The Age of Disinformation

The news over the weekend brought more evidence of the danger posed by the combination of civic ignorance and propaganda.

The Huffington Post ran a story about a Tea Party affiliated “educational” organization that is offering to come in to high school classes on Constitution Day to teach students about (their version of) the Constitution. Given what we know about the state of civics education in this country, their version may well be the only one these students encounter.

Meanwhile, in his upcoming column, Morton Marcus takes aim at another–highly successful–bit of propaganda: the widely-repeated “fact” that large numbers of Americans pay no taxes at all. Marcus checked this out, and concurs–but his concurrence comes with a twist. As he says, it is absolutely true that  “Most income tax filers do not pay any income tax ….. at the time of filing. The liars leave off those final five words. Are the politicians and pundits who make these pronouncements aware of the falsehood of their “facts”? Surely those who repeat such “facts” have not thought about them and certainly they do not challenge them because they come from “reliable” sources.”

How many times have we heard earnest pundits explain that the wealthy bear too much of the burden of taxation now, because “most Americans don’t even owe taxes”?

In this case, I have been among the ignorant. Unlike Morton Marcus, I did not bother to check the accuracy of the assertion. I just assumed that lower-income folks probably didn’t owe federal taxes, although they obviously pay local sales and property taxes. What I now realize is that I am one of the presumed free rider/deadbeats, because I take care to have my employer withhold the very substantial federal taxes I pay from my monthly paycheck. Like so many Americans, I want to avoid that nasty April surprise, so that at the time of filing, I don’t owe much more than has been withheld.

File under: what you don’t know can help the ideologues mislead you.