Smoke Without Fire
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I heard arguments that even if conservatives were wrong, their suspicions proved how evil Obama was.
On the cover:
Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, born October 26, 1947, is a US Presidential candidate for 2016, former First Lady of the United States, United States Secretary of State, serving under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013; a former United States Senator from New York, and more. ©2017 Archives
Conservative feelings do not define reality.
Case in point, some right-wingers were crowing earlier this month when Clinton said she wouldn't raise taxes on the middle class, because they thought they'd heard her say the opposite — that she would raise taxes. When one such conservative, National Review's Deroy Murdock, realized his mistake, he explained that even though he was wrong, he was really right because his mistake "highlighted a broader truth." Murdock, you see, knows Clinton will raise taxes on the middle class, so it was completely logical to think she'd said that. The blame for his error doesn’t lie with him, it lies with Clinton for being the sort of sleazy tax-and-spend liberal who makes him jump to such conclusions.
Similar arguments about Obama have been spewing out of the right wing since 2008. If they're suspicious of his citizenship, his religion, his agenda, that doesn't make them political paranoids, it's because Obama's so unAmerican they can’t help jump to conclusions. One blogger argued that as "there is no other president of whom we've asked similar questions" (actually the far right accused both Truman and Eisenhower of being communist agents back in the day) that proves there must be something suspicious about Obama. I can think of at least one reason some people react to Obama differently than every other president, but I can understand why a right-wing blogger would rather not bring up that possibility.
Likewise, during the Jade Helm freak-out — the delusion of some right-wingers that a military exercise in Texas was a plot to take over the state — I heard arguments that even if conservatives were wrong, the fact they believed it proved how evil Obama was ("Obama has really painted a portrait in the minds of many conservatives that he is capable of this sort of thing."). After all, if he was a good, trustworthy person, they'd never have made this mistake, so logically he must be a dictator.
It’s the same "logic" by which conservative writer Dinesh D'Souza has argued that the existence of stereotypes proves they must be true. The fact bigots say "blacks are lazy" or "Jews are cheap" but not the other way around proves blacks and Jews (and other stereotyped minorities) must be doing something that makes people think of them that way.
People who deploy this argument aren't simply claiming that there's no smoke without fire, they're claiming there must be a fire even if they only imagine the smoke. You don’t believe there’s a fire? Well, why did they think they saw smoke, then huh? Do you think they're stupid or bigoted or something?
In reality, our impressions of other people are frequently wrong, and the false impression usually says more about us than them. There are any number of women that I believed, incorrectly, were interested in me. Not because they "painted a portrait" in my mind or because my belief "highlighted a broader truth" but because I wanted desperately for it to be true. Likewise the common teenage conviction that parents are morons says more about teen perception than parental intelligence.
Unfortunately despite all the evidence that our beliefs and feelings are often an inaccurate map of reality, we keep telling ourselves that they are. And once we start down that road, it can be hard to stop. For some people it's much more comfortable to explain away evidence than admit to being a dupe or a gullible sheeple. Murdock could have just said he was wrong, but instead he chose to argue his error was kind of, sort of right. His critics are just focusing on trivial matters such as accuracy and facts, Murdock is looking at the big picture and the "broader truth." So he’s really much more right than the people who think he's wrong.
Except, of course, he isn't.
Fraser Sherman, : Having graduated college with a degree in biology, no interest in grad school, and no interest in a science career, Fraser Sherman decided he’d try writing. It turned out he liked it. And he was even reasonably good at it. Over the next couple of decades, he sold articles to Newsweek, The Writer, Dragon Magazine (yes he played D&D. Want to make something out of it?), Air & Space and more specialized markets such as Painting and Wallcovering and Gulf Coast Condo Owner. Because he wanted... (more...)