The Latest Lie: IRS Targeted Conservatives

Remember the video of the guy in the “pimp costume” who got advice from ACORN employees on how to run his prostitution ring? Turns out the whole story was just a lie, a doctored-video smear job on an important organization. The guy never wore a “pimp costume” and the real, undoctored videos showed that ACORN employees did nothing wrong. But a lie travels around the world before the corporate media bothers to check the facts. The “news” media blasted the story everywhere, and Congress was so outraged they forced ACORN to close its doors. And here we are again.

The corporate media is blasting out the story that the IRS “targeted conservative groups.” Some in the media say there was “IRS harassment of conservative groups.” Some of the media are going so far as claiming that conservative groups were “audited.”

This story that is being repeated and treated as “true” is just not what happened at all. It is one more right-wing victimization fable, repeated endlessly until the public has no choice except to believe it.

Conservative Groups Were Not “Targeted,” “Singled Out” Or Anything Else

You are hearing that conservative groups were “targeted.” What you are not hearing is that progressive groups were also “targeted.” So were groups that are not progressive or conservative.

All that happened here is that groups applying to the IRS for special tax status were checked to see if they were engaged in political activity. They were checked, not targeted. Only one-third of the groups checked were conservative groups.

Once again: Only one-third of the groups checked were conservative groups.

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What Is The Calculation Behind Romney’s Campaign Of Lies?

The Romney campaign has turned to a strategy of swamping the public with flat-out, blatant lies, one after another, again and again, endlessly and lavishly repeated. They do this because they are making a calculation that it will work! So what is going on? And can democracy survive this assault?

The Growing List Of Lies

This week’s lie is the “Obama gutted welfare reform” nonsense. See Bill Scher’s must-read response, Romney’s Welfare Lie: A Betrayal Of Conservatism. The reporting conveys the Romney message, like this: Romney accuses Obama of dismantling welfare reform. The lie is driven home by a massive $$-driven carpet bombing of ads.

The next-most recent lie was the “Obama is trying to keep military families from voting” lie. This lie, repeated over and over, coordinated with outside groups, reinforces the “Democrats are anti-military” narrative.

Before that was the “You didn’t build that” lie, where the Romney campaign doctored audio to make it sound as though President Obama said something he didn’t say. (And got away with it.) This lie, repeated over and over, reinforces the “Democrats are anti-business” narrative.
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Producers Vs. Moochers, Freeloaders And Losers — The Cruel Pro-Rich Propaganda Of The Right

“Producers” and “parasites.” Cruel language justifying extreme greed seems to be mainstream now. Even Presidential candidates feel free to disparage 99% of us! In today’s right-wing folklore government by We, the People is an evil thing that takes from “producers” and gives to “moochers,” “freeloaders,” and “losers.” Government and taxes “take money out of the economy.” Decision-making by We, the People is “collectivism” and “mob rule.” And those of us who think the insanely wealthy should pay fair taxes suffer from “envy.”

In today’s discourse wealthy elites receiving $20 million a year in “capital gains” while paying almost no taxes are “producers,” while janitors or nursing home workers, working two jobs and not making enough to pay rent and feed themselves, are “moochers” and “freeloaders.” Right.
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PROP MAIL: What A Coincidence It Would Have Been. But You Know The Answer Right?

As our inbox gets regularly flooded with examples of the right propaganda email, we look forward to dissecting them and also recognizing those that do a lot of fact checking on them. We are very interested in the facts part of them but are more fascinated with a couple of core questions.

First, where do these emails come from? The lengths of them, the similarities in structure among them and the consistency of look and feel of them suggest they come from a common source.

Second, how many people see these emails? We are continually upping our estimates, and as marketing folks, we are fascinated to consider that it is possible that millions of people are seeing these emails. Every single one.

Here’s today’s example:

What a coincidence! Politics in action.

Hey, isn’t this something! Imagine the odds of this happening.
Do you know the park in NYC that’s occupied by the Wall Street protesters?
Zucotti Park.

Did you know this park is not owned by the city?
It is owned by Brookfield Properties.

Who was just hired by Brookfield Properties as an attorney?
Vice President Joe Biden’s son.

Who sits on the board of Brookfield Properties?
Mayor Bloomberg’s live in girlfriend.

Now, guess what company just received some of the last of the Obama Stimulus $$$$$$$.

That’s right, Brookfield Properties.

Isn’t life great?

