Thursday, August 23, 2012

This is Who They Really Are: NPR Asks Romney's Supporters About His Barack "The Welfare King" Obama Lies

"I really don't want to help somebody who just decides, 'Oh, well, I was raised on welfare. I can raise my children on welfare,' " Malcolm said. "I had a cousin who, she is a registered nurse and the stories she told me about people coming in there and having babies just so they could get more on their food stamps and more on their welfare. It's like no, I don't want to take care of those people."
I am still handing around the begging bowl in order to try to make my way to Chicon7. Two intrepid souls out of the many more visitors to WARN this week have kindly put thrown in some change. Talk about my public embarrassment and shame.

If you like WARN give their monies some company if you can--a dollar or five from a few folks can go a long way. Such gestures are appreciated, as it would make me smile, and ghetto nerds everywhere would be in your debt. Plus, if we make our goal, you get to hear some of my lurid and embarrassing stories, as well as read part of my equally laughable novella.

My obligatory and awkward NPR inspired fundraising moment ends now.
Wednesday's edition of All Things Considered on NPR featured a particularly revealing segment on Mitt Romney's lies about President Obama and welfare reform that many of you will likely find of interest.

NPR interviewed attendees at a rally for Mitt Romney, the Tea Party GOP's presumptive presidential nominee, near Pittsburgh. There, they asked Romney's supporters about the candidate's repeated, willful, and transparently naked lie, that President Obama is going to rollback welfare reform and encourage the "parasitic" and "slothful" behavior of the undeserving (read: black and brown women) poor.

It is apparent that the folks who were interviewed are deeply immersed in a Right-wing propaganda fueled alternate reality universe. Perhaps most troubling, is how when confronted with the basic fact that Mitt Romney, their chosen candidate, is lying about Barack Obama, these individuals have a moment of cognitive dissonance, and then quickly return to partisan script.

The white conservative populist base has decided that Obama is the devil; these same people will then reframe how they process the facts in order to reach this conclusion. This type of post hoc reasoning is disturbing because it can be manipulated to justify all types of anti-social behavior, behavior that is not limited to "harmless" racism, ethnocentrism, and bigotry.

At present, conservatives live in a post-truth universe: a dangerous and frothy mix of guns, god, religion, Fox News, Christian Dominionism, conspiracy theories, and Right-wing talk radio form the boundaries of their cognition and perception. The elites on the Right know that this world is an artifice and a construction based on a lie; the foot soldiers and the base really and truly believe that the lies which are spun by their social betters and "influentials" are in fact true. All Americans suffer because this particularly virulent strain of abnormal politics makes consensus on matters and challenges of shared concern almost impossible to attain.

All Things Considered offered several particularly rich examples of these processes at work. For those of us who are trying to make sense of Romney's Svengali-like hold on post-truth, conservative voters (and right- leaning independents), these exchanges are quite instructive.
The first is as follows:
So why continue beating this drum? 
Partly because people believe it. 
"We think that the fact that the work requirement has been taken out of welfare is the wrong thing to do," said Peggy Testa, attending a Tuesday rally near Pittsburgh for Romney running mate Rep. Paul Ryan. 
When told that's not actually what had happened, Testa replied: "At this point, [I] don't know exactly what is true and what isn't, OK? But what I do know is I trust the Romney-Ryan ticket, and I do not trust Obama."
The language here is immediately problematic.

One must ask who are the "people" who believe Romney's lies? White conservatives and low information voters are not a cohort that can or should be extended to include people of color. "People" should not be assumed to include those other members of the public who can readily see through Mitt Romney's lies about welfare reform and other issues.

Politics is also about how morality is tied to issues of policy, notions of citizenship, inclusion, and belonging in a given society. When the country's fault lines of race, class, and gender intersect with issues of public policy, these questions of morality become even more central and important. Political discourse is inherently a normative project, discussions of race and poverty even more so.

When Peggy Testa uses the word "wrong" to discuss welfare, she is offering up a judgement about certain  types of people and her relationship, be it imagined or real, with and to them. Many of these assumptions are fueled by stereotypes and inaccurate, second hand knowledge, about people of color and the poor.
Race matters. But, I would suggest that the most element in Peggy Testa's interview with NPR is how she emphasizes the importance of "trust." Romney has repeatedly demonstrated how he is a liar and untrustworthy; yet, Obama is somehow deemed to be not worthy of her trust. 

This can be explained by measures of relateability, idolization, and empathy. Romney is white and a conservative with values that are (ostensibly) similar to Testa's. Obama is none of those things. As such, emotion trumps reason and empirical fact. Given what research tells us about the relationship between symbolic racism, white racial resentment, and subconscious white racial bias, Obama is viewed by Peggy Testa, and those others who are stuck in the myopia of the white racial frame, as a perennial outsider and Other.

