Friday, May 13, 2016

Your Own Facts

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.

I have read or heard those words (originally attributed to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan), or variants of them, in any number of articles, blog postings and commentaries. Invariably it's coming from a left-leaning author or speaker excoriating some conservative politician or pundit for inaccurate, misleading or just plain fabricated claims about science, history, politics, social matters and so on.

It is a long-held belief of mine that there is a vastly lower level of inhibition on the right than on the left to support political arguments with assertions that lack a firm basis in fact. I wrote about this a long time ago in the context of the steady stream of crazy right-wing propaganda I used to get sent to me by a close relative who meanwhile seems to have moved on to other leisure pursuits. Democrats just seem to be, well, more ashamed of peddling nonsense in the guise of facts.

Maybe it's the media I consume, or the company that I keep, that leads me to that belief. This study would tend to support me, although I'm not sure it really stands up to statistical scrutiny. This more recent New York Times op-ed piece by a Politifact fact-checker that compares the accuracy of statements made by some leading Republicans and Democrats does seem to show more persuasively (for me, at least) that there are a lot more whoppers being told on the right than on the left.

I was startled and dismayed, therefore, to come across this graphic shared a few months ago on a Facebook page by one of my more staunchly liberal friends, along with some comment signaling general agreement with the statement in the graphic:

Now, one may look at this and say, "yeah, it does seem kind of funny". Maybe it conforms to a general sense that the country, or the world, is controlled by a small circle of individuals who use their enormous wealth to perpetuate a rigged system that enables them to keep and grow that wealth at the expense of everyone else. Maybe it makes one want to reflexively click that "share" button on Facebook to pass the message on. Maybe I even agree with the sort of underlying sentiment about the outrageous influence of the few over the many. But when I see you share this specific thing with me, or something like it, I am pretty shocked.

I'm shocked—and, as a Hebrew-American, personally insulted—because you are sharing with me one of many incarnations of the "international Jewish conspiracy" trope. Do a Google search on "Rothschild central bank meme" and look at the images that come up, and draw your own conclusions about the company in which you find yourself. Then maybe read up a little on the history of this topic; here's one summary.

I'm also shocked because you apparently don't know what a central bank is and how it is governed. Well, maybe not extremely shocked, because central banking, for mere mortals such as you and me, is admittedly a pretty dry and arcane topic. But you have probably heard of the Federal Reserve Bank (the US central bank, aka "the Fed"), and know that its activities are fairly extensively reported on in the press. The Fed's Chair (currently Janet L. Yellen) submits a semiannual report to Congress on current Fed policy (here's the latest one) and then gets grilled in an open hearing before Congress (here's that as well).  So the idea that the Fed is just a cog in the wheel of some carefully concealed international conspiracy is fairly laughable. You might also want to investigate how central banks actually work and then consider how it is that all but a handful of central banks could be "owned" by one diabolical family. Of course, I say all this assuming that you are a reasonable and intelligent person.

Finally, I'm shocked because you are apparently browsing through Facebook posts or liberal political web sites or whatever with your BS detector completely switched off. My dear leftist/Democrat/progressive friends, I expect better of you. I expect you to look at this and ask yourself, "what exactly is a 'Rothschild bank'?", and maybe Google the term to see what comes up. Then I expect you to read a few of those paranoid articles and say, "you know, I see a lot of outlandish assertions here, but not one shred of credible supporting evidence."

Then I expect you to look at that list again and realize that we're not actually "at war with" any of those countries, even though we have our beefs with some of them. The closest we come to that currently is our somewhat tense truce with North Korea. And we did fight North Korea and China in the Korean War, but China is now a key trading partner and a major holder of US Treasury debt. We fought Hungary in WWII, when they were allied with Nazi Germany, but Russia (well, the Soviet Union) was our ally in the same war, and Hungary is a member of NATO now. And Iceland? Really?

As you can probably tell, I got pretty worked up over the whole thing. But eventually I let it pass. I have known the person who shared that graphic for a very long time, and know that person to be a kind and generous soul who would never do anything to hurt anyone and who has never hesitated for a second to lend a helping hand to someone in need, regardless of the associated time commitment and personal expense. And that person is certainly no antisemite or bearer of prejudices of any kind, something I have seen tangibly demonstrated many times. I have to assume that sharing that graphic was a mistake made in haste and not some carefully considered act.

So yeah, I got over it. And then more recently I saw this video shared by a completely different Facebook friend who is a frequent sharer of left-leaning posts:

And I got upset all over again.

According to this video, the list of countries without a "Rothschild-owned central bank" is now just North Korea, Iran and Cuba. The list goes on to say that in 2000, the list also included Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Libya. But wait, what about that other list? It didn't include any of those countries. Can't these conspiracy theorists get their so-called "facts" straight? At any rate, the video goes on to provide an "explanation" of the dark conspiracy that brought those four countries under Rothschild control and how those remaining three will ultimately do so as well. All I can say is, do your homework; If you believe the content of this video after that, then please stop referring to yourself as a "progressive", because you are anything but; you are just an atavistic mouthpiece for the latest edition of a slander that goes back to medieval times.

It comes down to this: think before you post, or share, or "like", or whatever else one does these days on social media. You can't decry Republican denials of global warming (I will still continue to use that term rather than the more neutral one, "climate change"), or bogus claims of rampant voter fraud that necessitates new voter ID laws, or assertions that the President is secretly a Kenyan Muslim plotting to replace the constitution with Sharia law, and then pass on some farcical nonsense you saw on Facebook because it sort of fits your left-wing world view. If it sounds far-fetched and crazy, it almost certainly is. Just do your homework. You owe it to yourself.

My mother told me when I was small, "don't believe everything you see on television". This was long before anyone had even thought of something along the lines of the World Wide Web (a term you don't really hear much anymore, come to think of it). Today I guess she would be telling me not to believe everything I read on the Internet. It makes me think of the lyrics of a classic Frank Zappa song (one of several that support my insistence in discussions with The Young Master that Zappa invented rap); I just substitute the word "Internet" for "TV set".


  1. How is the war with Iceland going, anyway? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?