That's not a rhetorical question, I really want to know. No, they don't all lie, and no, not all lefties tell the truth all the time, but we've really seen an epidemic of lies, and un- or half-truths on the right recently, and it's hard to fathom. Bet you didn't know Jimmy Carter was a traitor till Powerline told you. Bet you didn't know that David Corn supported Jeff Gannon till Instapundit cherry-picked sentences from Corn's column. Bet you didn't know that the left hates gays till Andrew Sullivan told you.
Some of you might have seen over at my place that I took Powerline to task for reprinting Ann Coulter's patently false allegation that the NYTimes op-ed page was outing the gay children of prominent conservatives. I wrote to Powerline twice and presented them with evidence; I asked them to retract their statement; they didn't, nor did they write back.
My question, quite simply, is: why? Why would you intentionally advance a falsehood? If I received an email like that, I'd correct the record, out of a sense of obligation more than anything else.
Off the top of my head, here are a few ideas about why this could be; I'll discount the idea that conservative bloggers are born with a predisposition to lie:
1) Right-wing bloggers view blogging as purely partisan: every action has a strategic goal, and if the truth is involved, fine, if not, fine. (Along the same lines, many of you probably read this piece about bullshit.)
2) They have really convinced themselves that everything they say is either literally true, or true in spirit (i.e., maybe the NYTimes didn't out gay children of conservatives, but libruls would sure like to do that).
3) "the blogosphere [is] all about speed and therefore d[oes] not allow for fact-checking," according to a paraphrase of John Hinderaker.
Surely some of you have other ideas. I'd be interested to know.
But it seems to me that if we can't answer this question, "why do conservative bloggers lie?," the group of people that increasingly identifies itself as the "reality-based community" is going to continue to have real problems. There's all this (nonsensical) talk in the punditocracy about how the left has to "stand for something"; more sensibly, James Carville, among others, claims that we have to create a "narrative" of what we stand for. But we also have to stand against something, and create a narrative of what we're against. Personally, I'm strongly against apparently pathological liars having a lot of influence in our political system. But despite the overwhelming evidence that the right-wing blogosphere has an at best uneasy relationship with the truth, we haven't managed to make this fact a commonplace in American political discourse. And it needs to be.
Nothing in this post is surprising; we all know that conservative bloggers lie all the time, and we're not even surprised when they do. But it's precisely that fact, that lack of surprise, that's our problem. If it's so obvious to us that they lie all the time that we hardly even think about it, how can we communicate this effectively to people who don't know it? Doesn't this mean we need to ask this basic question, ask it publicly, and ask it often?
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)