Extremists don't care about facts they believe they have special access to the truth, and they don't allow contrary evidence to spoil their predetermined and ideologically driven narratives.
Inconvenient facts are ignored or distorted.
This sad but growing reality is manifested by the reaction of right-wing extremists to the attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The available evidence points to a plan to kidnap and injure Speaker Pelosi by a conspiracy theorist crackpot who admires Hitler, denies the Holocaust, and thinks that Democrats are destroying America.
But that evidence-based scenario doesn't fit the hard right ideological narrative blaming everything on the left and Democrats.
So they invent convenient facts supporting the narrative: the assailant was a male prostitute servicing Pelosi; he is a patriotic hero who should be supported by other patriots; the entire incident is a "false flag" operation engineered by the left to demonize the right; it was an ordinary burglary that resulted from the Democrats being soft on crime — and more conspiratorial dope tropes.
There are some unanswered questions in the detailed affidavit filed by law enforcement, especially about why the police, who were at the scene, did not stop the assailant from attacking Pelosi with hammer they were both reportedly holding.
There is also the question why Pelosi didn't lock himself in bathroom from where he called the police until they arrived.
These and other questions are likely to be answered as the case moves on. I strongly doubt that the answers will support the current hard right conspiracy theories.
The real tragedy is that many useful idiots believe this claptrap — or at least pretend to.
Others hope it is true, because that will help their cause.
Still, others know these views are nonsensical but refuse to condemn them or those who espouse them for fear of alienating supporters and providing comfort to the "the enemy."
Nor is this counter factual mindset limited to hard right media provocateurs.
It also afflicts many on the hard left, especially "the squad."
Its ideological leader, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., specializes in promoting conspiratorial lies about the Jewish people and Israel ("It's all about the Benjamins baby!").
Many radical leftists supported her bigotry. Few condemned it.
Even moderate Nancy Pelosi smilingly posed with this antisemitic conspiracy theorist and other squad extremists on the cover of Rolling Stone — thus according to them, the imprimatur of the Democratic leadership.
On many university campuses, hard left conspiracies abound.
For example, at Berkeley, nine university sponsored clubs claimed that allowing Zionists to speak engenders the "safety" of Palestinian students, though they cite not a single instance of a Zionist assault on any Palestinian.
The time has come for the leadership of both parties to condemn and marginalize the counter factual conspiracy theorists in their midst — lest their theories become acceptable to their mainstream.
It takes courage and it entails electoral risks to criticize extremist from within one's own party who represent important voting blocs, but it must be done.
It has gotten so bad that ordinary viewers and readers — centrists, Democrats, Republicans, and independents — have no idea what to believe.
Many "news" reports by The New York Times are written through the filter of partisan ideology. The New York Times in particular has forgotten the distinction between the front page and the editorial page.
Partisan opinions permeate so called news reporting. This is less so in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and other newspapers.
It's certainly the rule with CNN, MSNBC, and FOX.
The real victims of this counterfactual reporting are the ordinary readers and viewers who would like to make up their own minds based on objective reporting of facts.
As has been said: everyone has the right to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.
That is true even of the editorial writers and newspapers and commentators on TV.
Walter Cronkite could not get a job in much of today's partisan media.
The counterfactual conspiracy theorizing about the attack on Paul Pelosi should cause some political leaders to give pause to their silent acquiescence to the extremists in their parties.
But there is little reason to be optimistic about this.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has posited some of the most extreme conspiracy theories, including a claim that the Rothschild's sent the satellite to outer space in order to cause the fires in California. Yet, she has received the endorsement of leading Republicans, just as Ilhan Omar has received the endorsement of leading Democrats.
The fault lies primarily with those who espouse these false conspiratorial theories.
But it also lies with those who decline to call them out.
As Edmund Burke once said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Today, too many good Republicans and Democrats are doing nothing to delegitimate the conspiratorial extremists in their midst.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and the author most recently of "The Case for Color Blind Equality in the Age of Identity Politics," and "The Case for Vaccine Mandates," Hot Books (2021). Read more of Alan Dershowitz''s reports — Here.
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