Testa and other members of the public have also been subjected to several years of a coordinated effort by the New Right and the Conservative mass media, to depict Barack Obama as illegitimate, a criminal, a fraud, and as a person who is not fit for the Office of the President of the United States of America. Moreover, the Right-wing media exists in a state of epistemic closure. Consequently, Testa, and other members of the Right-wing base, are not exposed to information that challenges their priors or views of reality. These factors have an impact on conservative and right-leaning independent voters and their political decision-making in ways that should not be minimized or overlooked.

Ultimately, Barack Obama's "blackness" is trumped by Romney's whiteness in Testa's voting calculations. Moreover, trust is in many ways first and foremost about being to able to give a person the benefit of the doubt, to treat them as you would like to be treated as you are guided by principles of human empathy. 

Peggy Testa and Mitt Romney may be worlds apart in terms of resources, power, privilege, and opportunity. But for Testa, they are tied together by a shared racial identity--which by implication includes a set of "white" political and social values--that a black man like Barack Obama could never shatter or break. 

Despite its obligatory seriousness, NPR's feature on Romney's welfare lies also has a moment of dark and unintentionally ironic humor:
Another Romney supporter at the Ryan rally said it's really tough to know what's true anymore.
"I think we always have to look at who the fact checkers are," Ken Mohn said. "There's lots of ... groups that purport themselves to be neutral, nonpartisan, but often are [partisan]."
Mohn's interview would be a great fit for a Woody Allen movie. Ken Mohn is a "victim" of Romney's lies and the Right-wing propaganda machine. But, he does not connect his confusion to how voters like him are being subjected to distortions, lies, and misrepresentations of reality by Romney and his agents in the news media. Ken Mohn is disoriented by contemporary American politics; nevertheless, he wants to stay close to the very actors who are responsible for his confusion. Pathetic. Sad.

Historians, political scientists, sociologists, philosophers and others who study race and the reproduction of racial ideologies often use W.E.B. Du Bois' classic phrase "the wages of whiteness." This language is shorthand for the unearned privileges of whiteness that are accrued by its owners, and which they are psychologically, materially, and politically invested in both protecting and expanding. In all, it is a powerful concept that explains the semi-permanence of the color line in America.

The wages of whiteness are also a type of political capital. Mitt Romney has a deep reservoir of that resource. 

He has decided that racist ads and slogans which try to link Barack Obama to the racially charged imagery of black "freeloaders" and "welfare queens" makes good political sense. White voters such as Ken Mohn and Peggy Testa are the target audience for such appeals. If NPR's story on All Things Considered is any indication, white racial resentment and anxiety is the new/old Confederate money--except that it spends quite well within the Republican Party and among its potential voters. 


CNu said...

Made a couple adjustments to that next to last paragraph magne. Seems like it still reads cogently and correctly to me.

At present, democrats live in a post-truth universe: a dangerous and Santorum-frothy mix of gay marriage, abortion rights, secular humanism, NPR, liberal democracy, privacy rights, and GE-owned NBC/MSNBC to form the boundaries of their cognition and perception. The elites on the Top know that this world is an artifice and a construction based on a lie; the foot soldiers and the base really and truly believe that the lies which are spun by their social betters and "influentials" are in fact true. All Americans suffer because this particularly virulent strain of abnormal politics makes consensus on matters and challenges of shared concern almost impossible to attain.

chaunceydevega said...

@Cnu. You know I believe that the masses are asses and the global power elite are playing a different game than the lumpen. But, for all of my sympathy and agreement with your claims, I think there are some issues about matters of degree and what we know empirically about political behavior, psychology and ideology from recent research.

1. There is no equivalent on the Left or even broad middle to the right wing echo chamber. To their credit, from the top down, neoliberal/neocon think tanks created a network of agents and info centers online and in "the real world" during the 1970s. They have legitimated their ideology and rhetoric, invented new language, and moved the public to the Right.

There has been some great empirical research using social network analysis which looks at how closely different groups (or individuals) are tied together. In essence, the Right-wing media are much denser, only reference each other, closer, and immerse their public in a complete information and world system. This is a propaganda machine and a cult.

2. There is no equivalent to Fox News. Period. They are a ruthlessly efficient machine for the circulation of Right-wing, Tea Party GOP talking points. As you know, that has been well-documented.

3. There is some good stuff out there from folks who research political psyche. Conservatives in this country over the last decade or so, perhaps even going back farther, are demonstrating strongly authoritarian leanings politically. This isn't just old Adorno F scale stuff, there are additional measures which capture traditional measures of deference to authority, with newer measures on racial affect, out group hostility, and the like.

There is a segment of democratic leaning voters who also share some of these attributes--to my memory those who most enthusiastically supported Hillary as opposed to Obama--but their authoritarianism does not color the broad spectrum of political behavior and values in the same way that it does for conservative and Tea Party GOP voters.

4. Once we factor in the different brain structures of conservatives and liberals where the former are more fear motivated, binary simple thinkers, and less tolerant of ambiguity there are some significant differences.

