by Roxanne Tellier
During the trump years, it was a staple of reporting; when asked for their opinion on something the Administration had done, all the top Republican Senators either brushed off reporters with a breezy, “hadn’t heard anything about that yet,” or stopped just long enough to run whatever party line Mitch McConnell had broadcast to them earlier that day, into the microphone.
It was so common that comedy shows often ran clips of the beleaguered Senators, or of Conservative media talking heads, mouthing in lock stop whatever nonsense they’d been fed.
Fr’instance, remember the parroting of McConnell lies in 2016, when Senate Republicans said that the seat vacated by Justice Scalia’s death should not be filled in an election year, and refused to hold hearings to consider Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland? McConnell argued that the Senate had not confirmed a Supreme Court nominee by an opposing party’s President to fill a vacancy that arose in an election year since 1888. Of course, it was nonsense.
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President,” McConnell said in 2016.
And at a Judiciary Committee meeting in March 2016, from Lindsey Graham …
“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination, and you could use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right. We’re setting a precedent here today, Republicans are, that in the last year, at least of a lame-duck eight-year term, I would say it’s going to be a four-year term, that you’re not going to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court based on what we’re doing here today. That’s going to be the new rule.”
In 2020, Senate Democrats were outraged at the GOP, charging them with hypocrisy, when Trump and McConnell blithely chose to shove through a Supreme Court justice to fill the seat vacated by the death of Justice Ginsburg on September 18, 2020, mere weeks before the presidential election.
“I therefore think it is important that we proceed expeditiously to process any nomination made by President Trump to fill this vacancy. I am certain if the shoe were on the other foot, you would do the same,” Graham said, with a perfectly straight face.
Trump’s “Big Lie,” accepted and repeated ad nauseum, by his supporters, and conservative social media, is another example of how blithely mindless people can become, as they parrot the words that contain the seeds of their society’s destruction.
Party lines. Talking points. All political parties do it, in an effort to present a position of solidarity within their ranks. There are scripts written for the rank-and-file members to follow, if they are asked for their opinions. And their answers shape public opinion, especially within the ranks of those who believe their leaders are usually right in their decisions.
There’s a modicum of laziness, and of a lack of time or interest, in that approach. Though, I’ll admit, as someone not gainfully employed, I have a lot of time in which to fall down the Internet rabbit hole, ferreting out the details behind the party line.
When I hear about something that has happened that will affect other humans, I have an immediate gut reaction. I then process the new information by digging deeper into the issue; reading opinions, both pro and con, on the subject; and finally coming to a conclusion with which both my mind and heart can feel comfortable assuming. Even then, however, I retain the right to change my mind, should I receive newer, additional information that is pertinent to the issue.
But that’s not how everyone deals with the day’s data. Most people have a lot to do in the day, at work, with their families, getting through their own personal issues, and simply have neither the time nor the inclination to care.
Which is where the ‘party lines’ come into play. It’s not just those in Parliament or on Capitol Hill (or the Kremlin, or Westminster) who lean on those talking points, it’s a lot of people who will eventually be charged with electing or re-electing the people who will be following those lines and points while in office, shaping the country.
The trouble with relying on talking points and party lines, rather than thinking for oneself, is that lazy judgments can have a huge impact on societies.
Take the rhetoric that I’m hearing from many whom I thought were less gullible, on the subject of Georgia’s new voter suppression laws. For two days, Morning Joe Scarborough whitesplained and whatabouted that these laws were actually GOOD for voters, even as his guests, people of colour and women who would be aversely impacted by these changes, tried nervously to explain to him why his information was faulty. (birx reacts to trump.jpg)
Seriously, it was like watching Dr Birx dealing with trump assuming she’d be all in on injecting bleach into oneself to prevent COVID. Deer in the headlights time.
Leaning heavily on the unfairness of major Georgia corporations, like Coca Cola and Delta Air Lines, condemning the new laws, as well as the decision of MLB to move the annual All Star Game, he inadvertently quoted Republican talking points (new laws make Georgia voting safer than that of New York) falsely claiming that these laws would actually make voting easier. He was wrong, but even after being schooled by those who had the correct information, he turned a deaf ear to their words.
