Sunday, November 4, 2012

Give 'Em What They Want

Here's one of the more interesting takes on Mitt Romney's incessant and blatant lying that I've seen. It's not a bug; it's a feature. It's a way of showing his right-wing bona fides. The article, if longer than it needs to be (it's the twenty first century, after all: we like sound bites), makes a good case that lying is part of the marketing strategy of "modern" conservatism, and it give lots of examples. In particular, the author describes the hand-in-hand relationship of selling snake-oil (pretty literally) to the gullible, with marketing ripoffs and fakery, by combining them with infusion of conservative shibboleths and fears. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes: if it doesn't entirely explain why it's so, it does point out the relationship we see in today's Republicans between their ideology (whatever it is) and crazy conspiracies and inexplicable credulity.

The article begins with a short (in comparison to the whole) compendium of Mitt's lies:

...And then there’s the most delicious kind of lie of them all, the kind that hoists the teller on his own petard as soon as a faintly curious auditor consults the record for occasions on which he’s said the opposite. Here the dossier of Mittdacity overfloweth. In 2012, for example, he said he took no more federal money for the Salt Lake City Olympic Games than previous games had taken; a decade earlier, however, he called the $410 million in federal money he bagged “a huge increase over anything ever done before.” 
There are more examples, so many more, but as I started to log and taxonomize them, their sheer volume threatened to crash my computer. (OK, I’m lying; I just stopped cataloging them, out of sheer fatigue.) You can check in at MSNBC’s Maddowblog for Steve Benen’s series “Chronicling Mitt’s Mendacity” for the current tally... 
All righty, then: both the rank-and-file voters and the governing elites of a major American political party chose as their standardbearer a pathological liar. What does that reveal about them?
He then embarks on a history of the connection between right-wing lies and the selling of phony products. Mass marketing techniques pioneered by such people as Richard Viguerie and Paul Weyrich (remember them?); raising huge sums for certain "charities" and keeping most of the money himself. He goes on:

This method highlights the fundamental workings of all grassroots conservative political appeals, be they spurious claims of Barack Obama’s Islamic devotion, the supposed explosion of taxpayer-supported welfare fraud, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. 
And, in an intersection that is utterly crucial, this same theology of fear is how a certain sort of commercial appeal—a snake-oil-selling one—works as well. This is where the retail political lying practiced by Romney links up with the universe in which 23-cent miracle cures exist (absent the hero’s intervention) just out of reach, thanks to the conspiracy of some powerful cabal—a cabal that, wouldn’t you know it in these late-model hustles, perfectly resembles the ur-villain of the conservative mind: liberals.
There's a lot of meat in the article, and on some level it's pretty amusing. But it resonates, and ends with the rousing finale:
And that, at last, may be the explanation for Mitt Romney’s apparently bottomless penchant for lying in public. If the 2012 GOP nominee lied louder than most ... it’s just because he felt like he had more to prove to his core following. Lying is an initiation into the conservative elite. ... Sneering at, or ignoring, your earnest high-minded mandarin gatekeepers—“we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” as one Romney aide put it—is another part of closing the deal. For years now, the story in the mainstream political press has been Romney’s difficulty in convincing conservatives, finally, that he is truly one of them. For these elites, his lying ... is how he has pulled it off once and for all. And at the grassroots, his fluidity with their preferred fables helps them forget why they never trusted the guy in the first place.
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