Sunday, January 09, 2011

Right-wing lies about Gabrielle Giffords

A first-hand account

Last summer's visit to the family homestead was replete with political nonsense, as I have already recounted elsewhere. However, I didn't relate one incident that seemed redundant and less significant at the time. Now I think otherwise.

As he is wont to do, my father bombarded me with supposed examples of left-wing stupidity, all of them borrowed from hate media outlets like Fox or talk radio or randomly forwarded extremist e-mails. One of them involved “a stupid congresswoman from Arizona.” (Yes, it was Gabrielle Giffords, but Dad did not remember her name at the time.) He chortled as he reported that this dumb Democrat wanted our troops to use knives and rocks to “stab and club” the enemy in the war on terror so as to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Bombs and bullets are so environmentally unsound, don't you know?

“That's ridiculous,” I said. “No one ever said any such thing.”

Dad's hair-trigger temper flared up.

“I saw her say that on video!” he declared.

“I don't believe you,” I said.

He quickly decamped to his computer to find the proof (just as he had earlier in the morning when he trotted out the “Obama is a Muslim” canard). He slipped away quietly to do something else when he couldn't find what he wanted. I was spared the time-wasting exercise of pointing out (yet again) that he was either misinterpreting something or getting suckered by a clumsy video cut-and-paste job.

The incident passed without further comment, but I did a tiny bit of Google research when I got home and shared the information with my father:
Date: August 15, 2010

There's an interesting contrast, Dad, between what you thought Congresswoman Giffords said to General Petraeus and what she actually said. Perhaps you got your information from Glenn Beck, who played just the clip where she's asking about energy sources and Beck mocks her for asking the general about "sustainable energy".

Beck clip

When you see a more complete clip, however, it shows that Giffords wanted to know if the army's facilities had sufficient alternative resources in case their supply lines were threatened. It's not a silly question when you include the part where Giffords mentions that "supply lines have been increasingly threatened either by enemy action or through international crises," the part that Beck left out. Here's the whole thing:

Gifford clip

You'll see that Petraeus takes the question entirely seriously, and not just because he's trying to be polite to the congresswoman. He has a good answer about reducing power consumption at the army bases and improving the efficiency with which they use their supplies.

This is why labels the original story mocking the congresswoman as false. So does

And here's what Giffords herself says about protecting our military's "umbilical cord":

Gifford campaign post

By the way, where's the part where Giffords asks the general to reduce carbon emissions by using knives and clubs instead of guns and bombs? It's nowhere to be seen. Looks like a made-up quote being passed around on the right-wing blogs as propaganda. Google demonstrates that lots of people have reprinted this claim as if it's true, but YouTube has no clip of her saying it and there's no congressional record showing that she said it. Under the circumstances, it looks like a lie.

I thought you would be interested in knowing that.

But Dad wasn't really very interested. This is what I got in return:
I did not get that from beck because I am seldom home when he is on. I heard a news clip on radio.

I know that liberals are elite and feel that they should control the country because we do not know how. however the Idea that the redistribution of wealth is not a Marxist ideology can not be denied. and that is what is going on. He spent much of his youth in Indonesia as a Muslim and I'm sure taught to hate America because that is what they do. and with a name like he has anyone facing reality should realize that he is not one of us.

He has a law degree, that does not impress me, a part time senator, a commune organizer. These are not qualifications to run the country, he never ran a business or managed anything.he is completely inept But he knows that he wants to change this country for a capitalist to a Marxist and for that he is doing a good job. Behind closed doors and back room deals. What happened to transparency and all the openness that we were promised and all I hear are lies and more lies, I guess the end justifies the means, I'm familiar with that too. Some Liberals are starting to see the light I hope you do too.

Best wishes always.
What can you do about that kind of bone-deep ignorance, prejudice, and misinformation? Perhaps nothing, but I gave it one more try:
I'm merely pointing out to you that a lot of your information is based on falsehoods. That should give you pause.

