The trouble with Sarah Palin is not her choice of language, nor her choice of images on her campaign literature. The trouble with Sarah Palin is that she tells lies. I have in mind one particular lie – the lie that President Obama intended and that the Affordable Care Act really did set up “death panels” to euthanize the terminally sick elderly and the physically handicapped.
If this really were true, the rage against the Obama administration would be fully justified, and the vandalism and threats against Democrats who voted for the bill would be, if not justified, understandable.
But the problem with lies is not that they provoke violence. The problem with lies is that they are not true. They make it impossible to choose candidates, set policies and legislate on the basis of reality and real issues.
Most working Americans have little leisure. They don’t have time to fact-check what politicians and TV commentators have to say. If something is said by someone who is a former governor, former Republican candidate for vice-president and a commentator for a national TV network, there is no reason why the ordinary person should not accept it as true. If the statement is contradicted by some other politician or some other commentator, who is to decide who is right? Maybe the truth lies somewhere in between.
I would call Sarah Palin a liar, but I fear she is something worse than someone who knowingly says things that aren’t true. The worse thing is someone who cannot distinguish between truth and falsehood, but only between what their side says and the other side says.
Click on Tone Versus Substance for Conor Friedersdorf’s comment on The American Scene web log, which makes the same point.
Click on PolitiFact’s Lie of the Year for background on the origins of the “death panel” claim and phrase.
Click on Sarah Palin and the Father of Lies for commentary on the Obsidian Wings group web log on how Sarah Palin is empowered by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.