Thursday, November 25, 2004

Apocryphal Tales 101

If anyone at your Thanksgiving table mentions that the Declaration of Independence has been banned at a Cupertino elementary school, you may reassure them that this is not the case. However, you may point out that the timing of this particular false news story (over a holiday weekend) means that the lie will fester uncontradicted for several days. Soon, it will become entrenched as another example of liberal overreaching in the conservative narrative.

And this is how it happens. Conservatives have a narrative buoyed by hundreds of dubious tales such as this one, and because these falsehoods confirm existing bias they persist even when contradicted by overwhelming evidence. This process of accepting or rejecting new information based upon its compliance with existing viewpoints is a natural and unavoidable property of human consciousness. The phenomenon is shared by all humans, regardless of political affiliation. However, political conservatives knowingly exploit this weakness, as is demonstrated by this event. The plan is: get the story out unchallenged, let it sink in, and then drop it. Then, wait a few months and "remind" everyone about that time liberals were banning the Declaration of Independence. On the off chance that the veracity of their claim is challenged, simply change the subject and wait for another opportunity to retell the tale when the current challenger is absent.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
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