The notion that Obama hates American is really ridiculous. He didn't work so hard to become the nation's leader because he wants to be in charge of something he despises. He's spent all of his time in office so far trying to clean up the mess left by his predecessor, and it hasn't been an easy task. He spend part of his youth in a predominantly Muslim country. That's hardly the same thing as spending it "as a Muslim." One of the schools he went to in Indonesia was a Catholic school. That doesn't make him a secret Catholic either. Or does it? Maybe Protestants should be frightened.

The scare tactics about Marxism are also pretty absurd. The bar sure has been lowered for being considered a socialist these days. The one industry temporarily taken over by the federal government during the big recession was the automobile industry. Though not many people are talking about it, that rescue worked just fine, the auto industry paid back its loans, and the companies are being run by their own boards of directors again instead of by some federal "czar" (as the news media likes to call them). That's pretty lousy Marxism, to let an big industry get away like that.

Predictably, my rebuttals had no impact at all. Soon thereafter he sent me the e-mail that called me a liar and created the breach that remains to this day. For Mom's sake, we operate under a flag of truce, but I am firmly resolved not to waste any more time trying to talk sense to an irrational right-wing extremist.

In closing, here's an illustration from a fringe-element website in Arizona. Its politics are so far out that a moderate like Giffords is deemed worthy of being depicted as an Obamanoid-communist dunce. Nice work, jerks.


William said...

"however the Idea that the redistribution of wealth is not a Marxist ideology can not be denied."

Nice double negative there.

Speaking as someone who recently learned that his own father has become a birther, you have my sympathies.

Twinx said...

"with a name like he has anyone facing reality should realize that he is not one of us."

Yeah, and that 'Gabrielle' sounds awfuly FRENCH to me.

Good luck with your dad. Try and keep the lines of communication open, hard though it is.

I wish mine was still around. He would most certainly be a birther, but I like to think I could josh him out of most of his lunatic notions, just as he joshed me out of a few of mine. :-)

Kathie said...

Has your dad yet forwarded that screed to you about how Snopes is a socialist propaganda machine funded by Soros, therefore one shouldn't believe any contradictions from Snopes to patriotic red-blooded Christian Americans? Yeah, I'm paraphrasing here, but I've definitely captured the spirit of the thing, alas.

Zeno said...

Twinx: I'm in no hurry for my father to go away, but I really, really despise his "thinking" -- and I've learned there is absolutely no shifting him. It's ironic that he takes a cheap shot at the president's name when Dad's own birth name is hardly the most "American" I've ever seen. (At least "Barack" ends in a consonant!)

Kathie: Yes, I've heard about the sniping at Snopes. One of my friends forwarded some remarks to me about an acquaintance of his who considers Snopes a narrow-minded source of spoilsport smugness. See The boot heel of Snopes.

Kathie said...

William, Twinx and Zeno: For the record, he told me that in June 1990 he voted for John Van De Kamp (sp?) in the Democratic primary (evidently because DiFi was too conservative for his tastes). Guess I was even luckier than I realized. He wasn't perfect, but I sure do miss him.

Kathie said...

Ack, I edited and re-edited the above post till I didn't realize that it didn't make much sense any more. So, even though it's past my bedtime here in the EST, let's try one more time (and with Van de Kamp's name spelled correctly this time):

William, Twinx and Zeno: For the record, my father told me that in June 1990 he voted for John Van de Kamp in the Democratic gubernatorial primary (evidently because DiFi was too conservative for his tastes). Guess I was even luckier than I realized. My dad wasn't perfect, but I sure do miss him.

Zeno said...

John Van de Kamp was California's attorney general in 1990 and considered the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Feinstein's campaign manager even "fired" her, leaving the campaign in a huff. Almost everyone was surprised when the tally went in Feinstein's favor in June by more than 11 percentage points. Still not sure why that happened. I suspect Van de Kamp (and his supporters) got too complacent.

Kathie said...

