The Party of Science?

American politics are becoming increasingly absurd. The only word that describes the ongoing project of American progressives is “unreality.” There seems to be a concerted effort on the part of leftwing media to pridefully advance arguments that have nothing to do with observable reality. Now, the great philosophical question of our age is the degree to which committed partisans of the left genuinely subscribe to the narrative versus those who do so purely as a means to an end. Regardless of their sincerity, progressives everywhere agree that a counter-narrative to the status quo forces of oppression must be passionately sustained via the pent-up anxieties of the oppressed.

The left’s Marxist flame – their one and only “big idea” – finally petered out at the end of the 20th century, at least officially. Communism and collectivism were declared dead, the “end of history” pronounced, and it was assumed that the long bickering over classes and accumulation and distribution were settled. History however, does not cleanly dispatch with the “losing side” in almost any conflict. Within a generation of losing their claim on the colonies, the United Kingdom was back to burn down the White House and lay waste to Washington and Baltimore. The American South was not exactly docile in defeat, nor were they keen on sudden and immediate implementation of the 14th amendment, leading to their utter annihilation. The failed German revolutionaries of 1848 decamped to the American Midwest intent on importing the nouveau fads of progressivism and the welfare state into the American psyche. So it was with the Marxists and the class-warriors and the otherwise ignorant elites of the 20th century who decidedly did not abandon their ideological presumptions in response to the fall of the Soviet Union.

Whether the newly homeless Marxists migrated en masse to environmentalism or divvied it up so that elements of their tribe could be present in almost every facet of public life (the bureaucracy, the academy, the media, the Hollywood) is not really the point. What matters is that there was nothing approaching accountability. There was no mea culpa from elite liberal media for being wrong about totalitarian socialism. To this day the left refuses to acknowledge that the Soviets had an active and operational spy network in the United States during the Cold War, and pretend not to know of Alger Hiss. For the left, the number one priority is making their opposition look bad. Consistency and sound logic are subordinate to demonizing and discrediting. “So and so DESTROYS [conservative politican X]!!!” is a staple of fever swamp progressive internet because to the emotional and insecure for whom politics determines identity, it is more important to feel superior to your opponent than it is to be right on a given issue.

Status-signaling has replaced thinking on the left. Standing opposed to Israel or misogyny or bigotry is the price of admission into the cool cliques of campus or coastal liberalism. After purchasing yourself some coveted status as a tolerant and enlightened non-conservative, all you have to do is stick to the script. Master the hashtag and learn how it’s about feelings over facts. Thus will you arrive on the battlefield backed by an army of groupthinkers to slay the latest exhibition of privilege.

The dust-up over vaccines brings this tendency to bare. Rather than a sober mining of the data about who, exactly, are these Americans refraining from vaccinating their children, leftist partisans jumped on the comments from Chris Christie and Rand Paul as an opportunity to impugn Republicans – yet again – as the Neanderthal party of “science deniers.” Never mind the minute detail that the anti-vaxxer craze is predominantly a feature of the left, particularly the well-heeled, coastal enclave left. Upwards of 50% of kindergarteners are not vaccinated for MMR at schools in San Diego and Marin counties. Oregon and Vermont have the highest per-capita populations of anti-vaxxers. Yes, elements of the libertarian and home-school right are wary of government assurances on vaccinations. But to pretend that this is a phenomenon only of the right whereas the left sits on the side of empiricism and reason is just too much. By itself it is nothing, a meaningless and annoying distraction of white noise coming from the left about how Republicans are such morons. With the performance of the institutional left of late, it probably helps the cause of anti-statism for leftists to continue insisting how awesome and smart they are and how stupid and hopeless we are, for the simple reason that logic has a way of prevailing in the long run and all logic would suggest that these people are just charlatans with an agenda, hell bent on lying to the masses they so disdain in order to fool them into acquiescence. At some point, the ruse will reach its sell-by date and the tempest of lies and distortions will at long last wear itself out.

