The Marketplace of Ideas

Interesting that Shepard Smith had to issue a disclaimer after a little chat with Joe the Plumber. It seems Joe was speaking at a rally for McCain and when asked by a person in the audience if he thought an Obama presidency meant the death of Israel, he said he’d have to agree with that.

I’ve heard Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh talk about the failure of liberal ideas, the failure of Air America, the failure of the progressive movement as a whole. The reason they give is that “these ideas just can’t succeed in the marketplace of ideas.”

Well, I have to ask a question then. If these ideas can’t succeed, why do right-wingers always feel a need to distort and misrepresent these ideas in order to prove they are not workable, or that people won’t like them?

I listened to Rush Limbaugh say today on his program that Barack Obama wants to set a limit on what people can earn, and he wants to take money from you if you work hard — anyone who earns over, say, $150K. He wants to take that money and then pick and choose to whom he will give that money from your pocket.

This is the new Republican attack — redistribution of wealth, but a dramatic exaggeration built on distortion and lies. Of course, Obama didn’t help himself by using that “spread the wealth” comment to Joe the Plumber, but these attacks are still a huge distortion of Obama’s plan.

By now you’ve probably heard of Joe Biden’s interview with Barbara West, who seized on the “spread the wealth” attack and directly question Biden about Obama’s ties to Karl Marx. Well, just about anyway. It’s classic stuff, only because West had the gall to go down the Hannity/Limbaugh talking points one by one until Biden was forced to ask if she was joking with him.

She assured Biden these were real questions.

West has become a hero to conservatives everywhere, which isn’t surprising, since she asked questions Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and all the other right-wing talking heads do every day on AM radio.

West defends her motives in this article, which also provides an analysis of the rhetoric West used:

“I did not do the interview to make headlines, but to get answers that people in the street want to know. When I’m doing fundraisers, I see vast numbers of people. My questions were reflective of what they’re asking about.”

Jill Geisler, who teaches ethics and management at the Poynter Institute journalism school, said West has a right to ask any question she wants. “Depending on where you sit, you may say, ‘Somebody finally asked the question I had,’ ” Geisler said. “Others would say it’s loaded language.”

Geisler found some of West’s language hyperbolic and described the anchor as coming from a point of view similar to those of talk-radio hosts Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh.

“I can ask you, ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ and say it’s just a question, but there’s an assumption embedded in it,” Geisler said. “There was a world view in those questions.”

Given this “world view,” and West’s denial of it, it’s interesting to note that her husband is a political and media consultant for GOP candidates and that the couple has “emceed Republican fundraisers in the local Central Florida community for at least a decade.”

Wade said she had just as tough questions for John McCain. You can make a judgment call on the truth of that statement by watching her McCain interview.

It’s hard to argue you’re giving both sides the tough questions when your first question for the Republican candidate is along the lines of “why don’t you attack Barack Obama for his associations with ACORN which has been found guilty of registering fake voters?” Similar questions followed, and West’s toughest question was, “Obama has hundreds working for him here in Florida — are you going to cut and run, or are you going to work harder?”

Again, the only way these people can win is by distorting liberal ideas to ridiculous lengths.

There’s a clever little riddle going around as well, about redistribution of wealth. You can read it here. It’s about a guy who decides not to tip his waiter and instead gives the cash to someone “more needy” — the homeless man outside. Of course, the waiter is a progressive/liberal type college student who realizes his ideals are less ideal when he’s on the losing end of the stick.

Ah, the wonderful little clever lessons we liberals are taught by well-meaning conservatives.

I first read this story on a SAAB list I’m on, and one of the more insightful folks on the list noted that “the typical waitress is middle class / working class. The typical homeless guy is lower class. The waitress’ taxes do not go up under Barack Obama’s tax plan, so “redistributing” her tip to the homeless guy is not a valid analogy.”

So again, a tale distorted.

Why not come up with a clever, witty, correct analogy?

Easy. If the clever, witty story accurately reflected the Obama plan, the author couldn’t make his or her point.

So which ideas can’t survive in the marketplace?

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