Thursday, November 19, 2009

The magic lie

The Velvet Revolution began with a lie, so the New York Times says:

On Tuesday, thousands of Czechs marched through the streets here, to the sound of wailing sirens and the growls of police dogs, eerily replicating a nonviolent student march on Nov. 17, 1989, in which the police rounded on demonstrators and rumors spread that a 19-year-old university student named Martin Smid had been brutally killed. Scores had indeed been violently beaten. But no one, in fact, had died.


“Until that day, there had been a deal between the Communist regime and the people: ‘You shut up and we will take care of you,’ ” [Jan Urban] said. “But the moment people had the impression that their kids were being killed, the deal was off. As a journalist, I am ashamed of the lie because it was a professional blunder. But I have no regrets because it helped bring four decades of Communism to an end.”
Wingnuts are looking everywhere for the lie that will bring liberalism down. They send around emails that Snopes refutes but could never kill off in the fevered fear-driven conservative imagination. None of the lies they allege that Barack Obama has told are cited. They are all bullshit intended to appeal to people who will eagerly believe them without proof.

Wingnuts see themselves as heroic. They see themselves as guardians of the values that made the past so much better than the present. But it's fear that drives them.

The Times gets the interpretation of the story wrong. A single lie, no matter how motivating, won't have a butterfly effect on a political system. The Czechs and Slovaks - like all people in the Soviet Bloc - had already known for decades that communism was a system of lies. Their countervailing lie may well have broken the camel's back, but history had already prepared them to change. The police brutality alone might well have been enough.

Wingnuts who hope their lies will bring a reactionary sea change in America make four characteristic mistakes:
  • The U.S. is badly polarized (thanks to them), but it is not prepared for a mass movement to their side. Maybe they want another civil war, some in order to "correct" the results of the first.
  • Wingnuts are targeting their lies at their base, even though they think they're targeting people they might persuade.
  • The sheer volume of wingnut lies and deceits is so large that they have no credibility left. They "know" that they're righteous - God tells 'em, I guess - but we perceive them as habitual liars who are unconcerned with truth and only care about attaining the power that the Bushists so thoroughly abused.
  • The Velvet Revolution was a liberal revolution, not a conservative one. The fact that wingnuts can't tell the difference between liberalism and the political views farther left doesn't mean there's no difference.
Update (11/25): Digby smacks Rush on this.

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