There has been a surprising trend of outright calling a lie a lie when told by politicians in this leg of the campaign. Hopefully this trend continues as the DNC begins this week, as we’re sure to hear as many distortions, half-truths and outright lies coming from the other side of the aisle as well. That’s not false equivalence, that’s just based on several lies that SuperPACs have pushed from the Obama campaign, such as one that Mitt Romney was somehow responsible for someone’s death. The idea that somehow SuperPACs are anything but tangentially separate from the campaign is a laughable lie as well, but that’s another article for another day.
The sad truth is that politicians lie, and it is the duty of journalists to inform the public when they are lying.
Another trend that has developed is somewhat more expected. Journalists, in an attempt to try and appear “savvy” will try to explain why lies aren’t really lies and that they’re part of politics, or that we’re naive for bothering to point them out. They’ll say that while that may be untrue, it’s used to make a larger point.
Ben Smith at Buzzfeed has a post called “Pants on Fire Politics” which sub headline is “The Democrats’ attack on Republican honesty is a campaign ploy, not an argument.”
I realize Ben is using “democrats” as his scapegoat here, but throughout the article he’s either pointing to different journalists or blaming them for being duped by the party into bothering to check the facts. If these journalists fail to do the same thing with lies the Obama campaign tells, I would gladly agree with him.
”a casual read could mistake this for evidence about Ryan’s character. It is, in fact, something approaching the opposite”
What else is it but evidence about his character? What else are we to judge a candidate on other than what they do and what they say, and how they distort the facts about themselves and the people they hope to defeat on their way to public office?
The Democrats are hoping to do to Paul Ryan what Republicans so successfully did to Al Gore: To conflate stray real personal exaggerations; rhetorical simplifications; and actual policy differences into an unfair character attack.
The personal exaggeration refers to Ryan lying about his marathon time, which in isolation would be a forgivable white lie, but given how many other documented occurrences now where Ryan has willfully lied about easily refutable facts, it seems to fall into a pattern.
A “rhetorical simplification” is probably a great way to describe the explanation journalists like to use to help us poor dear readers understand why we shouldn’t make such a big deal about what politicians say in their speeches. Some journalists will have you believe that speeches are also rhetorical simplifications of facts used to drive home a larger point.
Aiding those rhetorical simplifications in Ryan’s RNC speech alone are clear lies. We can discuss policy difference if we both agree on the same set of facts. There are records and data and votes that have been cast, legislation that has been blocked and passed, actions that any journalist can easily point to. Instead we hear journalists, especially on cable news, where I’d generously refer to them as “pundits,” acting like they’re doing us some public service by explaining how politics works.
There are reasons why journalists may want to try and couch and contort themselves fearing they’ll lose access to politicians they call out for lying. They fear they’ll be iced out from joining the same 20 people listening to the same platitudes at the same press conference.
A real public service would be to clearly and continuously force politicians face their lies by calling them out to the public, as many have thankfully begun to do.
What we don’t need is more journalists wasting our time explaining to us why they’re lying.