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May 01 2014

The Heartland Institute quote-mines George Carlin

Mike the Mad Biologist traces a ‘quote’ from George Carlin that the Heartland Institute has been publicizing. It’s comparable to the worst that creationists do — it takes a Carlinesque rant against “big wealthy business interests that control things” and turns it into a Libertarian complaint about big government by changing a few words and deleting almost all of the text. Knowing Carlin’s angry liberal predilections, it was easy to spot that there was something wrong with Heartland’s quote, but dang if doing the empirical thing and actually laying out the full quote from Carlin wasn’t convincing to a high degree.

That’s another point of the post, too. He cites an article by Ezra Klein making the point that it’s not that liberals are free of bad ideas, but that we have this added value of fact-checking — we have our biases, and we have our loons (anti-vaxxers and anti-GMOs, for instance), but the thing is, we can feel shame if we find out something we’re promoting is empirically incorrect. There is a check on any liberal tendency to drift off into la-la land that is totally absent in Tea Baggers and other far right political nuts. They have no shame, they already know how the world must work, and if you point evidence at them, well, the evidence must be wrong.

It’s also the difference between science and religion. Religion already has their answer, nonsensical as it is, and the evidence must be made to conform. Science has provisional answers, we keep gathering evidence to verify and improve, and we’ll change our theories if the evidence contradicts them.

Stepping in to confirm everything that Mike and Klein said, the very first comment is from someone calling themselves Gubbler who lists four things he considers fact-free liberal fantasies.

  • Racial equality, because black people were selected to be sexy animals, according to Steve Sailer, racist fraud.

  • Global warming might have merit, but any effort to change is hysteria.

  • Gay marriage, because Two guys do fecal penetration and that is the premise for marriage?

  • The liberal belief that OBAMA IS messiah!!!!

Thereby confirming that right-wingers are delusional.

24 comments

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  1. 1
    jamessweet

    There is a check on any liberal tendency to drift off into la-la land that is totally absent in Tea Baggers and other far right political nuts. They have no shame, they already know how the world must work, and if you point evidence at them, well, the evidence must be wrong.

    I’ve been increasingly baffled by the perception that liberalism is the idealist position, at the conservatism is the pragmatic position. Perhaps there is a point — far to the left of where we are now — where that is the case: Where improvements to social programs really do hurt long term growth, so it’s a tradeoff between the idealistic urge to care for people vs. the hard-nosed pragmatic approach of slow growth. But we are nowhere near that point right now, so it’s not really fair to paint that picture.

    Rather, I feel like the conservative position in the US is the hopelessly idealistic one: Idealistic, in that the free market can fix things if just given the chance; in that people will pull themselves up by their bootstraps if only the government will stop helping them out so much; in that we must take the most literal possible interpretation of the Second Amendment, and even modest pragmatic measures to limit the damage from gun violence are off limits.

    As I reached my thirties, I began to realize that it’s a messy world, that often requires messy solutions. And that realization pushed me towards liberalism far more than anything else.

  2. 2
    mikeyb

    I say 3 Hail Obama’s every morning, it help me keep my <$10 minimum wage factory job tolerable don't you know. Rethugs have their Reagan god, we have Obama.

  3. 3
    Snoof

    I’ve been increasingly baffled by the perception that liberalism is the idealist position, at the conservatism is the pragmatic position.

    It’s due to linguistic drift. Conservatism in the sense of “conserving existing institutions and regarding change with suspicion” generally is a pragmatic position. US conservatism, which can better be described as a fusion between radical reactionaries pining for a time that never was, hyperauthoritarians incapable of tolerating any Other and naked greed with total disregard for the wellbeing of all others, merely wears the conservative label to take advantage of this confusion.

  4. 4
    Rey Fox

    in that we must take the most literal possible interpretation of the Second Amendment

    You mean the one about a “well-regulated militia”?

  5. 5
    Kevin Kehres

    @3: It’s worse than that, actually.

    The tea party movement is anarchist in nature. They do not believe in government. They would gladly reduce it to roads-and-bridges-and-tanks if they could. And SuperMax prisons for the brown people.

  6. 6
    gussnarp

    fecal penetration???

