31 May 2012

Caruba: he has his own special set of facts

Alan Caruba has a column out.  It's mostly the same standard dreck ("Increasingly, commentators have begun to describe Obama in psychological terms ranging from pathological narcissist to megalomaniac.") but he also makes a few interesting claims that are worth examination, since they're often repeated as fact by the right-wing.
Today, unemployment is at historic highs.
In what sense are they historically high? They were numerically higher during the early 80s, and they were higher for much longer during the Great Depression. Is there any way this statement is remotely related to reality?
Obama added five trillion dollars to the national debt, more than the combined debt since Washington held office
This is an absurd statement, and not based in any fact. In real wealth, the debt was nearly double its present level under FDR, remaining at such a level until the Eisenhower administration. Nor is it true measured as a percentage against GDP. And even in nominal dollars, it would be asinine to credit Obama with all the debt beginning from his first day in office.  And that's all ignoring, of course, the plain fact that Obama came into office during a recession.

The problem here, of course, is the phenomenon of epistemic closure: an audience and group of pundits in ideological lockstep who never venture outside of their bubble of agreement.  Caruba's cavalier falsehoods are so seldom challenged that he doesn't even bother with a patina of research.  Why should he go to the trouble?

Unfortunately, this produces sloppy thinking and discourages critical analysis, as memorably described in David Frum's "When Did Conservatives Lose Touch with Reality?"

When I asked Caruba about his strange nonfactual statements - what a less charitable person that myself might call "egregious lies" -  he replied:
@Alexander. Well, you hve your facts and I have mine. Apparently you are unaware of Obama's stimulus program, his opposition to cutting taxes, his war on energy, etc.
He has his own facts.  That actually explains a lot.

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