The Right Doesn't Care About Your Facts
Since Donald Trump first appeared as a viable candidate, the media has been busy building a cottage industry on checking his statements against reality, comparing rhetoric to data, offering fact to counter the narratives he seemingly spins out of thin air. New pundits have been birthed with the sole purpose of pointing out where Trump has fudged the truth. Reams of paper and terabytes of server space have been spent tracking the number of lies that escape the president’s mouth on any given day. The Washington post, for example, keeps a running tally of these falsehoods. As of November 2nd, we are apparently up to 6,420.
The liberal left, in turn, has been in a frenzy over the proliferation of ‘fake news’ and the subsequent unmooring of right wing partisans from reality. We’re told that we now live in a nation that can be reduced to two particular worldviews: one informed by data, careful analyses, and factuality — the other by resentment, rage, and fear. Liberals, who have long since ceded the reigns of their party to a cadre of technocrats, firmly believe that conservative voters are simply suffering from the misguided rhetoric proliferated by a constellation of right wing media outlets; rhetoric that is carefully calibrated to stoke a series of base emotional responses. “If only these people would stop reading ‘fake news’ and instead opt for the papers of record”, the good liberal laments. But leading Democrats can talk until they are blue in the face, pointing out the myriad counterfactual narratives offered by the right — in the end it will amount to a waste of breath.
What American liberals don’t seem to understand, and what American leftists often seem to forget, is that a political project bereft of a binding narrative is uninspiring at best, and actively alienating at worst. The right understands this. Call it populism, call it political bombast, call it what you will — the right has internalized an understanding that politics is ultimately war by other means, and they have acted accordingly. Liberals on the other hand, seem to naively believe that compromise, capitulation, and civility imbue their ranks with a patina of ‘good faith’, somehow earning them more political capital in the process. An extraordinarily poor reading of our political landscape.
Now 10 years on from the financial crisis, an event which brought to an end ‘the end of history’, liberals appear disarrayed by the erosion of popular belief in the political apparatus. No longer able to reach across the aisle and pass the sort of deregulatory legislation that they were able to in the heyday of ‘bipartisanship’, Democrats are just beginning to realize that decades of neoliberal policy (to which they gave their stamp of approval), has immiserated many millions of people...and left them searching for a way out.
Of course, that desire to locate a way out was made real in the election of seemingly anti-political candidate Donald Trump. Whether or not Trump has broken in any meaningful way from normal GOP policy prescriptions is subject to debate. However, it is indisputable that Trump has brought to the table a type of oratory that effortlessly buttresses accounts of the world put on offer by Fox News anchors and Gateway Pundit writers, however crude those accounts might be. In doing so, the right marks their enemies, but the liberal left? Well, liberals continue to ‘go high’, equivocating when they could easily identify and hammer their own clear and ghoulish adversaries.
Leftists — that is to say those of us who are socialists, communists, and anarchists — of course recognize that the state is but one of many arenas in which a war is certainly being waged. The war we recognize is simply of a different nature. We understand that the state is a space primarily used to relocate, decontextualize, and mediate class warfare. The state is an effective tool to capture and defuse proletarian rage that would normally find an outlet at the most direct locations of exploitation.
If we understand that we’re operating on the terrain of class war, it’s curious that we leftists expend energy scrutinizing and calling attention to every utterance made by the president, in an attempt to exploit his lies for our political gain. No one is enthused by banal data points, facts, or figures — let alone our nagging about how often the president makes misleading remarks. Far be it from us to forget that the U.S. hegemony is maintained entirely through secrecy, clandestinity, and lies.
It’s imperative then that we recognize that the right in this country has effectively built and proliferated a narrative that contains all of the necessary elements for a compelling story: enemies, heroes, and their own vision for the world — facts be damned. Thus far, those of us on the left has been rendered incapable of introducing a competitive line that rightfully casts the capitalist class as our collective enemy, ourselves as the heroes, and socialism as our vision for a better world.
Does this mean that we have to embrace deceit in order to make our politics palatable? Of course not. It does mean, though, that it’s incumbent on us to create the conditions wherein our understanding of the world is the most clear, concise, and easily understood account available. Until we’ve built up our own base, backed up by our own compelling appeals, forget about pointing out the inconsistencies of right wing talking points as a viable form of political warfare.
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