In a recent New York Times article, statistics from PolitiFact are conveniently organized to help us visualize two things that are already well known: First, that reality has a liberal bias. And second, that the more bullshit GOP candidates spew, the more successful they become.
The three biggest liars on the list are -- surprise -- Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx). A whopping 84 percent of Carson’s fact-checked statements were ruled false (from “mostly false” to“pants on fire”), as were 76 percent of Trump’s and 66 percent of Cruz’s. On the other hand, only 4 percent of Carson’s and 7 percent of Trump’s statements were ruled “mostly true” (none of their statements were ruled “true”). This incredible degree of dishonesty shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been following the campaign season; indeed, by now it is clear that the more deceitful these candidates become, and the more they get called out for this deception, the more enthusiastic their supporters grow.
Just think about it. Trump is a natural bullshitter (nobody becomes a real estate and casino magnate without this skill), and his campaign has been full of brazen lies since he first announced his candidacy. And he has been the frontrunner for almost as long. Like most heedless egomaniacs, the Donald is immune to facts and objectivity. He is a bullshit artist with, as he puts it, one of the “worlds greatest memories,” creating his very own reality and surrounding himself with yes-men advisors like Michael Cohen (who even managed to baffle the straight-faced Jake Tapper with his Trump worship) to support this reality. The New Republic’s Jeet Heer put it sharply in a recent piece:
“Trump wants to take us to a land where subjectivity is all, where reality is simply what he says.”
What is most impressive about the endless stream of bullshit that flows from Trump is that it is somewhat immune to fact-checking. This is because so much of what he says is based on his world-class memory and inside information from anonymous (dare I say, imaginary) experts. For example, he has claimed that he learned Mexico is sending its “rapists” and “criminals” over from his discussions with “border patrol people” -- which PolitiFact rated “pants on fire,” for what its worth. And whenever he is confronted about these unsupported claims, it is the biased liberal media (which includes Fox News) that is being unfair to him.
Trump’s refusal to back down from each outlandish and unsubstantiated claim that he makes seems to have infected the entire GOP primary. (But if we’re being honest, bullshit infected the Republican Party long before Trump came around -- he has just taken it to a new level.) It is hard to remember a time when candidates have lied so carelessly and so easily weaseled their way out of any and all criticism by blaming the liberal media.
And the more candidates emulate Trump in his dishonesty, the more successful they become. Take Carly Fiorina, who has 50 percent of her statements ruled false by PolitiFact, and 28 percent ruled true. The former CEO of Hewlett Packard told a massive lie about a fake Planned Parenthood video in front of over 20 million people at the second debate in September, and even after a lunatic shot up a Planned Parenthood because of this kind of rhetoric, she remains firmly dedicated to it. Though her polls have since fallen to around 2 percent, she experienced a huge bump after describing this fictitious video and being justly criticized by the media.
The two candidates who have challenged Trump the most are Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, and, as I said above, they’re in the top three, along with Trump, in false statements. Cruz is currently in second place in the polls, and he climbed there on a heap of lies and distortions. More recently, he has used tragedies -- the Planned Parenthood shooting and the San Bernardino shooting -- to climb in the polls. After Robert Dear shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic and was revealed to have uttered “no more baby parts,” Cruz made the asinine claim that he was a “transgendered left-wing activist,” even though he was a anti-abortion extremist who had clearly been influenced by rhetoric that Cruz has made a career out of. Since the San Bernardino shootings, Cruz has attempted to blame the Obama administration and has made false claims that one of the shooters was in communication with ISIS terrorists -- which he has repeated multiple times, even after FBI officials denied such communication. Slate’s William Saletan ably exposes these lies in recent piece.
It seems that with the arrival of a bullshit artist like Trump, bullshit has wholly conquered the Republican party. Which is not to say that that Republicans haven’t been duplicitous for a long time, which they have. But this dishonesty has become more and more blatant, as if they’ve come to realize that their base is either too ignorant to realize or too angry to care. Besides, the more the media calls them out for lying, the more dedicated and excited their supporters become, as if they are up against one vast left-wing conspiracy. When recently called out for her lies about Planned Parenthood and questioned whether she regrets using the kind of rhetoric that led to a shooting, Carly Fiorina simply exploded, testily declaring that “this is a typical left-wing tactic.” It is almost a badge of honor for Republicans to be called out by the “liberal media.”
But here’s the thing: as I stated above, reality has a liberal bias. The PolitiFact graphic that the Times put together illustrates this, with the top ten liars all being Republican and the most fact-based at the bottom all being Democrats (Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bill Clinton). If anything, the mainstream media has a corporate bias, and does not promote anything that can be labeled “left-wing.” (A recent statistic that ABC World News has devoted 81 minutes to Trump and 20 seconds to Sanders during this campaign season reveals how silly the liberal media myth really is.)
Climate change is a good example of how reality has a liberal bias. To be successful in the Republican party, you either have to outright deny the science of climate change or minimize it to such a degree that it becomes a rather trivial issue, greatly exaggerated by environmentalists and liberals. However, just because the media covers climate change as the scientific reality and global threat that it is, does mean that there is a liberal bias. The Republican party has long been anti-intellectual, but in recent years, it has become increasingly anti-factual. This is what happens when your ideology is based on a mishmash of free market fundamentalism, religious fanaticism, and blind nationalism. When reality tends to contradict the majority of what you believe, your statements tend to be on the side of fiction.
Unfortunately for the United States, this GOP primary is not fiction, but reality, and it has proven Mark Twain correct; the truth is indeed stranger than fiction.