Until then, we will have to endure more attacks and more distortions, likely of an increased intensity. Hell hath no fury like a smug elitist challenged. The left operates under an unspoken assumption that they will always hold the loudest public megaphone due to their permanent residence on the moral high ground. Their moral righteousness is an illusion, however, and deep down they know it. At the heart of the progressive project is hatred of capitalism. They view that system of voluntary cooperation with suspicion and contempt and cast themselves as quasi-holy warriors out to eradicate injustice through the exalted Hegelian state, where the state exists as a metaphysical entity and possesses a metaphysical conscience by which the enlightened will erect plans and designs for the greater good. It is much harder in 2015 to hold this position with a straight face, after the failures of the collectivist experiment last century. Even for the most committed socialist, it is difficult to deny this history. And yet the left shows every sign it intends only to buff the lens and retain its ridiculous perspective of the world. A left that knows in its bones that the collectivist project is dead yet nevertheless retains its hatred of capitalism is going to look ridiculous. Further, the evolution of the left since Marx has seen it place its emphatic hatred not just on capitalism but on conservatives. It’s not so much the system but the proponents of the system who need to be fought and defeated. It is not hard to see how a philosophy that focuses on personal antagonism more than the system supposedly manufacturing oppression itself will eventually lose its focus.

Today’s left is the natural progression. They are thoroughly and obsessively concerned with what conservatives are saying and doing and basically agnostic on whether or not their prescribed solutions and programs have any efficacy whatsoever. All they are interested in is claiming the moral highground and ascendance appears to be promised only when all the wrong-thinking right wingers are defeated and/or silenced. They get really mad when conservatives have the temerity to point out when they run afoul of reason, logic and reality. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in matters of science.

On medicine, climate and biology the left is on the wrong side of the science. Kevin Williamson loves pointing out the amount of pseudo-science hokum that has wide popularity in leftist enclaves, from acupuncture and homeopathy to astrology and phobias about genetically modified food. You can throw Scientology and yoga in that mix as well. All perfectly harmless activities to which I have no objections other than that they are not backed up by science.

The climate change arena is riddled with groupthink and populated by anticapitalist ideologues. The much-touted “consensus” of scientists on the subject of Earth’s dire climate is great if you value consensus opinion that is thoroughly and comprehensively wrong. None of the models from the most renowned scientists have tracked even moderately close to the reality of climate over the past 20 years. That they only go back to the late nineteenth century to cull data while projecting their biased assumptions onto the millennia that came before it in order to produce the scary “hockey stick” projection of rising temperatures should be enough at the outset to question the infallibility of their data. With the “climategate” scandal at Britain’s East Anglia University revealing how scientists scheme to manipulate data to facilitate preferred outcomes, the petty “defamation” lawsuit brought by climate charlatan Michael Mann against Mark Steyn and CEI, and the recent revelation that Earth’s temperatures have remained flat the last 15 years, the green movement is exposed. The farce that is the State Department’s six year (and ongoing) review of the plans for the Keystone XL pipeline is nothing more than a nod by the administration to their wacko environmental base, which has tried repeatedly to offer scientific objections to the pipeline but which have all failed. The few reports that State has issued on the plan have all said that there is no environmental risk, but that has not caused the green left to relent, nor was it intended to. No one in the progressive orbit of Democratic politics is willing to allow the pipeline’s construction and none of their objections have to do with science. It is purely an aesthetic and ideological stance. Coastal elites think oil is yucky, yada yada yada, therefore the pipeline is an intrinsic evil.

Finally, the left stands in stark opposition to human biology, whether on the issue of abortion, gender, or human nature. In an sense this is understandable, as the left has always believed that man is malleable and can be shaped to function in their idea of the good society. But certain things in nature are non-negotiable. Science has essentially proven that babies in the womb can feel pain at 20 weeks and are able to survive outside the womb at that point. The science even suggests that viability perhaps occurs even earlier. But tell this to a pro-choice zealot and he will shriek and squeal about what a scoundrel you are for daring to suggest that a woman’s body is not in fact her own when there is another human inside it. This is virtually beyond scientific dispute now, yet the left won’t so much as countenance a discussion on it. In fact, they are more likely to echo the infamous Barbara Boxer line: “I think when you bring your baby home, when your baby is born … the baby belongs to your family and has all the rights.”

So babies are not yet human and not yet possessing of natural rights until they arrive home from the Hospital? How very sciency of you Barb.

