Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dishonoring Abe

I’m going to start off today’s post with a prescient quote from a little known man you may have heard of…MR. ABRAHAM LINCOLN!!!

When I was a young man, we were always taught that the stupidest kind of fools were the Republican wingnuts who quoted any old damn thing and pretended it was the Word of God simply because it confirmed a position they wanted to hear.  Yet if it perchance to be a statement they wouldn’t want to hear, they would make a pillory of the quote as if it had come from the Devil himself.  Those, my friends and countrymen, are the people we are to murder.
--- President Abraham Lincoln

Well that’s it.  We win.  I mean, who is going to argue with Abraham Lincoln?  Sure, that really doesn’t sound like Abraham Lincoln, and his attack on Republican wingnuts does seem a little dubious; Lincoln being a Republican and everything.  But it was attributed to him, so I guess that wraps things up and we can begin murdering these fools; per Abe’s instructions.

And sure, I made it up.  It’s not a real Lincoln quote at all, but rather one I placed into his mouth because it made it a lot more weighty.  But isn’t it the kind of thing that Lincoln might have said?  Of course.  Because we all know that Lincoln hated stupid fools who placed too much importance on historical figures and wanted them all murdered.  Sure, he never actually said that either, but you can read it between the lines.  He couldn’t outright say this stuff, but it’s there.  Trust me.

Blaming the Editors

And I’m still joking.  This is all based upon a catch from the unsinkable Roger Ailes of a wingnut meme that they refuse to fact check, due to the fact that they want so badly to believe that it’s true.  

Here it is, a quote invented “accidentally” by J. Michael Waller, a writer of Insight magazine:
Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.

And that’s just crap.  What a dumb quote.  That doesn’t even sound like Lincoln at all, and is extremely dubious.  But when you’re a wingnut and you want something to be true, it is true, at least until someone brings it to your attention with undeniable proof.  But by then, the quote’s already infected enough other wingnuts to keep it going forever.  Factcheck.org destroyed that quote in August of 2006, yet it continues to be cited by influential wingnuts over half a year later.

Waller has admitted that he was the source of the quote, but insists that it was an editor who put quotes around it to make it sound like it came from Lincoln.  But even if we rewrite his quote according to what he says he wrote, it still isn’t much better.  

Here’s my guess as to what the dude says he wrote in 2003:
Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs, and should be arrested, exiled or hanged, that's what President Abraham Lincoln said during the Civil War.

I should note that, although Waller says he wrote “Civil War” the “editor” of Insight changed it to “War Between the States”.  These people are so childish.  I should also mention that Waller says that between December 2003 when he wrote it and August 2006 when Factcheck asked him about it, nobody questioned him about the quote.  He says he asked Insight to run a correction of it immediately, but they wouldn’t.  And the editor of Insight wouldn’t even take or cast the blame on how this quote was created.  Thus is our conservative media: Nobody’s to blame, and no attempt at correction.  Kind of like a certain presidential administration I know.

Jockeying Defeatism

And Roger cites two examples of this accidental quote being used.  The first was Frank J. Gaffney Jr., who wrote a commentary in the Washington Times yesterday which used the Lincoln quote as a springboard to denounce Democrats in Congress.  Gaffney thinks it’s bizarro that “scarcely anyone seems to consider the conduct of the Congress inappropriate,” while Lincoln so clearly disapproved of his critics.  He also complains about Dems who “jockey to outbid one another in their defeatism.

And just to show how wise Gaffney is, I’ll give you this little treasure from the same piece:
Doug Feith is an old friend of mine. He is among the most thoughtful, careful and conscientious public servants I have ever known. The only truly "inappropriate" behavior evident is the ongoing effort led by Sens. Levin and Rockefeller to impugn the integrity, quality and, yes, the appropriateness of policymakers' efforts to ensure that far-reaching national security decisions are made on the basis of the best information available.

Right.

The second citation is from The Strata-Sphere blog, where the wingnut updates his praise of the quote by informing us that it was fictitious.  But in doing so, he repeatedly denounces a liberal blogger who caught his mistake and insulted him for it.  In fact, Mr. Sphere would have given a sincere thanks to the “foul mouthed childish liberal nut,” if “the poor sap had shown some maturity”.  

That’s right.  The lib nut was foul mouthed, so that makes it perfectly acceptable to insult the guy, even though the “emotionally stunted blogger” was correct and Mr. Sphere was totally wrong.  But at least Sphere wasn’t foul-mouthed about his repeated insults; and that makes all the difference.  That’s maturity for you.

Unimpeachable Sources

And that takes us into our final chapter: How conservatives insist on taking a person’s authority to be more important than what the person is saying.  In this case, Mr. Sphere insists that we can’t argue with Abe Lincoln because he’s Abe Fricking Lincoln.

Mr. Sphere, Mr. Gaffney, and all the other wingnuts who have used that quote insist that it is proof of something, because it came from Lincoln.  But that’s entirely backwards.  Because there are lots of quotes from lots of famous and weighty people which entirely contradict what wingnuts believe.  Why don’t they consider those quotes to be definitive?  Because the quotes don’t support their position.  