    Is that what he thinks being gay is about? So lesbians are OK? Unless they stimulate each other anally? And gay men are even OK if they stick to oral? But straight couples who enjoy anal are right out? What if the recipient has an enema first, does that make it a suitable basis for marriage? And what about poor Chuck Berry?

    It’s funny, I never thought the foundation of my marriage was vaginal penetration, I was pretty sure it was our compatibility in worldviews, beliefs about parenting, ability to amuse each other, and general enjoyment of each other’s company. Who knew I had it so wrong. I wonder which basis for marriage results in longer lasting, happier marriages?

  7. 7
    pocketnerd

    Liberals also seem to be willing to engage with and understand conservative viewpoints. That doesn’t mean we think they’re right; I can understand how trickle-down economics or privatized Social Security are supposed to work while also understanding why they don’t work.

    On the other hand, conservatives seem to think even attempting to understand liberal positions is perilously close to heresy. It’s another thing they have in common with creationists — just like 95% of the creationists I’ve met can’t even articulate the theory of evolution correctly, 95% percent of the conservatives I’ve known don’t really understand what liberals want or why they think it’s good for the country.

  8. 8
    Randomfactor

    “fecal penetration”???

    He’s doing the same, just using his head about it.

  9. 9
    gussnarp

    @Randomfactor #8:

    If there were still Molly’s, I’d nominate you. Instead, you’ll have to be content with the consolation prize: 1 shiny new Internet.

  10. 10
    jerthebarbarian

    It’s comparable to the worst that creationists do

    I dunno – it’s actually worse than what I’ve seen most creationists do. At least with most creationist quote mining they give you the actual quote out of context. Heartland actually not only ripped that quote from Carlin out of context, they changed the subject of his rant from “big business and the wealthy” to “government”. It isn’t even like they put in maliciously placed ellipses to edit the sentence – they just changed the subject entirely and presented it as a quote from Carlin.

    There may be some individual creationists on the web who pull crap like that, but I can’t remember seeing something that comparably fraudulent from the Discovery Institute or Answers in Genesis. That’s pretty damn bad. (And completely unbelievable if you’re familiar at all with Carlin’s work, which makes me wonder why they can’t just go find some libertarian comedian to quote instead. Someone has to have had said something comparable about government, so go quote that guy. Don’t try to defame George Carlin when there are plenty of people around here old enough to know that you’re lying.)

  11. 11
    IncredulousMark

    I don’t think they’d dare quote mine George Carlin if he were still alive. He’d skewer ‘em.

  12. 12
    PZ Myers

    I’ve seen a creationist take part of one phrase, omit several intervening pages, and stitch it to another partial phrase to make a complete & monstrous hybrid, so I’m afraid they still hold the record.

  13. 13
    peptron

    @ 12, PZ Myers:

    I’ve seen a creationist omit several stitch to make a complete & monstrous hybrid.

    So you mean The Human Centipede was a cautionary tale about creationism based medicine?

  14. 14
    jerthebarbarian

    @12, PZ Meyers:

    I’ve seen a creationist take part of one phrase, omit several intervening pages, and stitch it to another partial phrase to make a complete & monstrous hybrid

    Several pages? Okay, that’s pretty bad. That’s taking “maliciously placed ellipses” to a whole new level.

  15. 15
    twas brillig (stevem)

    re gussnarp@6:

    I too find the conservopod obsession with: ‘Sex as the *only* reason for marriage’, to be totally baffling. Sex and babies are side-effects; marriage is infinitely more [not exaggerating].

    To answer Gubbler:

    “Two guys do fecal penetration and that is the premise for marriage?”

    No. What they do for sex is NOT the premise for marriage, neither is M/F sex. Marriage is a Financial Commitment, Sickness&Health, all that stuff. … And if you think male-male sex is fecal penetration, you got it wrong. That is coprophilia, what you meant to say was “Anal penetration”, fecal penetration is unintentional.

  16. 16
    cervantes

    Enough, please, of this canard that anti-vaxers are somehow “liberal” loons. Jenny McCarthy, Donald Trump, Michele Bachman are among the most prominent, for chrissake. This completely false assertion comes from conflating eating granola and wearing Birckenstocks with left politics. There is no association.

