I was listening to the radio recently—sports talk radio, ironically—and the subject of manufacturing jobs and Food Stamps came up; specifically, why there are so few manufacturing jobs and why so many Americans find themselves on Food Stamps. The host, Colin Cowherd, took a caller identifying himself as the owner of a manufacturing corporation, who then went on to say that really, the problem was high school principles and others pushing kids to go to college instead of trade schools.
I wasn’t surprised. This is a common meme in conservative politics, the idea that there are plenty of jobs, we just don’t have enough people who are properly trained to do them. Oh, and the rest are just lazy bums who don’t want to work and would rather collect Food Stamps.
But think about that for a second: the reason for the loss of manufacturing jobs in this country and the increase of food stamp recipients is because high school principles want kids to go to college? Really? That’s the explanation for the more than 46 million Americans on Food Stamps (not surprisingly, Cowherd and the caller bought the right wing lie that there are more than 100 million); that’s the reason manufacturing jobs account for 15-20% less of than it did 30 years ago?
Welcome, friends, to the shell game that is conservative media—the pall of logic that Republican politicians spout off at campaign events and interviews, the absurd nonsense that conservative talk conspiracy theorists use to distract their audience from the truth. And make no mistake: it is a shell game quite literally.
You know the game street vendors play where a little red ball is hidden under one of three shells or cups and the guy moves them around faster and faster and faster until you have no idea where in the hell the little red ball is anymore? When you hear a Republican talk, or listen to conservative radio, or turn on Fox News, that’s what’s happening.
Don’t believe me? They’re doing it with the tragedy in Charleston.
First, Lars Larson—a local host here in the Northwest—accused President Obama of politicizing the event, because he said this: “I’ve had to make statements like this too many times. Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times. We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”
Now, let’s be clear: that isn’t politicizing anything—it’s the truth. But that’s play call number one from conservatism. Accuse advocates for change of politicizing events. In other words, don’t think about what happened or how a tragedy such as Charleston, Newtown, Aurora or any number of mass shootings might be avoided in the future—think about the people you’re inclined to dislike—the ones with a “D” after their name—think about how they’re “politicizing” an event, how they’re using it for their own purposes.
Play number two: change the subject. After Lars accused Obama of politicizing Charleston, he quickly shifted to the gun debate—too many guns to control, wouldn’t stop tragedies from happening, blah, blah, blah. Again, it has nothing to do with the truth and it’s all hyperbole, but Lars is selling what his listeners want to hear so they take the bait.
And now the dealer starts really whipping the shells around—play number three: slide down a slippery slope. What if they start profiling people with guns? What if they say that those who dislike the government are more likely to be dangerous? What if they say that conservatives are more likely to be dangerous? What if? What if? What if?
Finally, play number four: go off the deep end, striking at what your audience fears most. The only thing the government can do is round up everyone’s gun—tha gove’men’s comin’ ta stealll ourrrr g’ins! Lordy, lord Bobby, roun’ up tha womenfolk an chain’p tha barn!
And… the red ball is gone. An event in which a white kid was radicalized by conservative organizations into a racist who hated black people so much that he went into a church, and even after speaking to them for an hour, shot and killed nine people including the pastor, is suddenly turned into the government—Obama—coming to take people’s guns away.
Accuse your opponent of politicizing events, change the subject—take a ride down the slippery slope—and dive right off the deep end! Play to the paranoid fears of your audience, trump up the “otherness” of your opponents, mix up the story, lie, misdirect, and whip everyone into a frenzy—facts, truth, and perspective be damned.
But make no mistake: this shell game—the conservative shell game—serves to do nothing more than divide us as a nation. And it doesn’t happen in the mainstream media, nor does it happen, frankly, in the liberal media.
The shell game happens only in conservative politics. So come on Republicans, come on conservatives… don’t you get it? It’s a trap!