Lies and “Defacto Truth”

February 22, 2011
Posted by Jay Livingston

Some wacko Teabagger (is that a redundancy?), one Mark Williams, posted an appeal encouraging his comrades to pose as union members at a Wisconsin SEIU rally and act outrageously so as to discredit the union. They would have signs ‘that say things like “screw the taxpayer!”’ Then “we will echo those slogans in angry sounding tones to the cameras and the reporters.” (After the post went viral, Williams took it down, but you can still see a cached version here.)

Williams added
Even if it becomes known that we are plants the quotes and pictures will linger as defacto truth.
Has Williams been searching the PoliSci literature? A couple of years ago, Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler published their research about the effect of responses to political lies. What should you do when a poltician says something that is just not true? Providing accurate information would seem like the logical way to go. But Nyhan and Reifler did experiments showing that providing the relevant facts doesn’t work. It can have even a “backfire” effect. Those whose political views are in tune with the lie become even stronger in their beliefs. (Links to the paper and to a WaPo article about it are on Brendan’s blog – here.)

The examples Nyhan used were conservative lies (e.g., Bush saying that his tax cuts increased revenues), so we don’t know whether liberals might be more rational about facts. Also, Nyhan’s sample was hardly random – 130 students at a Midwest, Catholic university. But given the tenacity of the belief, especially among conservatives, that Obama is a Muslim born outside the US, these 130 might not be all that different from the general population.

It doesn’t matter if the “defacto truth” is not factual. What this research shows (and what Williams intuitively senses) is the futility of refudiation.

HT: The Political Carnival.


Dan said...

Scary stuff, Jay, this business in Wisconsin, and to a greater degree, the ease at which the right lies, the influence of the Koch brothers, and the ignorance of much of white America.

Harkens back to the Civil War when the elite slave-owning whites convinced poor whites to go to battle for them. What seemed to escape those poor whites was that they were essentially fighting against their best economic self-interests. If the South wins, slavery is maintained and all working class jobs are filled by blacks who are forced to work for free. What business owning white man would forego the opportunity of free labor to pay a white man a working wage?

It deeply saddens me just how ignorant so much of white America is.

brandsinger said...

Dan -
You seem to be missing the point of Wisconsin. Voters are taxpayers. The public employee unions are fighting the taxpayers -- trying to keep better benefits than many taxpayers themselves have. Preserving their jobs at the expense of other working people -- many of whom lost their jobs in the recent recession.

So you are quite confused.To imply that the voters of Wisconsin don't understand why they voted for Republicans is also insultingly condescending on your part.

I gather that you either a) don't pay taxes yourself (am I right on that?) or b) don't understand that your taxes go to public employee union benefits and to their political action expenditures, which fund political ads and political rallies. You think working people in the private sector like that?

You might try to think this through more carefully before you call others ignorant.

Dan said...

I don't think I'm missing the point at all.

First off, yes I am a taxpayer. I pay over $10,000 a year in taxes on a home that is not far from MSU.

I also work in the private sector.

What's happening in Wisconsin isn't just about cutting public employee union benefits. If it were that simple do you honestly think this thing would be as big as it is?

In my opinion, the fallout from breaking unions and disintegrating the collective bargaining rights of unions be it in the public or private sector, would be far more damaging to life in America for working class folks than having my taxes lowered to cut benefits or salary from public employees.

Yes I said it. I am fully willing to pay exorbitant taxes so that public employees can have inflated salaries and good benefits so that I can enjoy those services if the only other option is to have salaries/benefits cut, collective bargaining power reduced, and the subsequent dismal performance of these services by disgruntled employees.

Amidst all of this debate about budgeting and what to cut, Gov. Walker IN HIS SECOND WEEK AFTER BEING ELECTED, pushed through over $115 million in tax breaks for businesses and allies of the GOP. WIsconsin's Legislature’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau (their equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office) even warned Walker that those tax breaks would create a budget gap. Even more damaging is that before those tax breaks, the Wisconsin bureau predicted a SURPLUS. I'll let you do the math here and see what's responsible for the deficit in Wisconsin. That said, it's unethical and immoral for Walker to now look to punishing public employees to make up that difference.

See, I'm not of the "every man for himself" mentality. I understand there are many services my taxes provide me that either I couldn't or wouldn't do myself. And I have no problem paying for that.

I still stand by my reference to common folk who vote Republicans. They'll hop aboard the "end social programs" bandwagon. They'll regurgitate whatever the talking heads tell them to. But when they're down and out, oh they'll collect unemployment. They'll collect social security. Hell, even the teabaggers Queen of Bullshit, Ayn Rand spent the last years of her life on medicaid and collecting social security.