The left claims the mantle of science for the sole reason that it can be used as a cudgel against conservatives. But the facts on the ground in 2015, allowing for the young-Earth creationists and the anti-vaxxers of the right (even though that contingent is most present in deep blue areas), are such that it would be impossible to designate the American left as “the party of science.” If the scientific method has life anywhere in American politics, it surely does not reside on the left. You can’t be the party of science if you think truth and reality are subjective. The persistent elevation of narrative inevitably leads to perspectives that end up only sneering at the truth.

A Uniform Theory of Government

“Do less.” Indeed.

The left love to ridicule its opposition as “paranoid” about government for two reasons. The first is obvious: defining the enemies of big government as “extreme” or “outside the mainstream” is what progressives do. When your ideology elevates superficial class concerns over individual liberty, and does so as a matter of principle, it reveals an utter lack of meaningful principles altogether. Compare the foundational literature of conservative and libertarian dogma with that of progressives and socialists and try not to be dumbfounded by the massive disparity in volume and quality of argument. The tradition that holds individual liberty and free markets as the highest virtues is older, richer, and deeper; with a larger canon of philosophical and moral arguments for a free society than any competing ideology. Collectivism was born in direct response to industrialized capitalism and has been wondering in the wilderness in search of a coherent theory of government ever since.

Which leads us to the second reason for the “paranoid” pejorative they so love to sling: the left doesn’t stand for anything, besides more ________ . It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about, the progressives want more: taxes, redistribution, welfare, subsidies, political correctness, speech codes, censorship, bureaucracy, etc. And, being the party of more, it is natural that they would greet those who shout less! with contempt and derision, and so it goes. Champions of small government must be incredibly paranoid of black helicopters and such because why else would anyone have a problem with our benevolent government providing basic necessities like food stamps to people in need? There is no sentiment more alarming to a progressive than “do less” because any suggestion that government has perhaps done too much implies progressive failure in the past, which is why they are prepared to fight to the death to preserve the New Deal mentality that sustains the welfare state. Ultimately, the left is anti-capitalist, as evidenced by every policy prescription and bit of ignorant economic rhetoric that comes spewing from their midst.

The best the anti-capitalists have come up with so far is probably Rousseau’s “social contract,” which suggests that human nature is chaotic and Hobbesian, thus the corrupting temptations of the individual must be subordinate to the collective good of “society.” It’s the type of theory that sounds good to 8th graders but should have been laughed off the stage for all eternity once Rousseau’s vision culminated with The Terror. Rousseau’s vision of the “common good” being preserved through benign state action would become the galvanizing principle of collectivist movements for the next two and a half centuries, from Marx to Lenin to Mao to Castro to the Greens. Again, this is hardly a principle at all. Saying you’re for the “common good” is meaningless without defining the terms by which goodness is going to be brought about. Saying you’re for the common good while pushing for initiatives that expand government in order to procure all this goodness is just stupid. Human nature will always nurture certain pathologies like our instinct to seek quick and easy solutions to complex problems, a phenomenon that knows no partisan lean. Conservatives who rightfully tout the rule of law as sacrosanct often succumb to this instinct when they treat prisons and drone strikes as quick and easy solutions to crime and terrorism. The fallible human condition allows even principled conservatives who take seriously the threat of excessive state power to place their trust in state and federal authorities to not abuse their power, and they often fail to see the contradiction at work. You can’t be for freedom and limited government and simultaneously support a militarized police campaign against non-violent drug offenders and the war on terror to boot. But no one falls for the promise of the quick and easy fix as often or as passionately as the left. They need to ditch the Rousseau and read some John Locke or Adam Smith.

The idea that utopian society is right around the corner if only we got the right people in charge is the left’s uniform theory of everything. The belief that society can be “administered” to at all is ridiculous, and yet the left still show no signs of inching any closer to understanding this basic fact of life and economics. What the left does understand, though, is comedy’s capacity to be subversive and instructive, in places you least expect it. And it is in that vein that I submit Paul Rudd’s epic surfing advice as a meta narrative on how government should behave.

Marxist Millennials?

There’s nothing more embarrassing than the left’s periodic flirtation with Marxism. Anytime a skeptical critique of capitalism is given a quasi credible veneer, the left goes nuts and forgets that their most successful (and cynical) tactic of the past hundred years has been to hide their very real and very confused hostility towards capitalism and markets.

