Liberals, at least, are aware that the problem lay as much in the people doing the reporting as the people doing the speaking. If you get a bunch of ignorant, dishonest people making speeches or comments or writing op-ed pieces and then get another bunch of ignorant, dishonest people reviewing or reporting what they said, you’re basically propagating propaganda, that is to say, biased or misleading information.
If, say, somebody says President Obama (I still like the sound of that) is an anti-colonialist Kenyan, conservative news sources will report that Obama is an anti-colonialist Kenyan rather than examining the charge for truth content (let alone, inquiring what an anti-colonialist Kenyan might be and what relevance this has to 21st century American politics).
So when I read on fundie-friendly OneNewsNow that Brian Camenker, president of MassResistance thinks that Elizabeth Warren is a communist because “she’s a supporter of everything conservatives hate” I want on the one hand to shrug, but on the other, to inquire as to why this might be so. Chad Groening, who reports this factoid for OneNewsNow certainly shows an appalling lack of curiosity on the subject. He is content to simply report it, without question, without examination:
“People are finding themselves from the conservative standpoint much in the same way that they feel about Mitt Romney nationally, in that we really don’t like him, but look at who he’s running against,” the activist suggests. “Elizabeth Warren is basically a Communist — she’s a supporter of everything conservatives hate.”
Are we to understand from this that Carmenker (who, like Bryan Fischer is fascinated by gay Nazis) thinks that a communist is a person who takes positions opposite those of conservatives? Are we further to understand that Chad Groening accepts this as the definition of a communist? He certainly takes no issue with it; he makes no attempt to examine the truth content of Carmenker’s accusation.
Now most of us know that communist (like Nazi and socialist) is a term conservatives like to throw around without really comprehending what it means. And not just the average ignorant Tea Partier but congressmen like Allen West, who is convinced that there are between 78 and 81 Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party.
On the surface, it would seem both West and Carmenker are on agreement: a communist is one who is diametrically opposed to conservative ideology. This is all very Cold War and McCarthyesque and it’s no wonder it’s an attractive thesis to conservatives. It’s a simple appeal – emotional and “patriotic” and it requires little thought – everyone knows that those commies were the enemies of American democracy and since conservatives are “real Americans” communism must be its opposite, right? (remember too that witch-hunts have historically been conservatism’s response to people getting uppity and thinking for themselves).
Actual communism, of course, to be separated from its later Soviet counterfeit, is both a social and a political system is very community-centered -property is owned by the community (including especially the means of production) and each person contributes to the common good. There will be no classes (okay, you can see why conservatives would hate this).
You can readily understand communism in its mid-19th century context – the era of the Gilded Age and industrial robber barons and the oppression of workers without appeal to unions or state protections – if the people own the means of production there will be no industrialist to oppress them. Communism can be understood in its historical context to the Industrial Revolution and its widespread effects on society and culture. Since communism throws away the status quo and conservatism is based on maintenance of the status quo, it is easy to see why conservatives would label communists as an ideological bogeyman.
But does Elizabeth Warren argue from a communist position? Is she opposed to the ownership of property and for the communal ownership of the means of production? No, of course not. Elizabeth Warren is no more a communist by any definition of communism than are those members of congress so accused by Allen West, who is arguably not the brightest bulb on the tree (this needs to be said in the interest of accurate reporting). You can look at where Warren stands on the issues here and elsewhere with a quick Google and see for yourself.
But it makes good press. As I said, it is an emotional appeal. These people are our enemies, it says. It doesn’t have to be explained; it doesn’t have to have any basis in fact. It’s like calling everyone who isn’t a Christian a “pagan” or a Christian who doesn’t have the “right” kind of belief a “heretic”. Groening is no more interested in the whys and wherefores – that is to say the facts – than is Carmenker, and a reporter should care about the facts.
Unquestioning reporting: Chad Groening of fundie-friendly news service OneNewsNow says that Brian Carmenker of Massachusetts-based anti-gay group MassResistance says that Elizabeth Warren is a communist because she disagrees with conservative positions. OneNewsNow says of itself,
At OneNewsNow.com, you will get your news from reporters you can trust to give the latest news without the liberal bias that characterizes so much of the “mainstream” media.
Liberal biases like appeal to a fact-based universe, apparently. They claim that “For a refreshing and informative change in where you get your news, log on to OneNewsNow.com.” If by informative they mean dishonest and misleading, they are apparently spot on and certainly in good company (FOX News and now CNN leading the way).
While we’re on the subject of fact-filled reporting, I should also mention that SPLC declared MassResistance a hate group back in 2008 and noted Carmenker’s predilection for making fact-free claims in the interest of hate.
Apparently, conservative viewers and readers want to be liberated from the world of facts and from the millstone that is a fact-based universe where fantasy is not allowed to have its way with reality. If one hate-filled group says something the hate-filled news service has to report it and certainly won’t violate the precepts of the agreed upon fantasy universe to question it. Why introduce facts when the fantasy is so congenial?
Now of course, the old joke about communism for those not old enough to remember is the Cold War Soviet credo that in communism “everyone is equal – except for those who are more equal than others.”
I don’t know about you, but (stream of consciousness here) that sounds to me to have a lot more in common with conservatism than liberalism. But I’m not going to make that charge here because I’ve already used up my time and my space and can’t give the subject the attention it requires: it will have to be a topic for another day. Oh, and when you think about Brian Carmenker’s resistance to a fact-filled universe, think about the robo-calls he made in support of Rick Santorum, another guy with a deep-seated hatred of actual facts.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.