On both sides of the border, the political right is telling bald-faced lies to obliterate their opponents.
Despite Barack Obama’s repeated insistence that he would cut taxes for 97 per cent of income earners and would raises taxes only for the top 3 per cent, John McCain and Sarah Palin reiterate the charge that the Democrat plans to increase the taxes of average Americans.
On right-wing talk radio, broadcasters continue to tell millions of people that Barack Obama is a Muslim, and this is now believed to be true by about a quarter of the U.S. population. These are same people who recycled the falsehood, believed by 50 per cent of Americans, that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the September 11 attacks.
In Canada, the whale of a lie of the campaign is that the Liberal carbon tax would raise the taxes paid by ordinary Canadians. No matter how many times Stephane Dion explains that his plan is revenue neutral, that he would lower income taxes by the amount he would additionally tax industries that pollute, the Conservatives repeat the lie. A large proportion of the population has been convinced by ads that repeat the falsehood and by the repetition of the lie on the hustings that a Dion government would raise their taxes.
One reason the repeated lies work is that the mainstream media are not prepared to call the perpetrators on their behaviour in a serious way. Oh, there’s the occasional slap on the wrist, delivered by political "analysts" who regard lying as just another tactic. And there’s the mainstream media tendency to reduce the whole thing to a difference of opinion between the two sides. In this approach, the Conservative lie about Dion’s platform is as valid as a truthful statement about what’s in the platform.
When John McCain appeared on The View, he was effectively called on his lies by Joy Behar.
Don’t expect our gatekeepers, Peter Mansbridge, the At Issue Panel, Rex Murphy and Don Newman, to do much outing of the liars.
It’ll take the concerted anger of a politically literate public to counter the liars and the lies they tell.