Well, MY dad voted for Van de Kamp, ahead of time by absentee ballot! (And I suspect he held his nose and voted for DiFi in November, albeit in vain).

Garry said...

This whole story gives me the creeps! My deepest condolences to the victims and their families. Wishing Giffords and all the wounded a speedy recovery.

thorswitch said...

I'm sorry to hear that your dad is being such a butthead. Mine sometimes comes close to that - and when we discuss politics, it has to be done carefully, but thankfully he DOES listen and at least says he knows I would not lie to him just to win a point. I can't imagine what it would be like to have that kind of a break with him, though. I hope that the two of you are able to find a way to bridge the gap sometime soon.

It's really sad how willing right-wingers are to just make stuff up and even fabricate "evidence." It shows that they know they're not anywhere near the truth, and they don't care. They just want more power again. It's pathetic.

I'm surprised by how few people know that the TARP program has actually made a profit for the government, and that GM has been returned to non-governmental control. Of course, those facts are a bit inconvenient, but you'd still think that more people would at least have *heard* about it.


Great blog - I plan to check back!

the bearded crank said...

Well written. We all have the crazy right winger in our family who makes up their own facts. You handled the situation tactfully and with grace.

james said...

in our entire life together i was never able to gain my father's respect on any level. i'm sorry for the disconnect between you and your father, but i'm afraid there is no cure for it. the problem is not one of logic; i suspect his fear and feelings of helplessness are a large part, but facts won't help, for he is comforted only by lies and simplistic answers. i'm grateful for your narrative, however, as it illustrates so vividly how far we've all grown apart nowadays. even my son and i, who agree in so many ways, and hold hands on the same side politically, cannot frame a response that suits us. god help our beleaguered country. i fear none of us are innocent.

GDunn said...

I have two true stories. The first is about my dad.

My dad passed away in 2007. Prior to that, he loved Fox and Rush Limbaugh. He went to the "Rush rooms" in the 1990's,etc. Needless to say, we didn't agree too often. However, after listening to Rush for awhile, my dad would change the way he spoke, instead of saying "I think", he would say "Rush says." As if, Rush was some kind of supernatural authority.

Frankly, I got tired of all the "Rush says" BS, so I asked my dad to prove that Rush "was right." My dad responded that I needed to disprove Rush. At our next visit, I gave my dad an inch thick folder on the topic on how Rush was wrong. My dad said nothing.

The following week when we met, my dad once again started out with "Rush says", I cut my dad off. Dad, I said, Rush is full of shit so unless you have proof of what he says is true, I don't want to hear it. My dad responded that I had to (once again) disprove Rush's lies. I told my dad, NO, I have already proven he is a liar, now it is your turn to prove he tells the truth.

My dad never talked to me about Rush again.

The second is my in-laws. My in-laws are conservative, but usually rational and very good natured. Both are retired, my father-in-law from a good government union job that gives him good benefits and pension. Last year, they went to Florida for 4 months and started to watch Fox "news", especially Glenn Beck and listened to Michael Savage.

They came back from Florida and avoided their family. Whenever there was a family event they were not good natured anymore, but very hostile. My father-in-law has the Obama "joker" bumper sticker on his car (he never had one on his vehicle before). Obama is a socialist/communist/fascist/kenyan who is trying to overthrow the country according to them. They have no factual basis for this claim, but they believe it (and they are heavily armed people, too).

Obama is evil, Bill Clinton--evil, unions are evil (even though my father in law had a great career and can enjoy a very nice retirement because of them), government is evil (even though both collect Social Security and Medicare, let alone the highway system they use and all the safety regulations that protect them among numerous others).

I don't care if you disagree as long as you can admit that you are wrong (or that I am wrong). My dad would not and my in-laws cannot admit that even though the facts prove they and who they listen to are, in fact, wrong.

I don't know how you break the spell of delusion in them.

katie said...

