I think that certainty can be an extremely dangerous thing. Having a healthy dose of doubt is really important. Personally, I work on having a constant background thought that I might be totally wrong — that I am not the keeper of The Truth. I try on things like “tax cuts for the rich help the economy” and “same sex marriage harms society.” In almost all cases, I don’t just find the fit bad, I can’t even fully squeeze into their absurdity before ripping them off. But it is good to try because there are little things you can learn and you can evolve on questions. Some issues I do find vague and difficult to take absolute stands on.
But I wonder about conservatives on this issue. I’m not talking David Brooks here. He’s an idiot and a hack, but some intellectual sunlight really does make it to his brain. But you have to wonder about the conservative truth believers — and that is most of them. And then you really have to take a look at people like David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. They were two of the people behind the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) — the group that staged a “sting” against Planned Parenthood, using the usual tactics of highly edited footage made to look like something that wasn’t going on was — in this case that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue.
I read a really good Dahlia Lithwick article about it, The Anti-Abortion Activists Targeting Planned Parenthood Have a Slew of Legal Troubles. Thus far, there have been 11 investigations of Planned Parenthood and all of them found that the group was (as expected) squeaky clean. But the most recent out of Texas turned the whole thing on its head, “The Harris County district attorney, announced the surprise indictments against the Center for Medical Progress’ David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for the felony of tampering with a governmental record; Daleiden received a second indictment for the misdemeanor prohibition on the purchase of human body parts.”
Not that it matters. In the end, this will be just like it has been with James O’Keefe. These two will get a slap on the wrist. Maybe they will even go to jail for a while. But the money will continue to flow in and they will continue to be stars in the conservative movement. But this whole movement of young “sting” operatives has yet to result in a single actual discovery. In the case of the CMP, an enormous amount of time and energy was put into the effort. And like always, they found nothing. This is normally the case when one investigates an outrageous claim. When you shoot for the moon, you almost always miss.
But conservatives don’t seem to care about the truth. The nicest way you can put it is that they think they already know the truth. So it really doesn’t matter that they take dozens of hours of video, cut it up to make it look like something bad is going on, and then release it. The ends justify the means because they just “know” that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue. But I suspect I’m being far too charitable. Knowing conservatives it is just a matter of their side winning. (What continues to amaze me is that the mainstream press takes these adolescent pranksters seriously; have journalists no pride?)
Lithwick goes over in exhaustive detail all the legal problems that David Daleiden and CMP are having. At every turn they lose. As she put it, “The law is — we forget — different from politics, and even as politics becomes ever more a fact-free enterprise, the law is not.” This, of course, hasn’t stopped Congress and various state legislatures from acting as though CMP were on the level. But then, they are just looking for any excuse to end reproductive rights.
What it does all mean is that American conservatism is a kind of cult. Everyone in it just “knows” the truth and they will believe everything that confirms their beliefs. In fact, things that push against their beliefs make them believe it all the more strongly. It’s a very dangerous situation, given that these people will eventually be in control of this country and along with it by far the biggest military in the world.