Some may laugh at this observation--I doubt you will--but whole segments of the U.S. public, conservatives in particular, are being given the stimuli, rationale, and conditioning to engage in mass political violence, if not widespread eliminationism.

CNu said...

1. There is no equivalent on the Left or even broad middle to the right wing echo chamber

Quite right. That right-wing echo chamber resounds with hot air and energetic rhetoric.

Meanwhile on the Obama-wing tangible deeds front, we got ABC/Disney calling the fourth year of the Greatest Depression and Long Emergency another recession - while running Minority Report grade facial recognition and data mining fully implemented on its rides at Disneyworld accompanied by paramilitary ass-kicking in Anaheim.

Who was it again that coordinated the nationwide police crackdown on the Occupy movement last year?

There is no equivalent to Fox News. Period. They are a ruthlessly efficient machine for the circulation of Right-wing, Tea Party GOP talking points. As you know, that has been well-documented.

You mean that Rupert Murdoch company that's presently getting its ass kicked in the UK for illegally wiretapping some Top people's phones?

Black Sage said...

Romney and Ryan are both very conscious of the fact that the Republican/Tea Party base is very susceptible to adhering to and believing in cheap political theatrics. The vast majority of these people are so programmed that they’ll believe pretty much anything Master Mitt and Paul broadcast. In short, it’s a loss cause attempting to alert the Republican/Tea Party factotums that they’re being lead astray. Blind allegiance and ask no questions type attitude amongst poor and working class Whites are the most important elements at work here. Over the past few decades, the Republicans and the Democrats to a lesser extent have effectively drummed a constant scare beat, targeting Whites in various ways through the media (Internet, newspaper and advertisement) that those OTHER people are gaining politically, socially and economically. And at a time to be determined in the future, you will be a slave of some sort for them (minorities).

makheru bradley said...

All of this race-baiting and Romney is only ahead with whites 53 percent to 40 percent. Da boy needs to step up his Pitchfork Ben Tillman game if he wants a chance.

Same poll (NBC/WSJ) shows Obama pitching a shutout amongst Afrikan Americans 94-0. Condoleezza had better quit hitting golf balls into Rae’s Creek and get her tight booty out on the campaign trail.

Seriously, do I dare extrapolate from these numbers that a full 6 percent of us have broken the monopoly which the corrupt two-party system has had on our minds? Hallelujah! Praise The Lord!

Anonymous said...

Jenna Jameson recently endorsed Romney.

This means Romney finally has a supporter who changes positions more than he does.

- Buddy H.

Bruto Alto said...

CDv have you read about the Koch brothers and Ryan?

Invisible Man said...

Hillary Clinton called it twenty years ago....vast right wing conspiracy, but your democratic massahs, (unlike the Republican messiahs) don't allow yall to organize into a radical front like the Tea Party. And now instead of being pissed at yo massahs you're pissed at the right wing for being effective and being organized.

And I bet yall didn't have a problem when NPR basically promoted the myth that Occupy Wall Street was a bunch of dirty trust fund hippies?

Esho Woman said...

"Jenna Jameson recently endorsed Romney."
What an idiot Romney wants to put Jenna's naked ass out of business!

The millions more whites on welfare are deserving even though they failed to succeed in the 350 of white supremacy. Blacks and Hispanic who have been subjected centuries of discrimination and finally awarded full citizenship rights less that 50 years ago are lazy, immoral, criminal & hypersexual. The GOP and their poor white sycophants do not see people of color as individuals, just as a collection of pathologies.

chaunceydevega said...

@Black sage. I want to do an open thread/series of posts here on WARN where we actually listen to rush limbaugh, mark levin, or some of the other eliminationist bloviators for a week and then write about it. I have been doing this for some time--or at least trying to--and it is chilling, truly an alternate reality. I cannot imagine the impact repeated listening has on the listener's psyches.

@mb. you saw Romney go birther today. they are desperate. and Romney is going to win. bet money on it.

@ba. thanks. will check it out.

@im. we have the new black panther party!

@ew. if you want a laugh look up the maps that show meth and drug use, teen pregnancy rates, crime, unemployment, and yes porn use and subscriptions to xxx websites. where are they? red state america. riddle you that one.

Black Sage said...


I’d love to hear some of Rush Limbaugh’s quackery laden subjects that he’s been feeding his programmed flock. I’m certain it’ll be perfect, even if merely for an abundance of personal amusement.

makheru bradley said...

@mb. you saw Romney go birther today. they are desperate. and Romney is going to win. bet money on it.

Dang, CDV, that’s a bit of a reach this early in the campaign. Romney is the candidate of the Republican establishment. His only chance is a 150 percent energized Republican base and maybe 51-52 percent of the independents. I assume someone told him that he has to go hard in Pitchfork Ben Tillman-mode to energize his base. It worked for Ronald Raygun who launched his campaign from the white supremacist stronghold of Philadelphia, Ms. Obama’s lead in the RCP average is shrinking, so you may be correct.