In the movie “Matchstick Men,” actor Nicholas Cage plays a con artist who develops a nervous tic that drives everyone to distraction. We are led to believe that he developed this condition because years of lying were beginning to exact a toll on his mental and physical well-being.
As strange as it might seem, many members of the far right, including apologists for President George W. Bush, are also beginning to exhibit nervous tics. I first noticed this early this month, about the time Al Franken’s new book, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them” soared to the top of the best-seller list published by the New York Times.
In the book, Franken documents case after case of false statements by people he calls neo cons (short for neo conservatives). They include members of the right-wing media, pundits and assorted politicians who rolled into Washington after the 2000 Supreme Court appointment of Mr. Bush to the presidency.
Franken begins his book with an explanation of how the right-wing media slants the news. He has special criticism for the Fox News Channel (FNC), headed by Roger Ailes, a man who had been called the Dark Prince of right-wing attack politics.
After his selection by media mogul Rupert Murdoch to head FNC, Ailes purged moderates and “liberals” from the staff and replaced them with personalities like Tucker Carlson, Brit Hume, Sean Hannity, Tony Snow, Bill O’Reilly and convicted felon (later reversed on a technicality) Oliver North. All of these individuals were selected for one reason: they had impeccable far-right credentials.
Under Ailes, FNC commentators would thereafter place a conservative spin on all news events or they would be shown the door.
Other members of the right-wing media, according to Franken, include the Washington Times, the New York Post, the National Review, the editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal and, of course, talk radio (Rush Limbaugh, others).
In Franken’s words, “The members of the right-wing media are not interested in conveying the truth. That’s not what they are there for. They are an indispensable component of the right-wing machine that has taken over the country.”
Conservative politicians are also liars, but sometimes out of mere ignorance rather than conscious design. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, for example, once told Franken that “The Clinton military never could have done this war [in Iraq],” perhaps not realizing that the forces we sent overseas had been trained and equipped during the Clinton years. Similarly, Vice President Dick Cheney once told an audience that he had special feelings every time his helicopter flew over Arlington Cemetery, with its “crosses row on row” (the cemetery has white rectangular headstones, not crosses over graves).
Franken saves his strongest criticism for neo-con Ann Coulter, who achieved 15 minutes of fame with her book, “Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right.”
Franken points out that the book has 780 endnotes (mistakenly called footnotes by Coulter) that make it appear more like a doctoral dissertation than a run-of-the-mill screed about “liberals.” On close examination, however, the endnotes are grossly misleading because they are often “quotes of a quote” or misleading LexisNexis searches for data. Franken documents numerous factual errors in Coulter’s book and concludes by calling her a “nutcase” (an ungentlemanly remark that even Franken should’ve avoided).
My 600-word allotment with the Potomac News each week does not allow me to give more than a couple of examples from Franken’s 377-page book. Those who would like to know the complete story about liars on the far right need only visit the library or their favorite bookstore. The “best sellers” display rack is always easy to find.
Gary Jacobsen lives in Woodbridge.