Hey, on a completely unrelated note, Wisconsin is shaping up to be the swing state in the 2012 presidential elections. Not Florida. Not Ohio. But Wisconsin.

Now, guess who owns the company that will be tabulating the
electronic votes in Wisconsin.

The biggest contributor to Obama, George Soros.
What a coincidence!

Remember what Stalin said:

“He who votes does not have power.
He who counts the votes has power”.


There are some things that are true here, the name of the park, the fact that the park is owned by Brookfield Properties and that Mayor Bloomberg’s partner sits on the board of Brookfield Properties, but what’s interesting is what is the point of bringing that up? It clearly is meant as a slam but to whom? Is it suggesting that the Occupy movement is coordinated by Bloomberg somehow? When he has been very fervently against it and was the one who cleared it out? I don’t really understand that.

Joe Biden’s son was not recently hired by Brookfield Properties. His law firm had a business relationship with part of the company in 2002 and 2003, but that is false. The stimulus fact is also not an accurate claim.

But again, this implies that the Occupy Movement is a movement by the Democrats when it is not and in fact, organized protests and uprisings generally hurt the incumbent.

Of course the kicker is the Soros / Obama / Voting Machine claim. This is what I call the Core “MissFact” the core piece of information that causes this email to get forwarded and sent around and printed out and waved in anger by conservatives; especially older conservatives who think of these emails as facts.

I am sure Soros contributed the maximum of $2,500 to Obama’s campaign, but he does not bundle for campaigns nor solicit others. So there really is no ‘biggest contributor’ and if you consider bundlers, then clearly he is not.

Soros does not own any companies or invest in them that count votes. So this is clearly a factual error. Our friends at Snopes also note, that’s not really a quote from Stalin, but at that point in the email, the damage is done.

If you tended to not be a suppporter of Obama, you’d read this and come to two conclusions; the Democrats are behind the Occupy movement and that Soros is counting the votes in Wisconsin.

And that’s the problem.



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PROP MAIL: Jay Leno Said What?

At the  end of this Email is a quote of the month by Jay  Leno.. If you don’t read anything else,  Please  Read what he  Said.
Very  well stated,  Mr.  Leno. 

The most interesting things to me so far about taking a closer look at the emails that fly around among conservatives, Republicans and their friends and family are two.

First, it is clear that each of these emails has a core error in them; the one thing that makes the email stand out and seem reasonable when it’s really not.

For example, here the core ‘mis-fact’ if you will is that that this article was written by a Washington Post columnist and published in what I suppose is considered a liberal paper. But that ‘mis-fact’ is not true and if removed, makes the rest of the email irrelevant or it should.

Or here, the ‘mis-fact’ that 15% of your salary goes to Social Security, when it’s actually 10%. In the email that 5% along with some other key mathematical errors makes a big difference.

The people at Snopes by the way do a remarkable job of fact checking and researching the emails. And we owe a hat tip to our friend Tom S for passing these onto us.

What I’ve realized, however, is that these core ‘mis-facts’ are the reason people read these, they are the hook that gets people interested. There is also a pattern of it being unexpected people agreeing if you will with the Republican / Conservative view point.

Can you believe The Washington Post printed this? See we are right.

Can you believe a Hollywood Star said this? See we are right.

The second thing that is interesting to consider about these emails is someone, somewhere, takes the time to create a false email and send it out in the rightosphere online. And I wonder about that.

The pattern is too clear, the type size as Tom pointed out to me, is extra large so older people can read. The emails are all about the same length and they follow a pattern.

A prominent ‘mis-fact’ combined with an incredulous, can you believe so and so agrees with us, said this, printed this, and then funny enough, really no ending.

We’ll keep digging on that. But no, Jay Leno didn’t say this.

The  quote of the
month is by Jay  Leno:

“With  hurricanes, tornados, fires out of  control,
mud  slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms
tearing up the country from one end to  another,

and  with the threat of  swine flu
and terrorist attacks.

Are we  sure this is a good time
to take God out of  the Pledge of Allegiance?’

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Tobacco Marketing Is Not A Thing Of The Past.

We often think that the worst transgressions of tobacco marketing are a thing of the past. Most of the claims that “Doctors prefer Camels” or that there is not certainty that smoking causes cancer are indeed moments passed but this doesn’t mean that the tobacco companies, some of the most profitable companies in the world, are not doing all they can to continue to increase their profits.

This shocking story out of the UK today showcases this clearly and tragically.