Wow, you have the same kind of dad I do! It has caused some MAJOR rifts in family peace, but it's hard because he's suckered and I can't stand cognitive dissonance. I'm glad you work under the truce flag, I suppose we do too and it's better than war. Good luck to you and your family and your sanity in the future.

Anonymous said...

Reading these comments, I feel very lucky. My father, gone since 1986, would be in a lather at all that is going on now. He demonstrated against Reagan's MX missile system and considered Dick Cheney (our congressman at the time) to be another Goebbels. This from a WW2 veteran.

John K said...

Next time you have a discussion make sure he agrees to follow these rules

If not then you automatically win the argument.

I have friends that are like your dad. They all use the same tactics. When proven wrong they do not admit it but immediately change topics and make you have to rebut another item. They will also attack your sources but never the actual content. They will put words in my mouth and then I have to spend time defending myself. It's a worthless endeavor.

Gaius Sempronius Gracchus said...

My widowed mother is dependent on Social Security for about 70% of her retirement income and is well aware how far her Medicare is full of gaping holes.

She grew up a depression Democrat but has been a devout conservative since Ronald Reagan.

And I do mean devout.

She is a fan of John Hagee.

Most of the members of my immediate family are as bad though all are retirees, working class, or working poor and all are dependent in varying degrees on the very social democracy the people they vote for are trying to destroy.


To some extent, the success of the conservative propaganda machine is our own fault for being too cowardly to forthrightly lambaste, day in and day out, the evils of capitalism against which we work.

Had we done our work right people would understand it is capitalism and inequality that have to be justified carefully and constantly challenged with the burden of proof.

Not equality and not public and common control or even ownership of the means of production.

Batocchio said...

Sympathies. This is a good description of a frustrating situation.

Sharon said...

I am old (68) but not an idiot. My positively ancient aunt and uncle
(75 & 85) are also not idiots. They were opposed to the Iraq war from the beginning, disliked the Bushes intensely, and voted for Obama.

My uncle does sometimes watch Fox but only so he can yell back at the TV about what morons they are.

Do age doesn't make everyone into a fool. (Just had to get in a good word for geezers.)

Zeno said...

As someone on the cusp of geezerhood myself, I'm certainly anxious to believe that foolishness like my father's is not an inevitable consequence of advancing years. Thanks, Sharon.

Clifton said...

Reading that there is now a rift between you and your father is sad and I definitely do not take any amusement in that fact, however, I did very much enjoy reading and thinking about your post.

The political dispute that you face with your father is different from that which I am having with my mother (and my sister); yet, it seems to be similar on the political viewpoints and on an emotional level. I suspect it’s true for a lot of families.

My mother easily believes every right-wing and undeniably crazed thing that Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, or Mike Huckabee say.

In the past, whenever my mother and I would get together for long enough, inevitably, either I, or my mother, would make some statement reflecting our view on the current state of our economic or military affairs and it would start off a discussion that would become a debate, and then turn into an argument, and then lead to neither of us talking to each other for months. But nowadays, things are different and that no longer happens. Somehow we are able to shut down the argument without really stopping the debate. I suppose we are able to do that because, during an argument, we can tell that we are becoming overwhelmed by the anger and we both want the angry part to stop. Eventually we will find a way to approach the subject again because, you know, nothing on that particular political issue was resolved between us. And in that respect, I find a lot of her in myself. The truth has to be gotten to; in two opposing views, somebody is right and somebody is wrong. So we wind up debating facts, where I get mine and how come they don’t line up with the ones that she heard quoted on Fox by Mike Huckabee.

My mother is very religious and reads the Bible daily. She also regularly reads other religious books that are supposed to help you interpret the meaning of the Holy Scriptures. So, with my Mom, I’m never going to be able to convince her that any of the views being disseminated by Glenn Beck and by Mike Huckabee are wrong because both Beck and Huckabee intermingle God or Jesus or the Bible into enough of their on air topics, that my Mom thinks that they are both guided by God. I understand that about my Mom and I accept it.

