I don’t like to use the word stupid. I mean, I certainly do use it, but I always feel like it’s a strategy to short-circuit real debate and persuade people. That being said, there is no other way to describe the latest Facebook missive from Livingston legislator Debra Lamm, which purports to expose the “real news” about Syria and refugees, than as breathtakingly stupid.
That’s fascinating on many levels. Even if you put aside the absurd notion that President Obama is working to implement Islamic governments across the world, it takes a special kind of stupid to believe that the Syrian government is a democratic one. As the National Democratic Institute notes about the country, there is little functioning government in Syria, and where there is one, it abets violence and perpetuates violence against groups ranging from women facing sexual assault to opposition leaders to face imprisonment and attack.
Perhaps Representative Lamm’s “real news” source thinks Syria is a democracy because it had a parliamentary election denounced as a “sham” by Western observers or because the country had a “stage-managed” multi-party Presidential election staged during the civil war only in areas controlled by the government.
Hardly a democratic government there, and that’s before one discusses the abuses of the Assad regime.
But the most cynical part of the post Lamm called real news was an amateurish effort to debunk the already iconic image of young Omran Daqneesh sitting, dazed and bloodied in an ambulance. Her evidence is putting quotation marks around words like wounds and appears, along with offering analysis from afar about the cleanliness of ambulances in Aleppo. Stirring stuff, though it offers little explanation for how Omran’s brother died of wounds from the same airstrike.
I thought I’d look into this source of “real news” that Representative Lamm wanted to get out in the world. It turns out she’s quite the geopolitical expert, with a background in bellydancing who traffics in right-wing clickbait like claiming that Muslim student groups in the US are front groups for the Muslim Brotherhood and xenophobic arguments that Muslims can’t believe in democracy. And who could forget her excellent work claiming that there are 751 places French police won’t go because of Muslims.
She’s a source of “real news,” alright.
My guess is that Representative Lamm wants to believe that there are no real Syrian refugees, that it’s a giant conspiracy to undermine Christianity and America, because the alternative would have to cause profound cognitive dissonance. As a woman proud of her Christian faith, acknowledging the truth that Syrians are dying and choosing to ignore their plight would be difficult, even a violation of the core principles she believes in.
So she’s chosen to create her own reality, in which images of dead and wounded Syrian children aren’t real, in which boatloads of desperate refugees crossing difficult seas don’t exist, and in which overflowing refugee camps are just media propaganda.
I highlight Lamm’s idiocy for a couple of reasons. The first is that she’s at the forefront of the conspiracy-riddled effort to end the implementation of the Common Core State Standards here in Montana and it seems she lacks the basic web literacy we’d expect a student in middle school to demonstrate. Before Ms. Lamm presumes to lecture teachers and staff from OPI about quality education in the future, she should perhaps do some remedial work in evaluating sources and doing Internet research.
More broadly, though, Lamm is part of the new world of conservative politics. Ms. Berens is a Facebook friend of the leading intellectual luminaries of the Montana right: David Howard, Theresa Manzella, Jennifer Fielder, Ed Butcher, Brad Johnson, Art Wittich and more, who no doubt turn to her expertise to inform their worldview, one where facts simply don’t matter as much as ideology.
I sometimes decry the existence of this brave new post-factual world, but it’s not enough to say that the modern conservative movement ignores facts. They invent their own. And Lamm has been at the forefront of that movement in Montana, spinning literally incredible stories about Common Core as if she’s speaking the truth.
At the point when conservatives can retreat into a social and traditional media world where they have their own facts, how can we hope to have policy discussions about how to deal with issues ranging from our national refugee policy to local ones like curricula for our schools?
We can’t—and that’s pretty damn stupid.