A Handy Review of Dishonest Scandal-Obscuring Talking Points

Ah, yes, such pretty "talking points"!

Ah, yes, such pretty “talking points”!

Let me begin by noting that I would not prefer to keep writing posts about Benghazi, the I.R.S., Attorney General Holder, and his inept and politicized Justice Department. All of the related scandals involve outrageous misconduct by the Democratic administration, together with the resulting attempt by Republicans to both uncover what occurred in the face of concerted Administration stonewalling and obfuscation, and to score political points while embarrassing President Obama and Democrats in the process. Since in this matter the offenders are either Democrats or those under a Democratic administration, it is impossible to comment on the matter fairly with out appearing partisan to some otherwise reasonable readers.

I should not have to write repeatedly about these collective failures, fiascoes and abuses of power, and would not if the leaders responsible would just tell the truth, stop spinning and using smoke screens, apply appropriate sanctions and consequences to the individuals involved. This Administration refuses to do that, and too many major media outlets refuse to do their jobs and pressure them to do that. Instead, a massive disinformation campaign has been mounted, presumably coordinated by the White House and the highest levels of the Democratic party, to minimize the situations involved, confuse the public about what occurred, misrepresent the seriousness of the implications of the events, and allow them all to fade away, ideally while performing political jiujitsu on Republicans and promoting a public backlash that might even benefit Democrats, as the impeachment of President Clinton did in 1998.

This must not be allowed to happen. I am under no delusions that I have any influence over whether it does happen or not: this blog has a good sized audience for an ethics blog, but that is like a restaurant saying that the pickled lizard-brains seem to be popular tonight.  I do believe that publishing my best objective ethical analysis during this disturbing  period might, might, somehow bolster the efforts of those who do have such influence.

Yesterday at the Congressional hearings on the I.R.S. targeting of conservative groups, a couple of misleading arguments by administration defenders officially reached dishonest talking point status, joining many others we have heard for the past two months (or more) and continue to hear. “Talking points,” used in this context, are arguments, statements and phrases devised by political strategists,  usually field-tested in focus groups and polls, and then emailed out to officials, party members, operatives, talking heads, friendly journalists and columnists and others to repeat in public statements in the media, over and over again, to influence public opinion. They are designed to shift blame, confuse the issues, inject false facts, and to appeal to rationalizations and bad logic.

It’s a cynical exercise, and infuriatingly obvious to the relative  few Americans who watch a lot of TV, listen to a lot of interviews and check multiple sources, have open minds and IQ’s above freezing.  It’s ridiculous, in fact: suddenly Democrat after Democrat after progressive talk show host (or, at other times, Republicans and conservative talking heads—this is not restricted to Democrats)  “independently” make the same dubious points using almost the same words.  But I’m not the target audience; they know anyone paying close attention is on to the technique. It’s aimed at those less involved citizens who pick up on the new excuses and circulate them to their friends and colleagues, who may not be paying attention to the media at all. It’s aimed at partisans controlled by confirmation bias: you will instantly see the talking points repeated in blog comment threads. These kinds of talking points are designed to make coherent debate and analysis impossible.

Before addressing yesterday’s  additions to the current talking point garbage pail, let’s review the haul so far. Now take your Pepto Bismol…

Benghazi Continue reading