So enter Thomas Piketty, who claims that inequality can only get worse with capitalism in his new book Capital in the 21st Century and leftist morons screech “See!!! Inequality is the only thing that matters!!! We don’t know anything about economics but we’re still certain that income inequality is a scourge because, well, because the proposed measures for addressing it involve expanding the reach of the federal government.”

Leftists hate the free market because a) the extent to which they comprehend it is roughly analagous to the depth of Hodor’s vocabulary and b) because free markets and a premium on individualism undermine the left’s sacred fantasy that society can be planned and managed and shaped to fit the majority’s will. The statist mind chooses not to accept the obvious superiority of free market capitalism over all the others because the statist believes, like a child, that perfection is possible in this life and utopia is attainable.

Utopia is impossible. Greed and avarice are innate characteristics of human beings. The least bad method for harnessing humanity’s fallible nature is to allow for maximum individual freedom. The absolute worst method for harnessing productive instincts in society is to concentrate power centrally; to trust other fallible human beings with “expertly” administering a just and equal state is to completely ignore all of human history. Leftists refuse to learn the most important lesson: that power corrupts absolutely, that there are no angels among men, and that central planners don’t fail because they have the wrong plan, but because planning (scientific, Marxist, Keynesian, etc) itself cannot work. Ever.

Are the progressives right to be so in thrall to Piketty’s work? Is their assumption that millennials and minorities will forever stay wedded to the tribe of identity politics and cultural conformity? Progressives used to genuinely champion freedom of thought and expression, but those days are over. In their pursuit to establish an unassailable culture of “tolerance,” the left has so convinced itself of possessing the moral high ground that it takes for granted that it has become indifferent to its own cynicism. This is how you get scores of bright young intellectuals at places like Mozilla and Brandeis acting like intolerant clowns by reviving timeless leftist traditions like censorship and the thought police. When you carry as an article of faith the smug certainty of your own right-thinking benevolence, you are more likely to turn a blind eye on obnoxious conduct so long as the culprits are on the right “team.” It’s all a long way of saying that I have no idea what the fate of millennial politics is. However, I suspect that Marx is the furthest thing from their minds in 2014, especially when Democrats and their Marxist-sympathizing base have had the run of the capitol for the past six years, and their ideas continue to get worse. As technology makes us more individualistic and libertarian every day, millennial lusting for a return of Marx strikes me as the left’s latest iteration of adorable wishful thinking. More likely, when the economy ultimately improves (a development sure to be delayed until our current regime steps down) and jobs are being created and filled by the chronically unemployed youth, millennials will begin to awaken from their stretched-thin hypnotism and absorb the wisdom that comes to all men with age: that government is incapable of delivering on its promises. Every effort to fulfill its promise serves to crowd out the productive private sector, which slows the economy and prolongs stagnation.

Maybe they won’t arrive at this revelation en masse, and maybe it will take longer than I hope for my generation to finally open their eyes to the awful truth of collectivism, but I will be more than a little surprised (and profoundly dismayed) should the millennial generation sustain its dalliance with the identity politics left that demands total fidelity to every aspect of the cause, with heretics put on permanent notice.

Politics of Vilification

“The left is exhausted.”
-Paul Ryan, CPAC 2014

Wouldn’t you be? Delivering revolutionary change while pretending that nothing is up and there is nothing to see here is bound to drain the energy from even the most enthusiastic political operation. What the Obama progressives have been doing the past five years is a thoroughly postmodern attempt to effectuate dramatic changes to the United States government, but in the process to be seen as unaffiliated with said change. It’s basically a vindication of the Limbaugh Theorem, which asserts in the grandiose timbre of the world’s preeminent blowhard that President Obama’s chief accomplishment has been to present himself as perpetually removed from the nuts and bolts of governing, thereby exempting himself from prolonged or intense scrutiny from the national media. According to Jonathan Tobin at Commentary, the media has been more than happy to play the role of Obama Protection Society rather than serve as combative investigative journalists. Here’s Tobin:

While most journalists have been reliably liberal in their politics for decades, the culture of the profession has always valued an “agin’ the government” mentality in which all politicians are viewed with cynicism. So long as even liberal journalists regard it as their duty to ferret out stories about corruption, mismanagement and failure within the government, we can feel safe that no administration, even one that is favored by the left, will escape the scrutiny necessary to provide accountability.

