounds vaguely familiar. There was what a Fox News (cough) report called a "source close to the [police] department's top brass" (does anyone really use words like "top brass" anymore?) who told Fox the following:
"The Assistant (Police) Chief took him to the hospital, his face all swollen on one side," said the insider. "He was beaten very severely."
[Michael Brown and his friend Dorian Johnson] ignored him and the officer started to get out of the car to tell them to move," the source said. "They shoved him right back in, that's when Michael Brown leans in and starts beating Officer Wilson in the head and the face."
The Fox News report summarized the source's information as follows: "Darren Wilson... suffered severe facial injuries including a bone fracture near one eye and was nearly beaten unconscious by Brown moments before firing his gun."
On a related note, do you remember when the Ferguson Police Department released surveillance video of Brown allegedly stealing items from a store on the day he was killed by Officer Wilson, an act of which Wilson was unaware and thus could not have had any effect on the confrontation between the two men? Releasing that tape was as blatant an act of character assassination as one could imagine. Fox's "well-placed source" on Wilson's eye injuries also commented on the release of the surveillance video, adamantly rejecting that the FDP had anything but the best interests of the Brown family at heart. You see, the police chief had wanted to make sure that the Brown family had watched the video before it was released. Then Fox's source blamed the victims, lamenting that "a powerful, ugly spin has completely ruined public discourse on this whole situation." Well-placed source indeed. But not a truthful one.
Back to Officer Wilson's injuries. After reports on their supposedly extensive nature started getting more traction in both the conservative and traditional media, a photo went viral among right-wingers. Wow, Officer Wilson (Nelson?) really looks bad, doesn't he?
Only that's not Darren Wilson.
That is, in fact, a photo of the late motocross rider Jim McNeil (he died years after this photo was taken). What we almost certainly have here is a right-wing (insert expletive) -- someone looking to discredit those protesting the Michael Brown shooting and, more broadly, those advocating for civil rights and justice for African Americans -- who deliberately falsified information and sent it out into the ether. Unsurprisingly, it took almost no time for this photo to end up on the website of a right-wing media figure.
After the photo scam was very publicly debunked, the whole story fell apart. Video of Wilson taken right after the shooting shows him walking around calmly, without any type of serious injury consistent with a fractured eye socket. The initial reports, made just after the shooting, included the Ferguson police chief saying that Wilson had been treated for "swelling on the side of his face." That's it.
The whole story -- both the picture and the report of the severe injuries -- was disproven, and the story's failure was widely reported. But inside the right-wing media bubble? The fractured eye socket lives on, resting comfortably next to a copy of Barack Obama's Kenyan birth certificate. And that's how, two months later, we get David Horowitz saying: "Look at the picture of him in the hospital with his eye socket practically blown out."
Did David Horowitz -- and Phyllis Schafly, who did not correct Horowitz's false statement -- really not know the truth about that lie? Maybe they did know, but didn't care. Maybe they figured their audience, true believers to the core, still remained in the dark about the whole thing. It's possible that Horowitz somehow still believed that the lie was the truth. Either he heard about the debunking and, unwilling to accept it, dismissed it or just plain blocked it out of his mind ("La, la, la, I'm not listening"). I wouldn't be shocked if he never even heard about the debunking at all because he gets all his information from, ahem, like-minded individuals.
What does this single incident tell us? It demonstrates just how deep the dysfunction is among right-wingers. Not only will they blatantly lie, they will actually create false information. They've done this over and over again. Just remember what Breitbart did to Shirley Sherrod. It is no surprise that both of these -- and so many other lies told by the right all the way back to the one Ronald Reagan spewed about "welfare queens" -- are lies designed to support the racism at the core of their thinking.
This incident also shows us that no matter how many times people prove that a right-wing story is actually a lie, the lie will not go away. It will not die. People like David Horowitz make sure of that. Somewhere out there, people were listening to him and Phyllis Schafly talk about that "thug" Michael Brown, and poor, tragically injured Officer Wilson. Those people then thought to themselves: "damn n#@*er." The zombie lies live on because they work. They accomplish exactly what they are supposed to.