Sunday, March 20, 2011

How Political Lies Spread On The Left

A study of how outrage gets ginned up when it's not entirely appropriate: How Political Lies Spread On The Left
Someone on Twitter asked me last night if I’d heard about what was happening in Minnesota with the poor. I didn’t, so they sent me a link to Crooks & Liars that talked about a law proposed there that would make it illegal for poor people to carry more than $20 cash!
That sounds like a totally insane law, all right.
And here’s what the first couple of paragraphs of the Crooks and Liars piece says…
First Susie Madrak writes…
They’re not just crazy, they’re evil — and un-Christian, should they have the audacity to claim otherwise. If only we could force them to live like this, they wouldn’t last a week:
And then quotes an article that says…
St. Paul, MN – Minnesota Republicans are pushing legislation that would make it a crime for people on public assistance to have more $20 in cash in their pockets any given month. This represents a change from their initial proposal, which banned them from having any money at all.
Wow!!! It would be a crime for people on public assistance to have more than $20 in cash in their pockets any given month! A crime!
Now here, any thinking person would start to wonder: what does "more than $20 in cash in any given month mean? All of a sudden, instead of talking about a quantity, we're talking about a rate. Someone has changed the units of measure in mid stream. That should be a clue that maybe all is not as being hyperventilated over...
After a few minutes, I did some research. The name of the law in question is House File 171, so I did a Google search on that.
Did anyone question the story at all or even read the law? Four pages, at the bottom – I found someone. A right winger who quotes the Bible and has a Hillary Clinton ‘Joker’ picture on his blog. The sort of fellow that liberals would call a right wing nutjob, if they were being kind.
Guess what? That’s the guy who had the story right. Hundreds of liberals get crazy about this story, with smugly violent comments about how stupid and evil the Republicans are…and a lone right winger absolutely nails the story. I present to you, The Catawissa Gazetteer., Tom Usher.
He quotes the law itself, including this relevant portion…
During the initial 30 calendar days of eligibility, a recipient may have cash benefits issued on an EBT card without the recipient’s name printed on the card. This card may be the same card on which food support is issued and does not need to meet the requirements of this section.(c) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), EBT cardholders may opt to have up to $20 per month accessible via automatic teller machine or receive up to $20 cash back from vendor.
Then he gives his opinion. Tom’s reading of the law is the same as mine…
…does it appear to you in any way that the Republicans are trying to limit the amount of cash anyone is allowed to carry? No. They are merely limiting the amount of cash that can be withdrawn from the state issued debit card.
Yep. That’s exactly what the law says. It doesn’t say (as Crooks and Liars reported) that it’s “a crime for people on public assistance to have more than $20 in cash in their pockets any given month. “
Tom closes with a statement I couldn’t have said better myself…
The internet is a wonderful way to stay on top of the issues of the day but all people, regardless of political persuasion, need to check their facts before running with a story. It’s way to easy to become party to the spreading of lies meant to harm one group or another.
The C&L story and all the left wing blog posts had it totally wrong. They had either not done basic research or they just didn’t care. Oh, man. Depressing.
A quick note about the law – I don’t know if this is a good law. Do some cash restrictions make sense? I think so but $20 seems a bit low given laundry or bus fare or whatever. There’s room for reasoned debate – except that’s not what the left wing blogs I read are doing. It’s all insults and lies and hype. So, while I am unsure about the law, I am 100% sure about the lie.
So I tweeted this info and got into a nice conversation or two about it. I wondered if Crooks & Liars would post a retraction or (more importantly) if their fans would ask for one, since the story was 1) blatantly misleading and 2) widely repeated. Nope.
And one of Lee Stranahan's critics attacked him for his "poor reading comprehension", a charge which appears to be deeply ironic. I'm inclined to agree with Stranahan's take:
...Crooks and Liars was one of my go-to sites for information.
Now I think they might want to shorten their name to the more concise and appropriate Liars.

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