The first part of my book, "Pack of Lies", was published on Monday, as an ebook. The good news, besides the fact that it was published, is that it came out a full week early. The bad news is that the introduction was unilaterally rewritten by the publisher without my participation. In fairness to them, I had consented to edits for redundancy and obvious typos or grammatical errors. But I was was shocked and dismayed to discover that the text had been elaborately rewritten in many places, including dozens of words and phrases that I had not written, nor would ever have written. I believe their intentions were good. But the results were pretty ghastly.
I made a stink and have got them to agree to replace the offending text with my own revised introduction in the coming days. Evidently this will take a little while - several days at least. In the meantime, I'm doing nothing to promote the book and hoping that it doesn't get much attention (which is a paradoxical attitude for a newly published author, I grant you).
For the record, and until the record is corrected, here is my actual introduction:
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” – Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan
“Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” – Stephen Colbert, 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner
This book is a catalogue of the major conservative lies that millions of Americans believe – including some of the most powerful and influential people in the political and media establishments – despite the fact that they are easily contradicted by evidence available to anyone with an internet connection, ten minutes to spare, and a genuine interest in knowing the truth.
Some of these lies are sincere delusions, such as the notion that cutting taxes raises revenues. Some of these lies are cynically devised to alarm or confuse the public into supporting conservative candidates and policies, such as the claim that China owns most of America’s debt (when it actually owns only about 7.5%). But in the end, whether sincere or calculated to deceive, they all amount to the same thing: a pack of lies.
Millions of Americans believe that Social Security is in danger of going bankrupt, which it isn’t. Millions believe that the Republicans are the fiscally responsible party, which they aren’t. Millions believe that half of all Americans don’t pay taxes, which isn’t remotely true. And why do they believe these things to be true? Because Republicans told them so.
Crimes against Democracy
We talk about “spin” and “messaging” in politics as though it’s all just some kind of a game. But lies in the public sphere, whether coming from the right or the left, are not trivial matters. They are — and always have been – moral crimes.
When the citizens of a democracy are deprived of honest and accurate information, or are deliberately provided with false information, their ability to make decisions on their own terms about what is best for themselves, their families, their communities, and their country, is compromised. Their individual liberty and autonomy is violated.
Anyone who knowingly contributes to public confusion demonstrates an open contempt for democracy. He or she proves him or herself to be antagonistic to the free, open, and reasonable exchange of ideas, which is the oxygen in the bloodstream of a healthy democratic republic. When one of two major parties regularly traffics in lies, and successfully promotes a false ideology, that republic will gradually falter. Millions of Americans have sensed this happening in recent years.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. A political party that appeals to the public on the basis of lies undermines its own claims to legitimacy, since it seeks to obtain consent through fraud.
Of course, it's true that plenty of politicians of all parties are biased and self-serving, tell lies and bring dishonor on themselves and the institutions in which they serve. But there is only one ideology in America today that makes an enemy of reality itself. That is the ideology that calls itself “conservative,” and it has come almost entirely to dominate the GOP.
The Conservative Minority
The Republican Party today represents a minority of Americans. Clear majorities support Social Security, Medicare, higher taxes on the wealthy, safe and legal abortion, equal rights for same-sex couples, a path to citizenship for undocumented workers – in other words, the so-called Liberal Agenda.
Reality and democracy are simply not on the GOP’s side. Their views are not those of most Americans. Their values are not those of most Americans. Their interests are not those of most Americans. And so, they seek persistently to grasp at power by deceiving, confusing, frightening or distracting voters into supporting an agenda that they would otherwise reject. This has been an effective strategy for conservatives, but it’s been very bad for democracy in America, and it’s time for it to stop.
“Pack of Lies” comprises 40 chapters, divided into four volumes, which will be released serially between now and election day. Every chapter takes on a major conservative lie, by contrasting it with reality and explaining how and why there is a disconnect between the conservative claim and the truth. Each can serve as a standalone rebuttal to a common misperception. Taken together, the chapters construct a solid case that conservatism is an ideology fabricated out of misinformation and delusion. What’s more, they demonstrate that this pack of lies also happens to be a house of cards.