NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

December 31, 2012

Before we bid 2012 farewell

As I See It
Jack Garvey

---- — What do the Mayan calendar and Mitt Romney have in common?

No, they did not both end this year.

That fabled, feared calendar only seemed to expire — for a reason so obvious that only the Internet echo chamber could hide it:

Dec. 21 was the winter solstice, a day when peoples around the world since the beginning of calendared time have stopped chopping the stone.

And started chopping another. So a stone starting at Dec. 22, 2012, will someday be unearthed in time to worry our descendants huddling in high-rise oceanfront shelters in Ohio and Utah.

Yes, I already hear the hackles of those who still insist global warming is a hoax — and those who say that arming teachers is the only “constitutional” way to keep children safe from psychos with multi-round automatic rifles.

A simple click of the mouse will deliver you into the echo chamber of their evidence. Then hit the remote to hear it all amplified on Fox News.

Thomas Frank recently noted this dynamic in “Pity the Billionaire,” an analysis of the extremist Tea Party takeover of the GOP since 2009.

Examples of distorted science and history fill the book, some of them hilarious, all of them fabricated by websites with American flag backdrops and names such as “Freedom Works” and “Americans for Prosperity.”

To research these subjects, you have a choice:

Either read the scientists and historians who dedicate years of their lives to their work — and offer lists of their own sources.

Or type a few words into a search engine that lists links with those words — beginning with websites gaining the most traffic that day or week.

For example, historians — much like grandparents — tell us that the New Deal brought us out of the Great Depression, put us back to work, made us prosper.

Conversely, numerous new, rabid websites, fueled and fanned by those who make no secret of wanting to privatize the New Deal’s every public commitment, tell us that FDR didn’t just fail but made the Depression worse.

They do this with any and all subjects, real or imaginary. Kenyan birth, anyone? Death panels? Jeeps from China?

On Nov. 1, a letter on this page claimed that Democrats intend to double Medicare deductions from seniors’ income.

An editor’s note added that this had “no basis in fact” though it was “widely posted on Internet sites.”

Quoting the AARP, the claim was “an attempt to scare older Americans” — as if FDR’s admonition against “fear itself” was not a cry to rally us, but a blueprint for how to trick us.

That editorial note is called “fact-checking,” something lost on those who prefer the convenience of “widely posted” claims.

Hence, a Romney staffer’s open declaration: “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.”

Result? A never-before-seen strategy: The Romney/Ryan campaign expected voters to disbelieve readily accessible evidence.

Doctored quotations kept tripping off Romney’s tongue, something with which Newt Gingrich bitterly confronted him during a Florida primary debate.

By summer, the GOP embraced the tactic with their convention’s indignant theme — adapted from Romney’s warp of Obama’s reference to public infrastructure into a reference to private business:

“Yes, We Built It!”

If bearing false witness were a crime, the site of the Republicans’ next national convention would be a choice between Leavenworth and Sing Sing.

With unchecked Internet sites for support, however, false witness is now “balanced” opinion, and the Grand Obstructionist Party figures to “romney” the future.

Consider a romneyed past:

The Gettysburg Address romneyed into a wish to have government “of the people, by the people, for the people perish from the earth.”

The Declaration of Independence romneyed into a groveling concession that “dissolves the bands of liberty.”

The Lord’s Prayer romneyed into a travel brochure for Las Vegas: “Give us our trespasses, lead us into temptation, deliver us evil.”

Give me one hour and a pint of Guinness and I’ll romney the Sermon on the Mount into a synopsis for “The Art of the Deal.”

One stone may be full, one political career finished, but both the Mayan calendar and romneying will continue through 2013 and beyond.

One chopped onto another stone, the other clicked from thin air.

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Jack Garvey of Plum Island can be reached at hammlynn@yahoo.com.