Tuesday, July 06, 2021


Over the weekend, right-wingers concocted a scandal out of nothing after the playing of the national anthem before a match involving the U.S. women's national soccer team.
Members of the right-wing social media ecosystem tried to claim that players turned their backs to 98-year-old anthem performer Pete DuPre ahead of the 4-0 win against Mexico....

Monday's game was played at UConn's Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. Myriad players for the USWNT turned toward the United States flag at one of the ends of the stadium during the anthem while others stood and faced DuPre as he performed the anthem.

The response on Fox News this morning was not to accept this sensible explanation, but to teach the controversy:
On Fox News earlier today, Dana Perino came on to discuss the false story, and ... said she believed Carli Lloyd's response.

"It makes sense to me." she said. Then she asked [Clay Travis] for his opinion.

[Travis] is a sports host from Outkick.com....

[Travis] claimed the faux outrage that ensued was believable.

"I think it's emblematic of where we are with sports now where a huge percentage of American sports fans totally think it's believable that the US women's soccer team would turn their back on a 98-year-old World War II veteran as he plays the national anthem. Not even think twice about it," [Travis] said.

So it doesn't matter if this smear is accurate -- you can't blame people for spreading the smear, according to Clay Travis, because the smear feels believable.

Does this sound familiar? It's the same argument many Republican politicians have made for why it's appropriate to talk as if the 2020 election was stolen. Greg Sargent wrote about this in March:
As the war over voting rights ramps up, Republicans are increasingly falling back on a claim that has grown ubiquitous. Republicans are deeply concerned about voter fraud because their voters believe the 2020 election was stolen from them, we are told....

At a Senate hearing Wednesday, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita insisted the expansion of vote-by-mail and other practices had “shaken confidence” in the 2020 election, and that state legislatures passing voting restrictions are merely “responding to their constituents.” ...

Similarly, the head of a new Republican National Committee group with the Orwellian title of “election integrity” committee refuses to say President Biden’s victory was legitimate, and justifies this by saying “a lot of people” have a “lot of questions.”

And Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) defends his effort to subvert Biden’s electors in Congress by insisting he merely sought to “represent my constituents,” who “do not believe” the election was “fair.”
Because right-wing messaging is highly coordinated propaganda and because consumers of this messaging reject news and information from outside their ecosystem, it's absurdly easy to create a perception on the right that a terrible thing has happened and then say that there must be something to reports of this terrible thing because a lot of people believe the reports.

But when it's clear to people outside the right-wing bubble that the reports are false, not only do we need to rebut the falsehoods, we also need to push back on the tactic of arguing that widespread belief is the same as actual evidence.

It would be useful if we had an easy-to-remember label for this form of argument. "FOF" -- feelings over facts? I'm imagining a term that can be deployed rapidly and recognizably, like "whataboutism" or "McCarthyism." A name for this tactic won't stop its use, but it could be a means of blunting its impact. Otherwise, the right will just keep using it with impunity.

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