But there is little doubt that this has begun to change since Obama came to office. After the media hammered both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush throughout their presidencies, Obama has had it relatively easy. Part of it is due to the special hold that this historic president has over liberals… The culture at CBS and like-minded outlets is to see any aggressive reporting about the president and his policies as evidence of wrong thinking rather than part of their obligation to ask uncomfortable questions and speak truth to power.

Is there any doubt that a vast majority of American media fall into this category? Is it any wonder that most of these Ivy-educated, Beltway-bred, coastal elitists who were so keen to speak truth to power (when power had an (R) next to it) are now willing participants in state-sanctioned ideological propaganda? Of course there are scores of principled leftists like Kevin Gosztola, William Saletan and (perhaps) David Sirota, but the bulk of progressives in media today are more likely to be animated by hostile caricatures of the right and to seek out “evidence of wrong thinking” than by actual truth. As I’ve recounted before, the left is complicit in government propaganda because exaltation of big, activist government is the only direction their ideology leads. It remains their Big Idea despite the fact that the intellectual and practical justifications for it were eviscerated by… well, the twentieth century.

Kevin Williamson of National Review perfectly captures the aimless cynicism of a progressive movement unmoored from meaningful ideas:

I do not much blame the Left for hesitating to talk about Big Ideas. The Left has been losing the Big Idea debate for a generation or more, in no small part because its last Big Idea killed 100 million people, give or take, and not in Mr. Klein’s projecting-abstractly-from-a-CBO-study way but in the concentration-camps-and-hunger-terror way. Marxism was the Left’s Big Idea for the better part of a century, and its collapse — which was moral, economic, political, and complete — left a howling void in the Left’s intellectual universe. Nothing has quite managed to fill it: In the immediate wake of the collapse of Communism, the anticapitalists sought shelter in a variety of movements, few of which grew to be of any real consequence, with the exception of the environmentalist movement. But the lenten self-mortification implied by a consistent environmentalist ethic has limited that movement’s appeal as a governing philosophy and an individual ethic both, hence its fragmentation into a motley sprawl of mini-crusades. It is easy to be anti-fracking when that does not require you to give up anything, easy to oppose the expansion of the Keystone pipeline network when you can be confident that the gas pumps in your hometown will always be full, easy for well-off Whole Foods shoppers to abominate varieties of grain that are possessed by evil spirits or cooties or whatever it is this week.

The intellectual decline of the Left has been something to see. I am reminded of a joke that P. J. O’Rourke once made about my hometown: “There’s also a whiff of highbrow in Siberia. For a hick town, Irkutsk had too many opera houses, theaters, museums, and academic institutes. This is because, for hundreds of years, the smarty-pants reformers, annoying idealists, and know-it-all do-gooders were sent here for life. It’s as though everyone who voted for George McGovern was packed off to Lubbock, Texas.” You could not make the same joke about Obama voters or Occupiers — or, especially, about Jon Stewart’s audience — because nobody expects any of them to start an opera house or an academic institute. They are busy watching an ersatz Beavis and Butt-Head for psychology majors who enjoy having their modest intellects flattered and their perceived enemies “destroyed.”

Williamson earns my Hero of the Moment award (and not for the first time) for astutely calling out Jon Stewart as “the leading voice of the half-bright Left because he is a master practitioner of the art of half-bright vitriolic denunciation,” which can just as easily be used to describe the left-at-large. Robbed of their Big Ideas (don’t get any), the left plays a politics of vilification. Without much of an intellectual or philosophical foundation to rely on, the left operates almost entirely out of pragmatic rather than principled concern. Sure, vague paeans to “equality” and “social justice” can be mistaken for principled stances, but do not be fooled; the left’s drive for egalitarianism is always premised on the notion that society is unjust and only government (with the right experts – themselves – at the helm) can eradicate the injustice. Thus the welfare state and redistribution programs that sound like principled desires for a “fair” society are really just the pragmatic means for producing the ultimate end: power.

