Edward Wasserman in The Miami Herald:
As the saying goes, what really matters isn't what people think, it's what they think about: Debunking falsehoods is fine, but the more that news media embrace it as if it's a cure-all, the worse we'll all be. The solution isn't to refute, it's to ignore.Useful, but not sufficient. Sometimes ignoring falsehoods isn't enough. Refusing to pass on the swill spewing from the mouths of liars, intellectual scoundrels, and men with conflicted national loyalties would not have stopped the Bush/Iraq war, for example.
Sometimes you need to employ merciless ridicule, satire, and unalloyed contempt in the service of keeping the discourse sane. That's why they're part of the language, you know. In fact, the mainstream's refusal to employ these rhetorical devices is a good reason why professional comedians like Stewart and Colbert have become some of the most important goto news providers in 21st century America. There is no reason to restrict the ridiculing of scoundrels to comedy shows, however. If Grassley had been met with mockery rather than respect, there would be far less serious discussion of whether Obama wants to kill grandma, or maybe just deny her coverage a little.
But no, heaping contempt on the right...that's just not done if you want to be considered serious. Whenever most folks with access to microphones weren't fawning over the bold audaciousness of getting America's children killed in a country they couldn't locate on a map for no reason whatsoever, they were treating the insane delusions of the neocons with sobriety and deference. Doing so provided these hallucinations - remember "hope might triumph over experience?"- with a gravitas that, even then, was utterly ludicrous.
As extremely important as they are, a sober debunking of the facts and/or merely ignoring the extreme rightwing isn't nearly enough to marginalize bad ideas and their purveyors. They also must be laughed at, sneered at, exposed for completely lacking any moral, intellectual, or political credibility whatsoever. And that takes a highly diverse palette of effective rhetorical techniques. "Nyah, nyah, I can't hear you!" just won't cut it.