26 December 2008

Rumor Central: They Keep Coming

FactCheck has released a post-Election Day summary of misinformation fomented by partisans on both sides of the aisle. Although the primary emphasis focuses on items related to the automaker bailout, several residual rumors election-related rumors remain.

FactCheck finds:

· It's not true that unionized auto workers at Detroit's Big Three make more than $70 an hour, as claimed by some opponents of federal aid.

· And no, 3 million workers won't be tossed out of work if aid is not forthcoming, as claimed by those favoring a taxpayer bailout.

· President-elect Obama never promised to seek a ban on all semi-automatic weapons, as claimed by some fearful gun owners.

· And no, Obama did not propose a Gestapo-like civilian security force as claimed by a Republican member of Congress from Georgia and any number of overwrought bloggers.

· Democrats in Congress are not discussing any plan to confiscate the assets in 401(k) retirement accounts, another falsehood spread about by chain e-mails and Internet postings.

· House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not demand a 757-size personal jet, a false claim resurrected when Democrats criticized Big Three executives for flying to D.C. on their own private jets to beg for aid.

· And Pelosi's husband doesn't own a $17 million stake in a food company that she may (or may not) have tried to help with an exemption from a new minimum wage law.

Also worth a read, FactCheck’s article, “Our Misinformed Electorate.”

What amazes is that so many of these items originate as unsubstantiated stories on the Internet, then are picked up and reiterated by people who should know better—people who have access to “real” researchers (e.g., Representative Paul Broun [R-GA]). It’s more than evident that these stories are perpetuated by pathos—emotive appeals lacking in factual support—the problem is, we’ve seen rumors of this ilk stimulate some very real hysteria that extends beyond both the Clinton- and Bush- Derangement Syndrome. People convinced that “our way of life” is under threat are calling for rebellion and for secession; some of these accompanied by veiled threats against the President-Elect himself (Here's a CSM story from about a month ago that touches on these issues; Googling reveals more recent examples, and this blog is always on top of these things amongst the PUMA groups).

The odd thing is, people write that, because fringe elements pushed the anti-Bush envelope, this deserves a retributive anti-Obama stance (Google "Obama is not my president" for a whole lotta testifying to this). “Because you didn’t support my president, I’m not supporting yours,” etc. Not only is this tit-for-tat juvenile in the extreme, the self-righteous “not my president” nonsense only helps partisans maintain some sense of superiority over others. If you object to a process or to a proposal, find a way to help enact change that utilizes reason and analysis (what gifts these are!) instead of having what is, essentially, a temper tantrum. It doesn’t matter who started it; the fact is, it’s got to end if we’re to climb out of this hole we’re in.

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