MoveOn.org, an organization favoring the Democratic Party that has gained political strength mostly through its use of the internet, has apparently joined the political big-boys in embracing deceptive manipulation of the voters as an acceptable way for an organization’s leaders to buy political influence.
According to FactCheck.org, MoveOn is sponsoring an ad campaign that lies about the voting record of specific Republican opponents. Their summary of the case says,
MoveOn.org Political Action attacks three Republican House members in TV ads saying they were "caught red-handed" supporting money spent on Halliburton contracts and wasteful Iraq projects. But a majority of Democrats voted the same way on most of the same measures, usually overwhelmingly. MoveOn endorses one Democratic House member who voted the same way 10 out of 14 times, and two senators who voted for the same measures every time they reached a recorded vote in the Senate.
Another ad says the same three Republicans were "caught red-handed" taking donations from military contractors while failing to support penalties for contractors who overcharge. In fact the donations were relatively small and MoveOn offers no evidence the votes were influenced by money. Furthermore severe penalties already exist for fraud against the Pentagon. What the targeted Republicans opposed were Democratic proposals to increase penalties.
It is like taking the fact that a politician voted against the death penalty (but leaving an existing life-imprisonment statute intact), and creating an add that said that the politician voted against punishing murderers. It is a flat-out lie; as clear an example of ‘bearing false witness’ as one can find.
This is not the only time that MoveOn.org has decided to lie to us as a way of manipulating us into supporting their political causes. FactCheck.org criticized a previous MoveOn.org ad campaign.
The presence of these advertisements tells us that MoveOn.org is under the control of people who have no love of the truth. Instead, their actions speak suggest that has no qualms against sacrificing truth on the altar of political power when they judge that it would be useful to do so.
In this blog I have written several posts condemning the Bush Administration and the RNC for their campaigns of deception. It would be hypocritical of me, and of anybody who agreed with me on those posts, to say that it is permissible for MoveOn.org to bear false witness against others. Similar moral crimes deserve similar levels of moral condemnation.
And that condemnation is deserved. The habit of engineering elections with campaigns of malicious deception is doing the country a great deal of harm.
MoveOn.org’s campaign suggests that any information that goes through the leadership of MoveOn.org will be carefully manipulated to eliminate any truth that contradicts the leaders' policies. Just like the Bush Administration rewriting science reports so that they say what their chief campaign contributors want them to say, or editing intelligence reports about Iraq before the invasion in order to “fit the intelligence to the policy.” MoveOn.org will rewrite text to match the policies that its political contributors want to promote, without regard for the truth.
How Does This End?
Lies, like terrorism, will always be around. Yet, even if we cannot win the war against liars entirely, we can at least create a culture in which people lie less frequently than they do now -- where liars learn to be ashamed of their action.
I have written that the fundamental problem with Iraq is a culture that accepts and embraces violence. The people there do not have the aversion to doing harm to others that is necessary for a society to live in peace with itself. As a result, Iraqi obviously find it too easy to kill each other.
People in the United States are raised in a culture that teaches as little love of truth as Iraqi culture teaches love of life. Consequently, honesty is as scarce in this country as peace is in Baghdad.
The situation in Iraq will continue until people start to fight for a culture in which the enemy is not ‘Sunni’ or ‘Shiite’ but those who kill in the name of God (or any other name). Once Sunni learn to prefer attacking Sunni who kill to attacking Shiite who do not kill – and Shiite learn to attack Shiite who kill and leave Sunni who do not kill alone, then Baghdad will start to know peace.
In this country, once the people learn to attack liars regardless of their party affiliation -- making ‘liars’ the enemy rather than ‘Democrats’ or ‘Republicans’ – then we will start to know truth and honesty.
A Fact-Based Community
Many of us pride ourselves on membership in a fact-based community; a community that recognizes an objective, real world made increasingly knowable (or, at least, increasingly predictable and usable) through science and reason. It is a community that says that there are important reasons – reasons that touch on human welfare and, indeed, on matters of life and death, health and sickness, and personal well-being – to base our policies on sound science rather than on superstition and myth.
If these are indeed the values of the fact-based community, it stands to reason that members of that community would hold reckless belief in contempt, but hold in even greater contempt those who engage in intentional deception.
It is one thing for a starving man to be told not to eat some food that is available because it is poisonous, when the person making the report honestly believe that the food has been poisoned, though he has acquired that belief carelessly. It is quite another thing for the starving person to be told that some food has been poisoned by somebody who knows that the story is false, but who wishes to keep the food for himself, and knows that lies are sometimes even more useful than violent threats as a tool for manipulating others.
While myth and superstition are contrary to fact, lies are contrary to fact as well, and advanced by those who know this, but do not care. America and the world would benefit, I believe, from a fact-based community willing to assert that it is important to care.