The 180 Alert

How The Things Said On The RIght Couldn’t Be Further From The Truth.

It goes without saying that politicians on all sides have a tendency to bend the facts to fit their rhetoric. A little lie here, a little lie there, it’s common knowledge and accepted. In fact most of us have to be convinced that something a politician said isn’t a lie. But the voices of the modern right have taken the art of political distortion to a new level.

The 180 Alert
I’d like to introduce you to the latest right wing weapon I call “the 180.” Increasingly, we find our friends on the right saying things that aren’t just lies, but literally are the complete opposite of the truth. You see if you say something that is just a little untrue then people can look to the left or look to the right and see the actual truth, they can identify that what you said isn’t entirely correct. The solution to this problem, point in the complete opposite direction of the truth. Now when we look to the left or right we don’t see a thing, because the truth is behind us.

Let me give you a few examples of how this works:

RIck Perry recently suggested that scientists take money to lie about global climate change
As Joe Romm said last night on Countdown, “it’s politicians that take money from corporations to say things that aren’t true.”

See how that works? Rick Perry is a politician who accuses scientists, literally people who get paid to tell the truth and who have what they say vigorously vetted by other people who get paid to tell the truth, of taking money to lie. He hopes that in looking at scientists to find lies, you’ll not notice what he’s been up to.

A politician accusing a scientist of taking money to lie, nothing could be further from the truth.

Ok, that one was too easy. How about another?


Rick Perry recently suggested that the “greatest threat to our country” is President Obama.
So Rick Perry, a Governor who has flirted repeatedly with secessionist language accuses the President of the United States of being our greatest threat? See how that is completely the opposite of the truth? Rick Perry has repeatedly made veiled threats of secession, breaking up the union, maybe you recall the last time this happened, I think it was called the Civil War, but the President, he is the real threat.

Now I know my friends on the right are going to argue that Rick Perry doesn’t mean it. And I would tend to agree. First, Texas gets way to much money from the federal government to ever leave the union. Beyond that, I don’t believe Rick Perry is serious about secession, but he does benefit from having people on the right and in Texas believe that he does. I argue that if you benefit from the idea of secession, then you are a secessionist. This claim gains additional strength when you consider that when given opportunities to rebuke secessionist talk, Rick Perry has chosen not to do so.

Now I know that my friends on the right and the left may also argue that PolitiFact just wrote an article saying that Rick Perry never spoke of secession. I encourage you to watch the Rick Perry clip above and decide for yourself. You’ll note that he does not deny or rebuke the idea. So long as he chooses to benefit from secessionist talk he is a secessionist.

See how the 180 alert works? Rick Perry talks about dissolving the union for political gain but to distract you from this now that he is running for president, he points at President Obama and says “he’s the greatest threat.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

How about another?


Michele Bachmann claims that the S&P downgrade proves her position on the debt ceiling was right.
In the event you forgot, Michele Bachmann refused under any circumstance to vote to raise the debt ceiling. When S&P downgraded the US credit rating she claimed that the downgrade and the subsequent market volatility proved she was right.

However, when you look at S&P’s clarification of the credit downgrade, you find that the exact opposite is true. S&P argues that one of the chief reasons for the downgrade was the political brinkmanship by Tea Party politicians like Michele Bachmann. In the words of S&P:

More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011.

Since then, we have changed our view of the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy, which makes us pessimistic about the capacity of Congress and the Administration to be able to leverage their agreement this week into a broader fiscal consolidation plan that stabilizes the government's debt dynamics any time soon.

Michele Bachmann’s brinkmanship, and others like her, coupled with their failure to understand the importance of the debt ceiling issue is one of the primary factors that led to the S&P downgrade. Her claim that S&P’s decision confirms her position is correct is 180 degrees from the reality. Yet again, nothing could be further from the truth.

How about another example? Here is one of my favorites!

We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.
This two parter is a colossal failure of logic. Let’s look first at the revenue idea. As has been demonstrated here and repeatedly by economists and the data, we do indeed have a revenue problem. Taxes are at near historical lows, and are at their lowest point in 60 years. So the idea that we don’t have a revenue problem is 180 degrees from the truth. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The second notion is equally untrue. You may recall that prior to the Bush administration we had a budget surplus. Government, aside from Bush’s added expenses, hasn’t really grown in the way we’ve been led to believe. The programs we are talking about cutting have not grown. We do not have a spending problem outside of the unfunded spending put in place by our friends on the right. Here is a little chart or three and an article on this point.

Defict: Bush v. Obama

CBPP Bush Deficit Chart

2011 Deficit - CBO

This last chart is amazing. You see, the bars on the left are the Bush policies and their impact on the current budget. The two bars on the right are the remaining Obama stimulus ($134) and the budget surplus ($47 billion) we would have if not for the lingering impacts of the Bush spending on tax cuts, wars, Medicare Part D etc.

How about more evidence that we do not have a spending problem? The recent debt ceiling deal will lower our government spending as a percentage of GDP to it’s lowest level since the 1950s.

You see, not only do we not have a spending problem, but there are third and fourth lies tucked inside there. The implication is that the democrats, and President Obama are responsible for the deficit. They are the ones responsible for all this spending. The additional argument is that our social safety net is the problem, you are the problem. Yet when you look at the data, the data tells you that it is Republican spending during the Bush administration that got us here, not the democrats, not President Obama, and not the social safety net, and certainly not you.

The argument that we have a spending problem and that it is President Obama, nothing could be further from the truth.

I could go on for page after page on this, well, maybe just one more example.

Recently Warren Buffet suggested that we should consider raising taxes on the rich to help with our budget issues. Fox News and the myriad of voices on the right respond by claiming he is a socialist and this is class war.
This is one is quick and easy. Warren Buffet is a capitalist who has earned billions of dollars from various investments. The idea that he is a socialist, nothing could be further from the truth.

The second notion that asking the wealthy to pay their fair share is class warfare, well, this chart dispels that myth.

Income Gains Since 1971

Income and wealth is at an all time high for the top 10% and flat or decreasing for most of the bottom 90%. The claim that the bottom 90% is waging class warfare on the wealthy, well, nothing could be further from the truth.

But don’t take my word for it, take a moment for a smile and watch Jon Stewart point out the absurdity of this claim.


The real power of the 180 degree lie is that it gets us to look away from the truth. It tricks us into looking in the wrong direction, it makes us focus on the wrong thing. My guess is you have a bunch of 180 degree lies you’ve spotted on your own, you’ll probably find them everywhere. I would suggest that whenever we hear the right make any claim, we casually glance over our shoulder, my guess is we’ll find the truth in the opposite direction of where the modern right is pointing.



A bonus 180... Lamar Alexander claims that republican filibusters aren’t obstructionist, that the democratic majority is...180 Alert!

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