This morning I noted that an anonymous top Romney campaign operative is now defending that false ad attacking Obama by claiming that all political ads take things out of context, and that by definition all all political ads are “manipulative” and “propaganda.”
Steve Benen makes an important point about this, pulling in a point from philosopher Harry Frankfurt’s book, “On [B.S.].” Benen notes that the book draws
a distinction between b.s. and lies. The key difference is considering the truth irrelevant.
A liar makes false claims. A b.s. artist doesn’t much care what’s true or false, because facts are extraneous details that have no bearing on the person’s larger agenda. Liars care what’s true and deliberately say the opposite; b.s. artists are indifferent to what’s true and tend to see facts as inconveniences that simply get in the way.
In this case, the Republican campaign has been quite candid about it perspective on this, and has repeatedly said that the dishonest ad “worked” and was “effective” because it generated attention and an angry response...
Truth, facts, evidence, reason, decency, fairness — for Romney and his team, none of this matters. It’s not that they’re considering whether to be honorable; they’ve convinced themselves that the question itself is irrelevant.
It’s plainly obvious that this is the case. Romney top adviser Eric Fehnstrom told Dave Weigel on the record that the controversy generated by the ad’s use of Obama’s words was “all deliberate” and “very intentional.” A second Romney adviser, Stuart Stevens, justified the plainly misleading use of Obama footage by claiming that, hey, Obama did say those words, right? And Romney’s New Hamphsire adviser said the same thing, and even added that increased media attention to the ad’s dishonesty was a positive for the Romney campaign.
Now we have a top Romney operative stating flatly that they view political ads as “propaganda,” in effect suggesting there are no reasonable standards of fairness and accuracy that can be applied to them. Yes, this latest comes from an anonymous operative. But is there any doubt at this point that this is exactly how the Romney team sees things? Maybe it’s just me, but the broader pattern here seems kind of newsworthy.