Maybe, given enough time, you could figure out what it is, what some belief or what some happenstance has led your father to believe and think the way that he does. I hope that you both reach a point that you can talk easily with each other again.

Trou said...

I just wrote a longish comment that got accidentally deleted.
I'll try a short version.
I am going through the exact thing you are at this very moment.
It's taken years of effort just to make our father/son relationship last this long but I'm giving up.
I've concluded that some things are irreparable.
Accommodation doesn't fix everything.
Some fathers are just deficient and will never be able to participate as an equal partner in a healthy relationship.
You my need to mourn the loss of the good in what was and also mourn what you wish had been but didn't materialize. Some people had great Dads, some people are orphans. You and I have had Dads that are there but incapable of having a relationship with.
Such is the luck of the draw and it is not our fault no more so than it is an orphans fault for having lost their parents.
Good luck, do what's best for you and yours, but don't beat yourself up if you decide not to try to revive a dead relationship.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting how fickle the truth is...I'm always intrigued by how hard people strive to 'justify' their own brand of truthiness. I'm initially surprised that you would bring this conversation that, at least to me would be a highly personal family issue and best kept out of the public's just seems like your family might be sensitive to such a public sharing of family oriented pain...but to each his own. Just to share you might try and understand your father from an 'emotional' truth perspective. While the specifics and details of the political wrangling and positioning might elude him, his emotions which are based on his life experience tell him to be scared...and from this perspective he might not only be right for himself but also in the larger context...sadly public speaking ability and eloquentness have absolutely no bearing on their ability to 'get the job done. Anyway...good luck to you and yours. While I'd like to refine this writing...i'm going to lean on you to try and read between the lines and want the ideas that I may only poorly's all about attitude my friend.

Zeno said...

How "fickle" is the truth, Anon., if what my father believes is a demonstrable pack of lies? And yet he's impervious to reason and blind to evidence?

This is something less than a "public sharing" of private family matters. Perhaps you did not notice that this blog is written under a pseudonym.

Thanks for at least appearing to try to help.

Anonymous said...

OMG our parents should hook up. OK, maybe not. I have an 87 yr old mom in Phx and I can totally relate. She recieves all these mailings (propaganda) from the RNC and various other related kooks and candidates. It's truly frightening. To top it all off, she just sits there and watches Fox news all the time. The cherry on top would be all the emails she recieves -- many from my brother -- that can be easily fact checked on the web. We went round and round regarding something once. I sent her a Snopes link to which she replied that they were essentially in bed with Obama. When I refuted that claim, her excuse was that they were journalists. And so it went on and on and on. Sigh....

Matt T. said...

Your story is a sad one and makes me respect my dad much more. He's conservative, old-school pre-Reagan, still thinks Nixon was railroaded. I'm left-wing, borderline anarchist, and convinced Bush would climb a tree to tell a lie when he could stand on the ground and tell the truth. Despite that, we honestly don't get into heavy disagreements. My father respects authority and honor. He's an ex-Marine, and had he not been seriously injured in Viet Nam, he'd still be one. He still thinks like one. He watches FOX News regularly but only for the "news" part; he loathes Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, et. al., calling them "liars, propagandists and fear merchants". He voted for Bush in 2000, but refused to vote for anyone in 2004. He can't bring himself to vote for a Democrat on the national level - state and local are different matters - but he refused to vote for Bush again because, and I quote, "if you're going to send American soldiers to die somewhere, don't lie about why you're sending them there". He didn't vote in 2008 because McCain's a "sell out" and Palin's a "dangerous clown". He actually said that Obama's doing an "okay job, but could do a whole lot better", which is something he and I agree on.

My dad's a conservative politically because he's conservative in all things, that's just his nature. He loathes fear-mongering and rabble-rousing. He quit a lifelong membership in the NRA because of them doing just that. He thinks some form of national health care would be a good idea, though he doubts we'll ever pull it off. He could give one hot damn about gay marriage, abortion, religion in politics, or any of the hot-button social issues right-wingers stay up nights working themselves into a tizzy over.