A similar thing happened on Bill Maher’s Real Time on Friday, when Heather McGhee and Reihan Salam discussed the restrictive new voting laws in Georgia. Mr Salam is a conservative American political commentator, but in this case, he was reduced to simply mouthing the party lines, and being schooled on the truth, live and in colour.
Something similar is going on right now with the increasing likelihood of international “Vaccine Passports.” Already several countries have started to lift lockdown restrictions for people who can show vaccine papers that prove they have been vaccinated.
There is a desire for opening up entertainment venues and travel after a year of isolation, but liability laws make owners of those venues nervous about allowing the non-vaccinated to enter. This isn’t about dictating to consumers, it’s about Free Enterprise doing what they must to turn a profit, and it’s as legal as demanding that your customers wear shoes and shirts to receive service.
In countries with a universal health care program, a reputable record of vaccination is fairly easy to produce; the vaccines are under the auspices of each province’s health care registry.
The same cannot be said for the United States, and this has created a bit of a conundrum. If there is no central processing point to be had by the government, then it leaves a hole that will be filled by … Big Business.
And if you thought you mistrusted the government, just imagine how sorry you’ll be if all of your personal and private health care information is put under the auspices of some massive corporation that has no need to worry about re-election at some point in the future. Be very afraid.
Enter talking points and party lines. The Republicans down south are already working themselves into another ‘rights’ lather, at the very idea of their country becoming a ‘papers please’ nation.
And that’s pretty rich, coming from the party that wrapped America in incredibly restrictive security measures, post 9/11, 2001, which have still not been rescinded, nearly twenty years later. Ah, but that was their own party, demanding that everyone show a passport, carry their shampoo in a one-ounce bottle, and remove their shoes to prove they didn’t have a shoe bomb hiding in there. So that made it okay.
There are some genuine concerns over these passports, which are essentially the same sort of vaccination documents that travellers to certain countries have had to produce for safe travel for decades.
“People are trying to circumvent that (not being allowed entry into venues) by creating false documents, essentially putting the lives of others at risk,” Beenu Arora, founder of cyber intelligence firm Cyble, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an online interview.
Global news reported that “Fake COVID-19 vaccine passports are being sold online for “peanuts” in a fast-growing scam that has alarmed authorities as countries bet on the documents to revive travel and their economies, cyber security experts said.”
This is why we can’t have nice things.
“Last week, 45 attorney generals from the United States signed a letter calling on the heads of Twitter, eBay and Shopify to take immediate action to prevent their platforms from being used to sell fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine cards.
“The false and deceptive marketing and sales of fake COVID vaccine cards threatens the health of our communities, slows progress in getting our residents protected from the virus, and are a violation of the laws of many states,” it read.“Global News Ca
There will always be a breed of selfish, greedy, psychopaths that delight in putting a stick in the spokes in the wheels of civilization. The pandemic seems to have brought many more out from under the rocks where they usually reside.
Party lines. Talking points. These are a sop for the lazy minded, since it prevents real thought and opinion from forming, based on further investigation of whatever it is a government wants to ‘sell’ to its people.
The repetition of these concepts is a form of gaslighting, a glitch in the human psyche that equates repetition with truth. The “illusory truth effect” is something that politicians and markets have been doing for decades, knowingly manipulating your mind by manipulating your cognitive bias.
Trump and his administration were masters of this kind of manipulation, pummeling lies and illogic into people’s minds non-stop before, during, and after his term in office. He’s still doing it now, with his “Big Lie” that the election was stolen from him by Biden. He can’t seem to stop doing it, and a lot of people can’t seem to stop believing him.
“Repetition makes things seem more plausible. And the effect is likely more powerful when people are tired or distracted by other information.” Lynn Hasher, a psychologist at the University of Toronto whose research team first noticed the effect in the 1970s.
It’s not a new concept. Adolf Hitler knew of what he spoke when he wrote, “Slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea,” in Mein Kampf.
Repetition is a staple of political propaganda. It sells fake news. It sells toothpaste. It drums in concepts that most often are so outlandish that we can’t believe we’re repeating them. And yet, we wondered where the yellow went, when we brushed our teeth with Pepsodent.
We’re slowly coming out of a terrible, traumatic, time, and we’re all a little fragile. Still, it’s not the time to be spoonfed platitudes. What we need now are not party lines and talking points, but intelligent, common sensical directives on how to get back safely into our lives and world, ensuring that the rights of everyone are considered and protected.