As to the question of what progressives want with power, the ends are up for debate, but the means never are. People like myself who look askance at progressives assume (not without justification) that a not-insignificant cadre wishes to use government solely to grab power. This group knows that the left’s “coalition” of voters who are susceptible to promises of government-as-panacea must be consistently pandered to, whereas other progressives indeed wish to bring about positive change with their power but unfortunately lack the wherewithal to deliver. The disparate factions of progressivism envision different ends, yet they embrace the same means, the means of vilification.

Which brings us to Paul Ryan.

In a radio interview last week, Ryan had this to say on the culture of work in American inner cities:

We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and the culture of work, and so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.

As we all know, there is only one appropriate response here: RAAAAAACIST!!!!! Never mind that Ryan is stating what should be an uncontroversial and obvious truth, and never mind that nowhere does he mention race. If you are a conservative and you offer a critique of any kind (implicit, explicit, oblique) of the welfare state’s failure to curtail poverty, you are a racist as far as the left is concerned, plain and simple. Instead of engaging on this crucially important topic and trading ideas on how to address pervasive poverty in urban areas, the left vilifies any would-be reformer as heartless and racist. As Pete Wehner notes, the true motive behind this incessant vilification of their opposition is the left’s insecurity about their own record:

Liberals who have complicity in the problems plaguing America’s inner cities are attempting to make an honest conversation about poverty impossible. They are signaling that they intend to try to take out Republicans who want to address some of the root causes, the behavioral causes, of poverty.

As a posterchild for the left’s psychotic narrative that says Republicans hate the elderly, the poor, the middle class, women, the gays, minorities, puppies, ice cream and orgasms, Ryan knows how the left operate when they have someone in their crosshairs. As the primary budget scion among House conservatives, Ryan is persona non grata for progressives because he represents a sober, green eye-shade accounting of their fiscal failures, and they will do whatever they can to forestall the reckoning. This is how Ryan is cast as He Who Throws Granny Off Cliff or as factually challenged or even as equivalent to the evil British purveyors of the Irish Potato Famine. The left trashes Ryan and “fact-checks” him into oblivion because they are terrified of his policies ever seeing the light of day since a Ryan fiscal reform would mean the beginning of the end of the progressive project. If Ryan is successful in restoring a baseline of sanity to Washington-as-usual (and “baseline budgeting” is a great place to start), the left’s budget gimmicks and procedural theatrics will no longer matter once actual accounting is again the standard. They know this, so they react accordingly, with wave after wave of dishonest attack, in the same vein as they went after Romney. I’ve learned not to underestimate the capacity of the modern left to defame genuinely good and decent men like Ryan and Romney, who because of the threat they posed to the immoral and unsustainable government gravy train, had to have their characters assassinated. Nothing is more important than the ultimate agenda, and if a little shameless vilification of decent people is needed to keep the progressive train on the tracks, so be it. And yet there was Paul Ryan at CPAC, proudly proclaiming that the left is exhausted because they are out of ideas. The left hasn’t really had any ideas since the official failure of their Big Idea almost twenty-five years ago. They are resigned to playing identity politics and pandering for votes until such time as free-thinking citizens wise up and hand them a decisive defeat, or else until they run out of other people’s money.

Parallels in Propaganda

Vladimir Putin gave a rambling press conference today in which he insisted that Russian troops were in fact not occupying the Crimean region of Ukraine. Russian state-controlled media has bombarded Russians with accounts of Nazis and fascists on the march, while purportedly “independent” Kremlin-funded outlet RT blanketed its airwaves with the hilarious narrative that any military mobilization in Ukraine was expressly to do with protecting ethnic Russians.

Of course all of this is untrue.

There is a delicious and spectacular irony to the Obama administration’s exasperation at all this Russian deception. It is almost as if they are experiencing their karmic comeuppance for all the lies and propaganda they spew on the domestic front. Speaking from Kiev today, John Kerry was literally dumbfounded when told of Putin’s claim that the Russians hadn’t actually invaded Crimea. President Obama must feel betrayed after his 90 minute talk with Vlad turned out to be a bunch of misdirection and empty promising; imagine our president’s dismay at seeing the footage of Russian helicopters breaching sovereign borders after being assured by the Russian leader over the phone that no such thing, under any circumstances, would occur. Mr. Burns exhibited less naivete about foreign despots when he allowed Fidel to glimpse the trillion dollar bill.

