Creating an incentive to lie

CREATING AN INCENTIVE TO LIE…. We talked the other day about one of the right’s new favorite talking points about health care reform: the notion that the government will hire thousands of IRS agents to check up on Americans who may not want to buy coverage. It is, of course, a “wildly inaccurate claim,” the latest in a series of demonstrable lies.

But it’s proven to be popular with the fact-challenged crowd. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has repeated it, as has Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) insists it’s true, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) suggested the threat of all of these new IRS agents “is a little scary.”

And that’s the key word: scary. The RNC conceded recently that the party will rely on little more than “fear” to win, even if that means deliberately deceiving as many voters as possible. All the network needs is a way to get the lie from Republican imaginations to voters who don’t know better.

Enter Fox News, which just loves the bogus IRS claim. Reader B.G. sent me this email the other day, which I’m republishing with permission:

It often amazes me how these things get absorbed into polite society. At our Seder dinner on Tuesday night I had to convince my father that the IRS was not hiring tens of thousands of agents to enforce the law. He doesn’t read blogs. He reads the Newark Star-Ledger, hardly a right-wing rag. The only place he could have gotten this “information” was via Fox News. He views television news, even Fox News, through a Walter Cronkite-like prism — if the “news” is reporting it, it must have a basis in truth. Otherwise, how can they get away with broadcasting false information? This is the power of Fox News.

This may seem like an obvious point, but I think it’s often overlooked. For many Americans, especially those over a certain age, there are certain assumptions about broadcast media. People who are accustomed to believing what they hear from television news aren’t nearly skeptical enough about Fox News propaganda, because it’s hard for them to appreciate the notion that an entire “news” network, right there on their cable dial, has no qualms about deliberately misleading its audience to further a partisan agenda.

Folks like B.G.’s father hear the nice man on the television making a ridiculous claim, and the claim seems easy enough to believe. There’s little reason for skepticism. After all, why would the nice man on the television lie? Aren’t there rules against something like that?

Fox News no doubt realizes this dynamic exists, and exploits it for all it’s worth.