In fact, as Factcheck.org suggests, it’s more likely that Lincoln believed the exact opposite of what this quote suggests.  Does that mean that wingnuts everywhere will start supporting the right to dissent?  Of course not.  It means, back to the drawing board; trying to find some other quote to use.  Because it wasn’t the weight of the person that made it important; but what the person said.  And that’s how this is supposed to work.  It was only when they then flip this around and insist that it’s Lincoln’s importance that makes the quote better that they lose it.  

But in fact, the lame quote attributed to Lincoln isn’t even a persuasive argument, but rather a conclusion.  Had it been an explanation of why such a policy was necessary, it could have been a weighty statement.  But that’s not what the wingnuts wanted.  They got a conclusion they wanted to hear, saw that it was supposedly spoken by somebody important, and then insisted that they had finally found the civil liberties-busting proof they’ve been waiting for.  

Because they don’t do arguments; they do conclusions.  For them, an argument is nothing but a conclusion waiting to happen.  And so to find out that Lincoln wanted to hang morale-busting congressmen puts perspective on our own inaction at stopping our morale-busters.  And now that the statement has been shown to be written by a no-name conservative, it’s lost its luster and will be tossed into the anti-lib scrapheap.  They only found Lincoln unimpeachable because they liked the quote; but the quote was only useful if it came from Lincoln.  That’s irony for you.

Blessed be the Deceivers

And we see this again, when he gives his excuse for how he made this embarrassing mistake.  It’s not his fault you see.  As he says “I cannot fact check the news media.”  Of course not.  I suppose Rathergate and all those boneheaded assertions of media malfeasance are entirely aberrations.  And the fact that his source for this was an opinion piece in a newspaper with an explicit rightwing bias was all the more reason to not bother checking its authenticity.

But again, it wasn’t that.  All it was is that Mr. Sphere saw a quote he liked and didn’t care whether it was real.  Its realness was entirely supported by his desire for it to be real.  Same goes with Gaffney and all the other wingnuts who cite it.  Sure, a ten second search on Google brings up the Factcheck piece almost immediately, but why would anyone want to search for something that undermined their argument?  That’s like aiding and abetting the enemy without them even knowing about it.

But this is a constant theme with conservatives: Their desire to find quotes they like which are then considered unimpeachable due to the fact that they want the quote to be true.  But somehow, they never see it like that.  They don’t obey every word that Lincoln, Washington, or Jefferson say; but if they find a quote they like, they’ll treat it as Gospel.  Hell, they don’t even follow the Gospel like Gospel; but only pick the parts they like and ignore the rest.

But that doesn’t stop their deception-loving minds in its ability to deceive them yet again about the importance of any of it.  At Sphere’s blog, almost every one of his commenters were proud to trumpet the Lincoln quote as definitive proof that Dems need to be treated more harshly.  As do all other wingnuts who read it.  And they’ll all insist that it’s Lincoln’s authority that makes it true; as the quote doesn’t even approximate a valid argument.  And I can guarantee you that exactly 0% of those readers will reconsider their position, now that the quote’s been exposed as fraudulent.  Nor will they allow Lincoln’s authority to override their position, even though it’s likely that Lincoln believed the opposite of them.  

It was only because they liked the conclusion that they considered the source to be impeccable.  And I have no doubt they’ll continue their quest for the unimpeachable proof forever.  Perhaps someday, future wingnuts will have the glorious words of President Bush and Vice-Lord Cheney to vindicate their authoritarian bent.  But until then, they’ll just have to satisfy themselves with the knowledge that they are so entirely right about everything that they don’t even require any proof.  Which is quite convenient, as they never seem to find any.

2 comments:

whig said...

The authoritarian mindset associates obedience with maturity.

J. Mumphrey Bibblesnæð said...

You know, this is why conservatives so loathe science and Darwin and all that.
Science goes about things all wrong. To do science, you have to look at things with an open mind and then, when you've done the research and the experiments and all that, only then do you come up with a conclusion. And even then it's tentative; further experiments could throw everything that came before into the crapper.
Conservatives hate science because to them, it's all backwards. They come up with the answer and then look for something to "prove" it. Everything that doesn't fit is dismissed, or more likely, ignored altogether.
Scientists have been studying climate change for a long time now. Pretty much all scientists who aren't on some industry's payroll agree it's real and we're bringing it about. But that's not how it works, to conservatives. They are unwilling to acknowledge the possibility of climate change right from the beginning, because acknowledging it would lead to the admission that it's bad, that we should do something to stop it, and the things we'd have to do are inconvenient. So, having come up with the answer, the conclusion, right at the beginning, they go about looking for "proof" that it isn't real. "Cold winter this year? There you go! No global warming." "Lots of snow in upstate New York this week? Well, that proves global warming is a hoax!"
Everything that would seem to undermine their "proof" that it isn't real gets waved away as "liberal bias. After all, everybody knows most scientists are Godless commie bastard heathens. And when they stumble upon some hapless hack, bought and paid for by Texaco or Shell or somebody, they hold him up as one of the few selfless "scientists" with enough guts and integrity to stand up to the fearsome scientific establishment.
I think their real problem with science is that science is chock filled with nuances, uncertainty and ambiguity. And if there are 3 things conservatives hate and fear and piss their pants at the very thought of, they are nuance, uncertainty and ambiguity.
I guess that's why so many conservatives seem to be such whiny losers: since life is also chock filled with nuance, uncertainty and ambiguity, they are uniquely badly suited to deal with it.
This seems like a fairly good blaðer here; maybe I'll post it at my own site...