  17. 17
    scienceavenger

    @7 Re conservatives not understanding liberals, here’s exhibit A:

    http://townhall.com/columnists/johnhawkins/2014/04/29/the-ten-commandments-of-liberalism-n1830696

    They aren’t even trying.

  18. 18
    Snoof

    Kevin Kehres @ 5

    The tea party movement is anarchist in nature. They do not believe in government. They would gladly reduce it to roads-and-bridges-and-tanks if they could. And SuperMax prisons for the brown people.

    I’m not sure that they are generally anarchists.

    They definitely have a hate-on for the current US federal government, but as you said, they’re totally into violent police suppression of undesirables, large expensive coordinated military action against other states, establishment of an official religion, protection of personal property (provided it’s owned by the right people, of course), prisons, executions, agricultural subsidies, personal rights couched in the form of written laws and so on.

    I don’t think it’s that they hate government or authority structures in principle. They recognise all kinds of authority structures like corporate hierarchies, churches, patriarchial families, police departments and militias. It’s just that they don’t like what the US federal government is currently being used for and think the wrong people are in charge.

    (There is certainly anarcho-capitalist sentiment propagated by the various apologists for the ultrarich, but I’m not sure if the underlying ideas have been internalised by the rank-and-file true believers or whether it’s just slogans to scream.)

  19. 19
    twas brillig (stevem)

    I don’t think it’s that they hate government or authority structures in principle. They recognise all kinds of authority structures like corporate hierarchies, churches, patriarchial families, police departments and militias.

    YES, the government is necessary, to keep everybody else in line. “The gov is to protect ME from all those criminals running around all over. I am GOOD, I don’t need laws to make me good, but those people NEED laws to tell them how to behave, or they’ll just steal what they want, from each other, and me.”

  20. 20
    pocketnerd

    Thus Spake Zaratwas brillig (stevem), #19:

    YES, the government is necessary, to keep everybody else in line. “The gov is to protect ME from all those criminals running around all over. I am GOOD, I don’t need laws to make me good, but those people NEED laws to tell them how to behave, or they’ll just steal what they want, from each other, and me.”

    Reminds me of that quote about anarchists who want police protection from their slaves…

  21. 21
    Jerry

    The anti-vax and anti-GMO types are spread across the political spectrum. They are *not* mostly liberal. What they have in common is distrust in reality and science, not political ideology. Don’t fall for that myth, PZ- it just feeds the right wing nut jobs stereotyping of liberals. Orac wrote about this ~7 months ago. http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/10/03/antivaccine-antigmo-agwdenial/

  22. 22
    Kagehi

    Sigh.. To sum up the real situation, if the whole world where drowning, the right would be trying to make sure certain people where the last ones under, and calling the people that suggested, “If we all pee together, at least the water would warm up a bit.”, a socialist, while voting down any idea that might make everyone float longer, or the “cost” of actually trying to construct some sort of life raft, from surrounding wreckage. They sure as hell wouldn’t want anyone to try to swim to shore, that would be against tradition, and be kind of like real sex ed, or “critical thinking”. But, of course, the idiots climbing over each other, to try to stay out of the water a few minutes longer, will, the whole time, be saying things like, “What, are we supposed to just believe real hard and levitate above it, like you leftists (not some, but, by definition, all of them) keep yapping about?”, in order to derail any discussion of “actual” solutions to the situation. After all, they might have to get temporarily wet, to do any of them.

  23. 23
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    IncredulousMark

    I don’t think they’d dare quote mine George Carlin if he were still alive. He’d skewer ‘em.

    That’s it, call the necromancers. *rubs paws together*

    No, no, seriously, though, he’d have WORDS for them, and there’d be a lot of “motherfucker” and “cocksucker” thrown about, and goddammit, I miss that cranky old fuck.

  24. 24
    kagekiri

    @7 pocketnerd:

    Liberals also seem to be willing to engage with and understand conservative viewpoints. That doesn’t mean we think they’re right; I can understand how trickle-down economics or privatized Social Security are supposed to work while also understanding why they don’t work.

    On the other hand, conservatives seem to think even attempting to understand liberal positions is perilously close to heresy.

    Aptly put, I think you’re spot on. Weak empathy and/or a (possibly willful?) inability to change perspectives seems like a symptom or maybe cause of conservatism.

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