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Political Journalists Are Trying To Gaslight America


In the past week, I’ve noticed a number of Democrats and liberal journalists refusing to concede inconvenient facts.

No matter how many times, for instance, you quote the plain language of the Virginia or New York abortion bills, they won’t acknowledge that both legalize the procedure until the moment of birth for virtually any reason. No matter how many times you show them language in those bills that protect doctors who terminate babies who are born alive from prosecution, they shake their heads as if you’re indulging in some right-wing conspiracy theory. No matter how many times you provide them with data that shows more than 15,000 abortions of viable babies being performed every year––most, if not all, having nothing to do with “saving the mother’s life”––they say “no.” (I’ve experienced it personally.)

During President Trump’s speech in El Paso yesterday, a Vox writer feigned indignation and claimed that “Trump falsely accuses Ralph Northam” of saying the governor supports “a newborn baby [coming] out into the world, and wrap the baby, make the baby comfortable, and then talk to the mother and talk to the father and then execute the baby. Execute the baby!”

Maggie Haberman, a White House correspondent for The New York Times, retweeted the claim to her million followers. To put this in perspective, Haberman’s following on Twitter is nearly as large as the Times’ daily weekday circulation.

No doubt Trump’s rhetoric is prone to exaggeration. In this instance, however, he was precise. For one thing, the sponsor of the Repeal Act, Virginia Democratic Del. Kathy Tran, acknowledged that her bill allowed abortion through a woman dilating during birth. “My bill would allow that, yes,” she said. For another, we have recording of the governor of Virginia describing the process in which babies who survive abortion attempts can be terminated if the mother and doctor decide the life is inconvenient.

“I can tell you exactly what would happen,” Northam said. “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

You might be turned off by Trump’s use of the word “execute,” but his contention is accurate. Haberman, who is ostensibly an unbiased professional journalist, has yet to explain why she would forward an obvious falsehood to her many readers.

The same game is being played with the Green New Deal proposal.

“I really don’t like their policy of taking away your car, of taking away your airplane rights, of let’s hop a train to California, of you’re not allowed to own cows anymore,” Trump said in the El Paso speech. White House Bureau Chief at The Washington Post Philip Rucker let his 340,000 followers on Twitter know that this was “false” and that “no one” had proposed any such thing. David Weigel, another well-read political reporter at The Post, who had earlier co-bylined a piece with the misleading headline “Ocasio-Cortez retracts erroneous information about Green New Deal,” retweeted Rucker’s falsehood to his 450,000 followers.

First of all, even if Ocasio-Cortez did walk back her pitch, it was proposed. This might be inconvenient, but it’s also indisputable. Simply because a politician pulls a proposal that’s been dragged across the entire internet and beaten senseless does not mean its existence has been expunged from the record.

The authors of the Green New Deal were very clear that their plan was a “massive transformation of our society” with “clear goals and a timeline.” Those goals included eliminating “combustion engines” and air travel and beef. It was the bill’s authors who wrote about “economic security” for those who are “unwilling to work.” They simply hadn’t come up with all the nuts and bolts yet. And, yes, a bunch of presidential candidates endorsed these ideas, while the FAQ was up.

Secondly, Ocasio-Cortez never really walked back her proposal, anyway. A journalist with access to the celebrated socialist congresswoman might want to take a break from running interference and ask her if the schemes found in the original Green New Deal factsheet are still worthy goals. Instead, they’re letting Ocasio-Cortez write their copy for them.

First, Ocasio-Cortez’s people lied and claimed the plan had been doctored. Then they claimed the Green New Deal FAQ was “an early draft” inadvertently posted. Supposedly, her chief of staff accidentally create a PDF of a draft and then accidentally posted it and then accidentally left it up for hours and hours while critics were dissecting it and forgot to mention it was only a draft. Why someone would want to eliminate cars, planes, and beef in any draft of a policy proposal is still a mystery. In any event, Ocasio-Cortez also accidentally sent the very same FAQ to NPR, and then accidentally her staff interviewed for a piece that was built around the accidentally posted FAQ.

No adult, much less a skeptical journalist, would believe such a ridiculous story. And yet!

The New York Times headline explaining the fiasco claims “Ocasio-Cortez Team Flubs a Green New Deal Summary, and Republicans Pounce.” You would think this headline is merely a troll job. I’m not so sure. Just read the preposterous conclusion of this Washington Post Fact Checker piece, which claims that since “Ocasio-Cortez has now disowned the FAQs and the statements that went beyond the resolution” and the “line about providing for people ‘unwilling to work’ has been walked back completely” they “won’t be awarding any Pinocchios in this kerfuffle.”

Trump says a lot of things, like claiming Mexico will pay for the border wall, and every reporter treats his political statements as if they are chiseled into a stone. They mock those who argue that Trump should be taken seriously, not literally. Yet Ocasio-Cortez can send out a FAQ and alleged journalists will claim that it never existed because it wasn’t part of a congressional bill.

In reality, Ocasio-Cortez never walked the ideas back. There was no “kerfuffle.” There was no “erroneous information.” There was no “flub.” Instead, it seems there was a move from rank bias to amateur gaslighting.