Julia Ioffe, The New Republic’s resident Russia expert describes the bubble Putin lives in:

For the last few years, it has become something like conventional knowledge in Moscow journalistic circles that Putin was no longer getting good information, that he was surrounded by yes-men who created for him a parallel informational universe.”They’re beginning to believe their own propaganda,” Gleb Pavlovsky told me when I was in Moscow in December. Pavlovsky had been a close advisor to the early Putin, helping him win his first presidential election in 2000. (When, in 2011, Putin decided to return for a third term as president, Pavlovsky declared the old Putin dead.) And still, it wasn’t fully vetted information. We were like astronomers, studying refractions of light that reached us from great distances, and used them to draw our conclusion.

Sound familiar? To what other politician or ideology can we ascribe a fondness for propaganda? To the man who said “you know, I actually believe my own bullshit” perhaps? To the political party obsessed with constantly portraying their opposition as culturally backward, intolerant, sexist and racist? Whether the culprit is President Obama or the wider progressive movement, the inescapable fact of 21st century American politics is that the left’s coalition accepts the powerful utility of propaganda and deploys it mercilessly. The Obamacare Deception has been well documented to the point where it is now wholly uncontroversial to cite Obama’s “lie of the year” or mock the incessant failed promises that accompanied the law’s sales pitch. And yet the administration clings to the same false and meaningless explanations and technicalities regarding the “if you like your ______ , you can keep your ______” lie, and continues to maintain sites offering helpful FAQ answers to the pervasive “myths” surrounding the law. Leftist hacks, media, and the administration have all thrown fits of late whenever the CBO has trashed their claims and destroyed their propaganda. On the consequences of raising the minimum wage, on the effect the ACA will have on the labor market, on the real unemployment environment, on the Benghazi talking points distortions, and on the apparent scourge of all things democracy known as the Koch Bros, the left’s propaganda is currently suffering through its first prolonged expose. Yes, the internet and the proliferation of 24/7 news is a major factor in checking the left’s monopoly on disseminating information. But the larger reason for the weakened posture of the left’s Ministry of Information is reality. The truth usually does win out, and no matter how sophisticated the scheme, operations based on propaganda and lies usually fail.

Which is why the clash of two epic champions is so exciting. Who is going to out-deceive the other? Who is better at keeping a straight face while telling outrageously tall tales? Will the Russians under Putin prevail with their stories of fascists arriving in Crimea from Western Ukraine (even though the bus’ license plate is Crimean and the thugs were Russian plants)? Or will American progressives win the prize for Harry Reid’s suggestion that “all” Obamacare horror stories “are untrue“? Sadly, even Stephen Colbert has received his marching orders and, being the good little progressive mouthpiece he is, has answered Reid’s bat signal.

Ultimately there can be no winner in a battle of shameless propagandists, particularly when the scale of the campaigns are so different. For the Obama administration and the left, their “messaging” is intended solely for a domestic audience. They couldn’t care less what the rest of the world thinks; as long as they’re winning the propaganda war at home, the progressive cause is secure. For the Kremlin, Russian propaganda fights a two-front war, at home and abroad. They must convince their Russian citizens that intervention in Ukraine is a noble endeavor to protect ethnic Russians longing for the motherland, and at the same time tell the world that they haven’t actually done anything and that it’s all the fascists’ fault.

The result of juxtaposing these two great propaganda powers is somewhat counter-intuitive: one would assume that the country with the state-controlled media and the censorship would be better at hiding its duplicitous deeds, yet the world and the Russian people alike are clear-eyed about the corruption of their government and seem reflexively allergic to trusting much of what Putin says. Meanwhile, the country that prides itself on a free press – a press meant to antagonize and check its government in order to foster accountability in its representatives – has evidently stopped caring very much about the role of the fourth estate in extracting truth from government. Instead, most American media are increasingly political and aligned with progressivism, and have concluded that occupational integrity is subordinate to political gain. Most of our media are part of the cause, and if a little lying is necessary in furtherance of the cause, meh.

