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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

'On Bullshit,' a book that tells us the techniques of the Romney campaign

by John MacBeath Watkins

Steve Benen today referenced a lovely little book, On Bullshit, by Harry Frankfurt, who used his training as a philosopher to bring rigor to the concept of bullshit.

Perhaps the classic example of bullshit was when George W. Bush in a June 19, 2005 radio address justified the Iraq war by saying, "We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens."

It was a statement carefully written so that everything in it was true, and the effect was to get people to believe a lie. We were attacked by al Qaeda, and Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein, a man too jealous of his own power to allow such an organization to operate in his country. In short, claiming we invaded Iraq because we were attacked by al Qaeda was bullshit.

Benen mentioned the book because it seems to apply to Mitt Romney. The Romney campaign's first television ad targeting President Obama is bullshit.

As Benen noted in this post,

'To briefly recap, Mitt Romney’s very first television ad of the 2012 campaign pushes a blatant, shameless lie. In 2008, a month before the president was elected, then-candidate Obama told voters, “Senator McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.’” In Romney’s new attack ad, viewers only see part of the quote: “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”'
CBS News followed up on the Romney campaign's deceit with Romney senior New Hampshire adviser Tom Rath and got this response:

'Pressed on whether it was unfair to lop off the top of Mr. Obama's comments -- which would show the president was quoting the McCain camp -- Rath said, "He did say the words. That's his voice."
He then suggested that the more people discuss the ad, the better it is for the Romney campaign.'
Which, of course, is more bullshit. The statement "He did say the words. That's his voice." is literally true, but the intent and effect are to deceive. And the television station running the ad, WMUR, says it cannot legally refuse a campaign ad from a qualified candidate for inaccuracy. Over the years, many campaigns have been pressured to remove ads for inaccuracy, which of course is only possible if the campaign cares about whether it has a reputation for telling the truth.

Think Progress did some creative editing to demonstrate what such an ad would look like if it were about Romney and used the Romney campaign's standards of truth:


Which, of course, is not how the Obama campaign will respond.

The smartest thing they can do is portray him as what he is, a person willing to say anything to become president, without regard for truth and with no core beliefs, save that he should be rich and powerful.


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