The world’s largest tobacco company has backed away from its demands to see thousands of confidential interviews with British teenagers gathered as part of a university research project into children’s attitudes to smoking.

Philip Morris International, the makers of Marlboro, has quietly dropped its Freedom of Information request to see the interviews held by researchers at Stirling University, after the company was widely condemned following revelations by The Independent in September.

Essentially the University conducted interviews with teenagers about smoking and Philip Morris wanted to see the interviews and used a Freedom of Information request in an attempt to get them and at first, they didn’t even use their name.

Tobacco marketing, from the lies of the 1950s to the disinformation of the 1960s and 1970s to “Joe Camel” in the 1980s is pervasive, powerful and devastating. The core components of the strategy to sell tobacco, essentially getting consumers to pay $7 a pack to get addicted and kill themselves, remain in place.

First, forget the facts. Not just forget them, but completely ignore them, and in fact, turn them on their head. Smoking tobacco might be bad for your health? Well, then we’ll get doctors to tell you about how good smoking is for you. (Or say, let’s get Vietnam veterans to debunk the heroism of John Kerry.)

Second, because you are selling lies, spend an enormous amount of money on the lies. Tobacco companies are selling something no rational person would buy so the spend is enormous. Even today, tobacco companies spend billions on marketing and advertising their products. (Republican groups spend more liberally and broader than Democratic groups.)

Third, do what it takes to make the sale or win the race. Most companies wouldn’t have the gumption to do what Philip Morris did here, but PM doesn’t care one bit. They are protecting an enormous cash cow and they will do what it takes to protect it, and make it even larger if possible. (See Karl Rove.)

The theory and strategies behind tobacco marketing work. That’s why they keep doing them.

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Let’s Just Lie: Hall Of Fame Edition

Well, hats off to David Nir who posted on Daily Kos about one of the great Fox News lies of all time. This time, adding to the US Constitution.

There are of course just seven articles in the Constitution, not 28 as Fox News claims here.

Imagine millions of people seeing this and believing that the Constitution says this, and therefore, Justice Kagan is wrong, and she recuse herself. It’s just like we’ve noted with PROP MAIL, take a ‘fact’ and yell and scream about it and normal people will have the normal reaction.

But again here, the fact really isn’t.

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PROP MAIL: Social Security I Paid. Didn’t You?

One thing many people don’t realize, or don’t really believe, is that the Right is not intent on just tweaking government social programs such as Medicare and Social Security, but it wants to completely eliminate them forever.

Social Security is an extraordinarily successful program that, especially in these tough economic times, helps tens of millions of Americans every single month literally survive. However, even though it represents people working and saving and then getting those savings back, the Right wants to end it.

It goes without saying that one of the ways the Right is spreading false information is with PROP MAIL, or propaganda email that is spread and spread with the click of a forward button. We just got handed one such email.

Remember, not only did you contribute to Social Security but your employer did too. It totaled 15% of your income before taxes. If you averaged only $30K over your working life, that’s close to $220,500.

If you calculate the future value of $4,500 per year (yours & your employer’s contribution) at a simple 5% (less than what the govt. pays on the money that it borrows), after 49 years of working you’d have $892,919.98.

If you took out only 3% per year, you’d receive $26,787.60 per year and it would last better than 30 years (until you’re 95 if you retire at age 65) and that’s with no interest paid on that final amount on deposit! If you bought an annuity and it paid 4% per year, you’d have a lifetime income of $2,976.40 per month.

The folks in  Washington have pulled off a bigger Ponzi scheme than Bernie Madhoff ever had.

One thing we’ve noticed about PROP MAIL here at Smoking Politics is that there are always some very basic “facts” that are touted loud and clearly that aren’t really facts at all and this email is full of them.

Starting right off the top, in the section I left in light green, payments to Social Security are combined 10.4% of your taxes between what you pay and what your employer pays. So that’s 10.4% not 15%. So if you work forty years, that’s $120,000 up front, 10% of $30,000 is $3,000 times 40 is $120,000 which is half of what this email claims which is $255,000.

The rest of this email is equally mathematically flawed. For example, it uses 49 years as the average time that a person works, which would imply a retirement age of 72, considerably higher than when the average American retires.

Despite long term bond rates hovering around 3%, it claims that 5% is ‘less than what the govt pays when it borrows.’ But really the 15% claim and the claim that you put away $255,000 in your career into Social Security right off the top, that’s the number that infuriates the recipient of this email, that’s the number that has them screaming about the government taking our money.

And it’s not true.

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