Nonetheless, truth does win out, even against rigged games and long odds. Propaganda cannot win in an information era like the one in which we are now living. It can be harder to identify and to quash, as the cacophony of voices and opinions can sometimes be as unintelligible as it is noisy, but ultimately propaganda is going to be exposed for what it is. Vladimir Putin is currently testing the boundaries of the alternate universe he has crafted for he and his cronies, whereas progressives and the Obama administration are rapidly discovering that their fantasy version of America is being rejected by those not susceptible to fairy tales and witless propaganda. And they did not anticipate that there would be so many…

I am somewhat sympathetic to the toxic clouds of frustration billowing out of the White House, Pentagon and State Department this week. No doubt, it must be infuriating to listen to a strong man ruler of a kleptocratic petro-oligarchy talk in circles to the global community. It must be exhausting to witness a country fabricate out of whole cloth and in plain view of the international community a false motive for invading a sovereign neighbor. And it must be excruciating to have to deal with a world leader who consistently over-promises and under-delivers. And yet all one can ask of Obama and the progressives is “how does it taste?”

In Vladimir Putin and all the lies that come with him,  it is simply a taste of their own medicine. Liars meeting their match by way of confrontation with other, better liars. Considering the political and ideological forbears for all concerned though, should we be at all surprised that the radical left and the ex-KGB elements in the U.S. and Russia deploy similar tactics in messaging?

Minimum Wage Dishonesty

The left’s dishonesty on the minimum wage is reaching criminal proportions. This morning NPR did a report that said essentially: “In response to the CBO report showing that half a million jobs would be lost [jobs for the poor and unskilled], the Obama administration issued a report citing seven Nobel winners and almost six hundred economists saying that minimum wage hikes have almost no effect on employment.”

Well then! I’m sold! Six HUNDRED economists plus a whole SEVEN Nobel laureates?!?!? Egads, how could anyone so much as question the eminent wisdom of such renowned geniuses? Except, the Nobel awarded the Peace Prize to Obama in his first year in office. When it gave Hayek a Nobel in economics in ’74, it awarded one to a socialist economist the same year. I’m sorry, any organization that recognizes a socialist and free market economist in the same year or gives the Peace Prize to a president based on reputation and rhetoric is an organization not to be taken seriously. And what of the six hundred economists? Well, it could be six hundred Paul Krugmans and Jared Bernsteins which, along with 5 bucks can get you a cup of coffee. These are economists of the left, and they have a political agenda to sell, not an economic analysis to be taken with any kind of seriousness.

But this is just what the left does. “97% of scientists…” “600 economists…” Consensus! Um, consensus among a bunch of like-minded hacks with a political agenda, more like it. The simple fact is the minimum wage hurts the poor, which hurts minorities, and the left is terrified of being exposed on this, thus the asinine claims that a whole bunch of really very smart and wise and not in any way prone to politics people say the minimum wage is all good and magically doesn’t involve trade offs or increase the price of labor.

The only thing worse than the purveyors of this transparently self-serving political propaganda masquerading as “science” or “economics” is that so many people buy it. Remember when the CBO reports that Obamacare would lower deficits and costs were treated as gospel truth (and the only reason the CBO issued those reports was through using the inputs and data provided to them in the Democrats’ assumptions and models)? Well now that CBO looks at some hard data and pisses all over a left wing talking point, it must be refuted, and the way the left refutes things that contradict their propaganda is to trot out the Nobel winners and the “six hundred economists” trope.

It is willfully dishonest and malicious. Even more, it exposes the left’s indifference to the actual plight of poor and minorities, the constituencies most affected by the shrinking labor markets that are the result of minimum wage increases. The left’s hypocrisy on race is manifest in many things (resistance to choice in education being the biggest), but on the minimum wage it is so glaringly obvious and yet they are never called on it. Here we have the CBO, typically the sainted institution upon which all controversial policy is to be settled (so long as the data supports leftist propositions), stating unambiguously that jobs for the low skilled and poor are going to be adversely affected in exchange for some extra benefits going to the non-poor, and the left is in full spin mode and doing all they can to call bullshit on the same CBO they normally love. They have to do this in order to avoid looking like a bunch of hypocrites who are indifferent to the plight of the poor. Which is exactly what they are. The history of labor unions is of a movement meant to crowd out poor and minority workers so that middle class blue collar workers could avoid labor competition through the establishment of wage floors. And the left is still doing this with the minimum wage, a policy that negatively affects African-Americans.

And almost no one calls them on it.