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The Conservative Curse of Gullibility

Ronald Reagan said, “The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so.” When he said that I absolutely agreed with him. Liberals live in a fantasyland where beliefs supersede facts, I believed. What my bias prevented me from seeing at the time was that what might be true, to some degree, of liberals was to a much greater degree true of me and my conservative compatriots.

Sure, every human tends to succumb to confirmation bias, but I’ve come to see that it’s also true that we can overcome those biased beliefs through open-mindedness and objective, fact-based education. And, as I’ve increasingly observed, liberals—generally being better educated—are more likely to approach issues with an open mind and a willingness to base their beliefs and decisions on objective data.

Unsupported Conservative Claims

These thoughts whirled about in my mind as I recently spent a few hours sequestered in a car with close friends who are avid Trumpists. Throughout the long drive, the radio was tuned to conservative talk shows. Among the many ludicrous claims I heard the hosts and guests make were 1. George Floyd died from a fentanyl overdose, not from loss of oxygen caused by Officer Chauvin’s knee cutting off his air supply, and 2. “Democrats want to create a police state and take away all our rights.”

Both of those claims are demonstrably false. Let’s assess each of them:

1. Among those making the George Floyd overdose assertion are Fox News, Tucker Carlson, Candace Owens, and Kanye West (who has now admitted his error and apologized for it). But the radio show I was subjected to had as its guest the author of a book carrying the title, They’re Lying to You: The Media, The Left, and the Death of George Floyd.

a. The author, Liz Collin, was a prominent reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune while, simultaneously, her husband, Lt. Bob Kroll, served as president of the Minneapolis police union. Both Collin and Kroll sought to keep their marital status and potential conflict of interest from the public.

b. Collin and Kroll are both stalwart law-and-order supporters as long as the subject is protests over police brutality. Lock up the protestors—“terrorists” according to Kroll—and throw away the key. But let the crickets chirp when club-wielding anarchists attack the Capitol Building in an attempt to overthrow a legitimate election.

c. Collin and Kroll are both, not surprisingly, avid Trump supporters.

d. Collin’s new book—the one mentioned above—begins with these disclaimers:

"Author, editor, and contributors to this book shall not be held liable or responsible for any loss or damage allegedly arising from any information, opinion, commentary claim, or suggestion contained within this publication. This creative work does not intend to defame any of the subjects, persons, organizations, and other entities mentioned herein. The facts, figures, sources, data, and references contained herein have been vetted; however, the publisher, author, editor, and contributors offer no claim or guarantee to the veracity and accuracy whatsoever and assume no liability for the consumption and use of the visual and textual information contained within this publication.”

In case some of that bloviating blew past you, here’s a one-sentence summary: “Don’t hold us responsible for any inaccuracies and/or outright lies you will read in this ‘creative work.’” Did you catch that term in the book’s disclaimer? It’s a creative work. There is a legitimate genre known as creative nonfiction; its purpose is to present true stories based on verifiable facts in an engaging style that reads more like fiction. But if a work of creative nonfiction really is based on verifiable facts there should be no need for an extended disclaimer such as the one included in Collin’s book.

The Truth Is Whatever My Team Declares

Sadly, the radio show’s audience will, almost universally, accept as gospel everything the host and guest said. Critically assessing their claims is not necessary; they’re members of my team, so they must be right.

2. In three hours of driving, I heard several radio programs. Interestingly, if I remember correctly, each of them made the claim that if Democrats take control of Congress, they will seek to create a police state. Anyone who doubts that “conservatives” (Trumpists) are openly accusing Democrats of wanting a police state need only do an Internet search. Here are several examples from the many titles I came across:

Those are just a few examples from among the many. Trumpists are furiously attempting to paint Democrats as the “police-state” party. Yet these same Trumpists have also repeatedly claimed that Democrats want to “defund the police.”

So, which is it? A police state or no police? Can a nation without police be a police state? Ashton Cohen attempts to reconcile the two conflicting notions in “A Police State Without Police.” Cohen states,

Like any good authoritarian regime, we have seen Democrats concoct conspiracy hoaxes to go after their political opponents. They attempted to unseat President Trump and circulated false information to the FBI to obtain warrants to illegally spy on his administration. Even before the raid on Mar-a-lago (sic), we saw Democrats weaponized the FBI to target ordinary parents who protested curricula taught to their children at school board meetings.

Like Collin’s book, Cohen’s article should have a disclaimer absolving the author of responsibility for any false assertions. Cohen begins the paragraph with the unsubstantiated claim that “Democrats concoct conspiracy hoaxes to go after their political opponents.” Seriously? Democrats concoct conspiracy theories? Please read “The Conspiracy Theories A Conservative Must Believe Today” so I can move on from that lunacy.

Cohen then claims, “Democrats like Rashida Talib and Ilhan Omar want to eliminate all police and prisons,” but again provides nothing to document his assertion. I suspect he came to that conclusion from reading “Ilhan Omar Says police Shouldn't Exist After Learning Some Cops are Jewish,” which is from a satirical website.

Masters of Projection

As others before me have astutely noted, conservatives—Trumpists especially—are masters of the art of projection. The crimes they accuse liberals of committing are often the very deeds they themselves are guilty of.

I was wrong when I sided with Ronald Reagan’s assertion that “The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so.” However, correcting Reagan’s statement requires just one word change. Replace liberal with conservative and The Gipper was spot on.


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