Sunday, October 7, 2012

In Today's Politics, It's True If It's Plausible.

I've been watching politics for a long time now, certainly more closely than is healthy for any stable mind, but so it goes. And the monkey on my back, my real jones, if you will, has always been, "But that's just not true!!"

How high was the bullshit piled up?
Every time John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and other Republicans said, "It's a job killer and we're just not voting for it," or "raising taxes on the wealthy is class warfare and a job killer," or "Obamacare is a granny killer and, what the fuck, a job killer," I just shake my head and wonder why they say it. I inevitably grumble and concede that they say it because somebody's already drunk the Kool-Aid and in fact are now predisposed to believe these nonsensical pronouncements.

The other night when a new, improved Mitt Romney -- you know, the one equipped with a brand-new set of talking points quite nearly 100% reverse-engineered from the baloney he'd been spouting for the past 18 months -- opened his forceful, smiling, affable, Glengary Glen Ross, always closing, closing, closing, glad-handing, beaming mouth, I was flabbergasted. For about 48 hours.

Fine. I admit it. I forgot to bring my bullshit the other night.
That's how long it took for me to regain my footing. Sure, all the pundits and currently unemployed political consultants on TV said that Mitt Romney had wiped the floor with Barack Obama, and Andrew Sullivan had said that he knew traditional debating (probably from his days at Oxford) and what was Barack Obama thinking!!?!, and so forth. Yes, I'd watched just about every debate since JFK and Nixon (true, believe it or not), and I get that debating is about closing, not truth-telling per se, and yes, Obama had a bad night.

But in the scheme of things, the truth still matters to me, always has, always will. I've never been to Oxford, so I can't say, "Well done, old chap, you certainly bested me, it's was complete nonsense of course, but I digress, well done, old sport!"

Is American politics relevant to Afghanis? It's plausible.
No, politics is life-and-death issues, it means something. Just ask the Afghanis, or Americans without health insurance. It is life and death.

So how does this thing work, this political propaganda machine? How do misinformation campaigns really work? If Orwellian language really works, what's the key to it?

It's been right there all along, but I finally saw it: It's all about plausibility. Plausibility doesn't need to be fat and wide; it doesn't need to contain the truth. It needs the barest, the wispiest, the thinnest amount of rationality. All it needs is to be plausible.

Obama is really a Kenyan Muslim who hates America? It's not out of the realm of maybe, slightly, kinda crazy but, what if it's actually, really true? A wisp of plausibility? Great! Limbaugh and the fiercely yapping crowd will run with it all day and all night.

Let's try this out. There's this God, see -- well actually, no, you can't see Him -- and He knows our every thought because he's watching everyone and created everything forever and ever and we'll live with Him until the End of Days, and then the Evil ones all die and we live forever and ever on the Big Rock Candy Mountain! With God! Yeah, it's plausible.

Sullivan is a rationalist who believes in the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

You know what's plausible? The undeniable fact that you can't become president unless you believe something almost exactly like that, and you must make it undeniably clear or you're toast in a presidential election. This is not only plausible, it's true, and what makes it all the more outrageous, of course, is that this is how we operate in a nation founded, among other things, on the First Amendment, you know, the one that says no religion shall be established.

King George III. ruled by divine right?
I somewhat digress, but not really. I'm just having my I-can't-believe-it's-not-really-butter moment about politics. It's probably been like this from the beginning of time. The Egyptians believed in the Pharaoh, and the British revered King George III (did they actually? Hardly matters), and wait, wait. They actually didn't, the people I mean. They didn't know what to think, didn't have the power to affect outcomes and ruling by divine right was, in fact, well, plausible.

And so here we are today. Mitt Romney is no Pharaoh, he's just the Republican candidate for president, and the stage has been set for him to run, perhaps successfully, on talking points that are plausible. Do his positions have to be true? No. Do they have to be what he espoused in 1994? No. Do they have to be what he espoused in 2002? No. Do they have to be what he said on the stump up until last Tuesday? No. Okay, what do they have to be?

Let's say it together: plausible.

And what's Mitt going to say at the next debate? Who knows? But it'll be plausible. True? Who cares?

Mitt's hoping the answer to that final question is less than half of the people. Which is why he doesn't care about the 47%. That's more than plausible.

Update. We all get jokes and cute pictures in emails from friends. Some of them are amusing, some are not. A friend forwarded this joke to me, and I noticed its relevance to the above:
Snow White, Superman and Pinocchio are walking along. They see a sign: "Contest for World's Most Beautiful Woman." Snow White goes in, later comes out smiling, wearing a crown.

They walk along and see another sign: "Contest for World's Strongest Man." Superman goes in, later comes out smiling, wearing the belt.

They walk along and see a sign: "Contest for World's Greatest Liar." Pinocchio goes in, later comes out with his head down crying.

"Who the hell is Mitt Romney?" Pinocchio sobs.
That's funny. And plausible.

My tax plan, my tax returns, my health care plan, my education plan, my jobs plan...

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