Political Correction

How Lying About The Financial Crisis Enables The GOP's Misunderstanding Of The Occupy Movement

November 22, 2011 3:45 pm ET - by Alan Pyke

Last night on Fox Business' Follow the Money, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) reiterated a pair of connected ideas that are very popular on the political right despite clashing with established facts. In the era of Occupy Wall Street, many elected Republicans and right-wing media figures hold two articles of faith: (1) The finance industry cannot be blamed for the housing bubble and ensuing global financial crisis that put tens of millions out of work; and (2) Occupy protesters are anti-American tools of the left, working to replace capitalism with centrally planned egalitarianism. Here's how Walsh expressed the first part of that last night:

WALSH: Look, I'm no defender of the banks, the big banks especially, and if I were in Congress a few years ago I wouldn't have voted to bail them out, we have bailed them out. But come on, they didn't cause this problem. The town that I work in caused this problem. Washington, D.C. And too many folks don't understand that, or do understand that and they're just trying to purposely cause a disruption.

Notice that Walsh offers no facts or evidence to support his exoneration of the banks. No one, from the nuttiest congressman to the mayor of New York City, ever does. As we've demonstrated, the facts are not on their side. Bailout Nation author Barry Ritholtz observed recently in a Washington Post op-ed that these people eschew supporting arguments because "facts and data matter much less than a narrative that supports their interests." Indeed, the "don't blame the banks" narrative directly supports right-wing interests in the context of national Occupy momentum. Here's Walsh again:

[T]he media has been protecting and boosting this Occupy Wall Street stuff ever since it began, and I'm tired of it. It's at the point now where it's trying to, attempting to, disrupt the American way of life, and that's anti-American. Everything this little— and I'm not even gonna call it a movement, as far as I'm concerned it's a well-organized, well-funded effort, I think by far-left anti-American folks who do want to bring down what this country is all about. [...] When you look at what Occupy Wall Street advocates, which is basically some sort of socialist vision where government takes care of everybody, you can't help but think they're misguided.

Approximately four years after Wall Street's predatory lending practices and failure to regulate mortgage-backed securities produced the worst economic collapse in modern American history, protesters frustrated with these facts have taken dramatic steps to call attention to them. Many more protesters have been arrested (and even brutalized by police) than have bankers, traders, lenders or regulators. Rather than name demands, the protesters have agreed to a far-reaching "Declaration of the Occupation" that kicks off by calling out the Wall Street misdeeds conservatives ignore. Yet this is labeled anti-capitalism and an effort to destroy America.

If a back-bench flamethrower like Walsh doesn't seem like a fair representative of Republicans, remember that he's only the most recent mouthpiece for this messaging.

Herman Cain has also suggested that rich liberals created Occupy to make trouble (while conceding that "I don't have facts to back this up"). Influential conservatives like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA), Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY) and various influential social conservatives have all echoed the notion that Occupy protesters are anti-American and seek an end to capitalism. Faux Democrat Doug Schoen claimed to have proven that Occupy Wall Street protesters were anti-capitalists despite having found the opposite in his research, and the lie was quickly amplified by the Wall Street Journal and Karl Rove's misinformation kingpins.

This is the mainstream GOP response to today's protesters and it's predicated on a proven lie about the Wall Street collapse.

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