It's a little unsettling to think how rare guys like my dad are in the modern conservative movement.

Pierce R. Butler said...

I'm reminded of a friend's recent story. Her parents were royally screwed by a major corporation collapsing and taking her father's pension with it, so their retirement was marked by stress, insufficient medical care, and resentment stoked by a steady diet of Fox Noise, producing friction with a reality-based daughter. After the father died, the mother stopped watching Fox (& TV in general); now my friend again finds her a nice person, and they can spend pleasurable time together.

Kristen said...

I have a right-wing father too. Wow, we really need to form a support group!

João Paulo said...

Maybe the big problem here is having parents with Internet access. I bought my mother a computer and she didn't care much for it until she finally learned how to use Skype to see me and my older brother (and his daughter) who live abroad as well. I never explained her how to use the e-mail or search for fundie stuff.
Ignorance really is bliss sometimes.

The Ridger, FCD said...

My father is almost as liberal as I am. My mother was. I feel lucky every time I read about your family, Zeno.

Anonymous said...

When I tried to be reasonable with my mother (75 yrs old, similar to many of the parents described above), she had a meltdown and started yelling at me. After a short cease-fire it happened again, and may have opened a permanent breach. I feel like I'm living in Ionesco's play "Rhinoceros."

BeltFedWeapon said...

I realize this comment is coming almost a year late. but, i do feel compelled to leave one anyway. I heard about Gabrielle Gifford's alleged "knives and clubs" comment. If this was in fact the speech she was to have made those remarks, i heard nothing of the sort. however, asking about solar panels on bases (especially temporary forward operating bases that are subject to direct/indirect fire) is absolutely absurd. Congresswoman Giffords was certainly privy to any information, regarding attacks on supply lines, prior to this conversation. She knew that they (attacks) were minimal and ineffective. But, it was still an opportunity for her to tell the General to "go green!".
Barrack Obama does in fact hate what this country stands for. He spent his time, however short it may have been, climbing the political ladder to help the "about face" in this country's economic clime. That's not an opinion. That's a statement of fact.
To anyone who believes that all right-wing argument is fabricated and all left-wing is just, please pull your heads from your ass. The big liberal argument against John McCain was (drumroll....) "He's old and he'll die!". Oh really?!?!? I wonder if the good senator's doctors should be made aware of this? Now,I'm not so nieve as to think that all conservatives in media are made of the same moral fiber as the next. So....

Zeno said...

BeltFedWeapon: Obama does in fact hate what this country stands for

That's not a fact. This is a fact: You are an idiot.

Duncan said...

Wow. I never really thought about what it would mean if one of your own parents became a victim of the propaganda machine. I'm from the UK and I've just been visiting with my mother who can be a bit naive about politics so I can only imagine what life would be like if we had Fox News blazing away.

Keep your chin up.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine how it would be to have any one in my family, let alone my parents spout such nonsense. Even though my grandfather is pretty conservative compared to me and my parents he still has commonsense. He came close to voting for McCain because the are both war veterans and could relate to him, however he realized intently that Palin is nuts. That is as close as it gets in my family. said...

I am quite jealous if your fun weekend, although not so much of your burned temple. I've never gotten into shooting handguns being more of a rifle girl myself...but that does look like a blast
bullet stickers

Cowboy T said...

Sadly, this right-wing-extremist response is what happens when you have a Black man, instead of somebody White, in the Oval Office. I don't care for a lot of the Obama Administration's policies, but to hear him called "the Kenyan Muslim" is just the new expression for the N-word. Sadly, it seems that your Dad has similar views. He might well hate my own Dad's very existence (yep, a black man, and not Christian, and with a non-English name).

Shame that some people just keep their Limbaugh/Hannity/Beck/Imus/LeVin/O'Reilly blinders on. That's not the American way, or at least it shouldn't be.

-Cowboy T
-San Francisco Liberal With A Gun