Jonathan Chait busts Krauthammer:
Esteemed right-wing intellectual Charles Krauthammer — winner of the Breindel Award, the Irving Kristol Award, and the Bradley Prize, which are among the various prizes available to right-wing apparatchiks, as well as the Pulitzer Prize, which is available to right and left alike — is outraged that President Obama thinks Americans are lazy. Krauthammer presents his evidence that Obama secretly hates America:
“When you call your own country 'lazy' when you are abroad and you call it unambitious and soft when you're home, I think what you are showing is not tough love, but ill-concealed contempt," Krauthammer said on FOX News' "Special Report."
"Obama is ready to blame everybody except himself for the lousy economy. … And now he blames Americans' laziness. I think it's unseemly."
Wait, you say – you hadn’t heard that Obama said Americans are lazy? Those of you familiar with Krauthammer’s intellectual methods may not be surprised to learn that Obama did not, in fact, call Americans lazy. He was describing America’s policy-makers as being lazy about attracting businesses:
"We've been a little bit lazy, I think, over the last couple of decades. We've kind of taken for granted, well, people will want to come here and we aren’t out there hungry, selling America and trying to attract new businesses into America."
Kind of a different thing, no?
Lazy Reporting, Ideological Bias Or A Deliberate Lie?
Of course, Krauthhammer's false claim is being repeated all over the net by conservative bloggers. This blogger is rather typical. It's tempting to say he's lazy about investigating the facts behind the accusation, but that probably isn't the problem.
Bloggers write a lot. This is an ephemeral medium mostly supported by people who have other full-time responsibilities, so sometimes we miss things, make mistakes or fail in some instances to dig as deep as we should. That might explain why some are repeating Krauthammer's misrepresentation. The strongest bloggers should also be willing to correct a clear-cut mistake when it has been pointed out. One of the valuable aspects of blogging is that it's an interactive medium, so commenters can be fact checkers.
There are also bloggers who repeat falsehoods, not because they lack time to ponder, process and dig, but because their view is constricted by rigid ideology. They just can't process facts that don't fit their ideological story, nor will they challenge claims that appear to support their narrative framework. In Piagetian terms, they can assimilate, but they can't accommodate new information. Related, see confirmation bias.
But this isn't merely a problem of cognitive scaffolding that has no place to put a contrary piece of information. That's part of the problem. The problem also arises from their deep emotional investment in a particular point of view, making it emotionally difficult to process information that already runs contrary to their ideological scaffolding. One might say that the ideological cognitive framework can cause nearsightedness, but infatuation with the nearsighted view makes a person resist trying on a pair of corrective glasses.
I've posted a link to Chait's post as a comment at the blog linked above. We'll see how that blogger deals with it.
A Noble Lie?
I might be wrong, but I don't think these explanations—the time constraints on the writer or ideology—explain all of the falsehoods we see from a columnist like Krauthammer. I think some writers deliberately behave like propagandists, and neocon-leaning writers as a group have adopted propaganda as a technique to advance their cause.* They're generally too smart and too well-informed to believe the dumb things they often say, but one of their key ideological mentors, Leo Strauss, advocated use of the so-called Noble Lie in politics, so why should we be surprised that they tell deliberate lies?
But the way I see it, lying to an entire population to further one's own long run political agenda in a democratic society undermines the collective moral fabric, which is, granted, under assault all the time in politics. But ask yourself if you really feel you benefit from being lied to—for you own good—because the truth should be reserved for superior beings like the late Leo Strauss and William Kristol or Charles Krauthammer. How about Michael Moore? Would it be okay if he told you lies because he thinks you aren't sophisticated enough to handle the truth responsibly? Are these lies best characterized as the lies of good people or the lies of vain people?
*I'm aware that Krauthammer isn't a neocon purist, but I think his work reveals a strong neocon influence often enough to raise the question of whether or not he's amenable to telling that noble lie as a shortcut in furtherance of his political agenda.
The comment I left at the blog that posted this falsehood hasn't gotten past moderation. The blogger says that polite disagreement is fine in his rather hyper-emotional statement of his comment policy, but that doesn't seem to be the case. He's approved numerous comments to other posts since I posted my comment, but mine isn't visible.
My comment was very simple: I said that I thought this was a misinterpration of what Obama said, and I asked him to have a look at the post by Jonathan Chait. It was as polite and gentle as that, but apparently it isn't fit for his comment section. The truth doesn't fit the narrative or maybe that blogger is just a propagandist.