Thursday, March 03, 2016

Republicans Play Liar's Poker

Mark Graber

The problem with Liar’s Poker is once you play you cannot stop the game.

For many years Republicans have taken advantage of a phenomenon well known to social scientists. Many Americans, conservatives in particular, tend to cling more tightly to their beliefs when the media exposes those beliefs as false.  People who believe that climate change is a hoax tend to become more wedded to that belief after reading a New York Times article detailing how much of the Arctic icecap melted this January and the environmental consequences of that phenomenon.  Given this cognition process, bad publicity is good publicity. The more evidence the Times  and related outlets provide that, say, Planned Parenthood improves health outcomes in communities, the more conservative voters can be trusted to support cutting off funds to that organization.

The problem conservatives presently face is they need media allies in their effort to discredit Donald Trump.  This requires people primed for over a generation to disbelieve what the New York Times says about science on page 3, column d to be primed in the next week to believe what the Times says about Trump on page 5, column b. Media reports on Trump University must be credible in a way that media reports on Marco Rubio's personal finances are not.  Alas, life does not work that way. Republicans themselves established the drug that explains Trump's electoral immunity to scrutiny. That Fox News seems eager to join the Times in discrediting Trump is besides the point.  The Republican argument has always been that what the ordinary citizen feels to be right is right, regardless of what anyone in the mass media says.  Fox News, Republicans are learning the hard way, is no more believable than the New York Times when that outlet contradicts what Trump supporters want to believe.

If Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Dick Cheney and others are correct that the elite mass media is systemically misinforming America about nuclear weapons in the Middle East, climate change, Planned Parenthood, and the economic consequences of regressive taxes, why should anyone believe what the elite mass media says about Donald Trump.  Donald Trump in this vein is no different than his rivals on the stage tonight.  He just operates the Republican con better than they do.  There are four con artists on the stage tonight, not one.  All are dangerous to American democracy and human survival in their own ways.

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