George Graham

Tweaking Facts to Shape Beliefs in an Alternate Universe

Long ago, when the world seemed relatively sane, I knew what a fact was. And while our opinions often differed, we all – most of us, anyway – accepted the same facts. Not so today.

rushThe facts Americans get from Fox News or Rush Limbaugh’s broadcasts, for example, can be totally different from those they get on MSNBC. That’s because Fox and Rush are propagandists for the far right and MSNBC has a “liberal” slant.

And that’s one reason so many Republicans have really strange beliefs – strange to me, anyway.

According to a poll released this week by the Daily Kos web site, about a quarter of Republicans think President Obama actually wants the terrorists to win. Think about that for a minute. These people actually believe that the president of the United States wants terrorists to destroy western civilization.

Many Republicans – 63 percent according to the poll – also think President Obama is a Socialist, which doesn’t surprise me as I am sure they have no idea what Socialism is except that it is a Bad Thing.

Thirty-nine percent say Obama should be impeached (for reasons unstated), 36 percent believe he wasn’t born in the U.S., and 31 percent think he is a racist and hates white people.

If you know anything about Fox News, you will recognize some of these fantasies as staples of their anti-Obama rants. The “racist” idea comes straight from the mouth of a commentator named Glenn Beck, for example.

It would be funny if it weren’t so scary.

Recently, at a family gathering, one of Sandra’s cousins became tearful about the babies she believes the President stabs in the heart and “throws in the sink.” And my brother Peter, who proudly admits he listens to Rush Limbaugh (in cartoon above), seriously assured me a while back that Obama was the Anti-Christ and the world would be afflicted by raging pestilences if he became President. (I’m still waiting for that to happen.)

You might think that responsible politicians would be alarmed at this trend, that they would do their utmost to set the record straight. But the opposite is true.

luntzThe Republican Party actually employs a pollster to find out what “facts” voters will believe. His name is Frank Luntz (photo at right), and he helped stymie health care reform by digging up words to frame the message in a way that would push voters’ hot buttons.

Now, he has put together a similar playbook to derail financial reform.

In a leaked memo, Luntz urges opponents of reform to use such phrases as “bank bailouts,” “lobbyist loopholes,” and “additional layers of complicated government bureaucracy.”

“Ordinarily, calling for a new government program ‘to protect consumers’ would be extraordinarily popular,” Luntz wrote. “But these are not ordinary times. The American people are not just saying ‘no.’ They are saying ‘hell no’ to more government agencies, more bureaucrats, and more legislation crafted by special interests.”

So what if the charges aren’t true? With the help of conservative talk radio hosts and Fox News, the “buzz words” will soon become part of a parallel universe in which truth is tweaked to fit Republican politics – and to influence the beliefs of a large number of party faithful.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for