The Truthers Of The GOP

In your search for truth, you can find pretty much anything on the Internet. (As I used to tell my Media and Policy students, if you wonder whether aliens really landed in Roswell, I can find you five internet sites with pictures of the aliens…)

Every so often, a commenter will angrily dispute something I’ve written here by citing to “proof”– an internet site. Now, it is entirely possible for yours truly to make mistakes, but I do take pains to research and confirm the accuracy of data posted here, and when I’ve clicked on links supplied by the naysayers, I generally wind up with rather obvious propaganda.

Which brings me to Paul Krugman’s recent column addressing the issue of intentional misinformation–aka lying.

What Richard Hofstadter called the paranoid style in American politics is no longer a fringe phenomenon: Bizarre conspiracy theories are now mainstream on the American right. And one manifestation of this paranoia is the persistent dismissal of positive economic data as fake when a Democrat occupies the White House.

During the Obama years there was a large faction of “inflation truthers,” who insisted that deficit spending and monetary expansion must surely be causing runaway inflation, and that if official numbers failed to match that prediction it was only because the government was cooking the books.

Krugman says we have fewer inflation truthers now;  instead, we are seeing  the emergence of what he dubs “recession truthers” — a significant faction that seems frustrated by the Biden economy’s refusal, at least so far, to enter “the recession they have repeatedly predicted or insisted is already underway.”

The new group is dominated by tech bros, billionaires who imagine themselves focused on the future rather than the golden past, more likely to be crypto cultists than gold bugs…Indeed, the most prominent recession truther right now is none other than Elon Musk.

Krugman explains how we can know that these particular truthers are wrong. He points out that  America’s statistical agencies are highly professional– staffed and led by civil servants who care a lot about their reputations for integrity. As he says, we can be “pretty sure that if political appointees were cooking the books we’d be hearing about it from multiple whistle-blowers.”

Beyond that, while official data is still the best way to track the U.S. economy — no private organization can currently match the resources and expertise of the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the Bureau of Economic Analysis — there are, in fact, many independent sources of evidence on the economic state of the nation. And they all more or less confirm what the official data says.

He proceeds to identify several.

What’s true of economic data is also true of crime statistics–despite the GOP’s Trumpian distaste for the DOJ and FBI, federal statistics on crime remain trustworthy.

The Internet has fostered the rise of an “alternate reality” that provides MAGA folks with “data” more to their liking. The Internet is a wonderful resource, but there is no denying that it has enabled what pundits delicately call “misinformation.” Promulgating that misinformation–i.e., baldfaced lying– is the primary strategy employed by today’s GOP.

And now, a rogue judge in Louisiana has just made it more difficult to address the problem. As NPR reported:

The government’s ability to fight disinformation online has suffered a legal setback that experts say will have a chilling effect on communications between federal agencies and social media companies.

A Tuesday ruling by a federal district judge in Louisiana could have far-reaching consequences for the government’s ability to work with Facebook and other social media giants to address false and misleading claims about COVID, vaccines, voting, and other issues that could undermine public health and erode confidence in election results.

District Court Judge Terry Doughty, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday that bars several federal departments and agencies from various interactions with social media companies.

The judge endorsed QAnon conspiracy theories and argued that conservative views are being censored. (Actually, critics insist that social media sites aren’t  doing enough to police disinformation and false claims.)  A complete explanation of the truly bizarre ruling–which has been appealed–is at the link.

Judge Doughty is one of the loony-tune, reliably rightwing judges put on the bench by Trump. He calls the federal government the “Ministry of Truth,” he’s blocked vaccine mandates for health care workers, and he overturned the ban on new leases for oil and gas drilling. 

As one pundit wrote, random district judges “decanted out of Federalist Society cloning tanks” are seizing control of giant chunks of federal policy, based on lawsuits filed by totally deranged activists.

No wonder people don’t know who or what to believe.


  1. Access to the internet to discern truth saves us the trip to the library to flip through the card catalogue in order to be directed to the right shelves. (Yes, I know, I surely dated myself, libraries have the Dewey Decimal System online).

    It does not take that long for healthy skepticism to find truth. But some political operatives are counting a sufficient number of adherents not to bother with discernment of truth.

  2. Rational thinking requires some time and effort. It is easier to just believe what appeals to you and dismiss what doesn’t. The professional liars churn out tons of crap to see what sticks and then keep reinforcing what works for them. Gullible people just keep absorbing it as if there is no price to be paid for allowing themselves to be deceived. But there is always a cost for ignoring reality and it is often paid in lives.
    George Bush muddled it up, but if we followed the maxim, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” we would be less gullible and more secure.

  3. I’m getting kind of tired of the media interviewing the plaintiffs in certain cases (like the one before District Court Judge Terry Doughty) and not having the first question be, “if your case is so solid, why did you travel to Louisiana (or whatever middle of nowhere place) to file the case? This alone proves that this is a system to be gamed.

  4. Having abandoned all of the cultural norms of jurisprudence, including stare decisis and standing, what we have left is a mishmash of legal garbage. How do we respond? Codify the norms. Set jurisdictional limits to prevent shopping. Require anyone named as harmed or named by the plaintiffs as causing said harm to be present or, at the least, have representation at trial. When overturning decided law, require exact Constitutional citations to show both why the old view is unconstitutional and how the new one is. Congress can and should do this.

  5. I remember back in the 1990’s when working in IT I had access to the Internet and people would ask me what it’s like. I used to tell them it’s like a giant garbage dump. Everything in the world is there and you just have to get past all of the garbage to find it. What I was alluding to was all of the web sites even then trying to capture clicks so they could peddle advertisements.

    Today I would describe it more like a giant EPA superfund dump site. You have to sift past the toxic waste to find the useful information.

  6. Alien stories help keep logistics engineers( truckers) up at night. Most of them voted for Trump because they saw the forecast of economically challenged Biden who cut their fuel supplies and torched their industry.
    Here is a list of Presidents case by case and year tear by year.
    Trump increased the deficit and inflation was kept in check while Biden is the worst inflation President ever!
    Don’t mind the generalizations. Ha

  7. Yes. Well, the billionaires whine because they aren’t getting their way to unfettered control of EVERYTHING fast enough. The judges and the Republican politicians just can’t seem to understand that the quarterly profit report is what they must answer to.

    I propose that the creatures who whine the loudest – like Musk – are really not the brightest bulbs in the lamp. As they keep advocating for cutting labor costs and benefits for the working classes, they fail at realizing the endgame of their greed and lust for power. When the working-class consumers don’t have enough money, they can’t buy the goods and services that the billionaire class tries to sell them… no matter where the crap is made or built.

    DUH! The dog is being wagged by a tail of really bad people. I’m glad I’m old.

  8. Sharon, that’s exactly right. Today, too many people confuse skepticism with simply disbelieving everything. That’s just a lazy way of saying you don’t really care whether it’s true, but that it matches what you want to believe. If you are truly skeptical, then you need to do the actual work to find out.

    Reading something at a random internet site or on social media is not “doing research”. Of course, it’s not impossible for those random sites to include correct things. But the point is, you can find out. Track down the source that led to the post or story. One may have to find their way through several links and blind alleys, but then it often ends with some site referring to a study or paper. (On the other hand, if you _don’t_ end at a study or paper, that tells you something right there.) When you do get to a source, then you can actually read it (at least the summary, if not the whole thing) to see if the writer is characterizing it fairly. (This may surprise you, but some sites will refer to actual research but take it completely out of context, and pretend it says something it doesn’t. I _know_, right! I can hardly believe it, either.)

    The point is that being skeptical is good, but only if you are willing to do the work it requires. If not, it’s worse than useless.

  9. Peggy – kudos. Good thoughts about governing solutions, instead of just kvetching about the world. We have (including this place) too little of the former, too much of the latter.

  10. Where do we figure in the inflation/recession, jobs/unemployment arguments and posted statistics the facts that when we shop in major supermarkets and big box stores that there are only 1 or 2 cashiers working and numerous self check-out stations and the price gouging on all foods, daily living products, clothing, electronics and all other products and services they provide? There are also the cable companies who no longer provide technicians to install and set up Internet and cable systems but USPS or UPS the boxes to your home with “easy to follow instructions” to install and set up your systems…with no lowering of prices on their service.

    These situations all began after the Pandemic was officially ended; can we find answers and solutions to these problematic situations on the Internet?

    “No wonder people don’t know who or what to believe.”

  11. Yes, Vernon,it was none other than otherwise scuzzy Henry Ford who realized that he had to pay his help well enough so they themselves could buy his product.

    Using “GOP” and “Truth” in the same sentence is toying with an oxymoron!

    Their awareness that on a level playing field they would win no elections, amazingly given voice by TFG, has them in panic mode and willing to sell their collective grandmothers in order to gain traction.

  12. John H. Yes, and once you start doing that work you find which sources are reliably trustworthy and which are not. Then you can narrow your search parameters. The more you do the work, the easier it gets. Over time, your world view becomes more accurate and spotting lies is relatively easy. You never abandon skepticism, but you can toss out the smelly garbage without digging through it.

  13. There are many whose lives have been reduced to politics only because politics can be offered up as the ultimate feel good simplicity. Believe, because then no thinking, no learning, no understanding, no empathy, no further research and analysis is required. You become the center of the universe for free.

  14. Peggy and Lester are on to something in their efforts today. When standing and stare decisis are sacrificed in cases whose facts are conjectural or even if they are not there can be no law-based result. I can only hope we muddle through this era of legislating by judges via use of appeal from trial courts in the hope that our thirteen Circuit Courts of Appeal will correct the political findings of Trump-appointed jurists at the trial level.

    Perhaps a Democratic trifecta in November ’24 and four more Supreme Court justices to match our thirteen Circuit Courts of Appeal would restore some balance to the Madison-designed separation of powers and keep judges on their own side of the constitutional fence.

  15. Vernon, once again you point out a basic economic truth that should be obvious to everyone including the GOP aka The New American Fascist Party.

  16. Side point, but one of my pet peeves –
    Sorry Mitch D. Old Henry paid his workers to prevent them from quitting. He had something like a 50% turnover rated with some people not coming back after their first day.
    The factory was an unpleasant place with long hours, a pressure to keep increasing speed, and mindless repetition.
    After he raised wages to keep people on the job, and saw that his workers could afford the Model T, Henry pretended that this was always his goal, that the workers could buy what they built. That was all PR.
    Sorry, but I hate that the Ford PR has survived. He was a racist and an antisemite, and I am from Detroit, so it is personal.

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