Right Wing Internet Memes: Please, sir, don’t confuse me with the facts

20120920-094911.jpg Last night, I received the graphic to the left from a conservative friend of mine. It took me while to decide whether it was worth blogging about. After waking up this morning and finding that I was STILL thinking about, I caved.

Right wingers seem to spread these graphics around like mad. In my experience, left wingers send out simplified graphics, too, but the subject matter is somewhat more diverse (Monsanto is a common theme, however).

Originally, I had written a point by point criticism of this one graphic, but the post got so long as to be unreadable. That’s the problem with trying to respond to these type of messages: your day quickly disappears. It’s like trying to stop flooding in New Orleans by throwing handfuls of sand at the levy.

Political discourse in the United States has reached a tipping point of reductionism. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current set of Republican political campaigns. Strategies center on simplifying issues, and where reductionism and simplification don’t work, candidates will just make up their own reality. Voters have shown time and again that facts do not matter. Vilification of perceived enemies, in this case college students, teachers, academics and liberals is, sadly, de rigueur.

Sadly, America no longer embraces that which it should be the most proud of, namely, our Universities. It is our very best offering to the world, unmatched in scale by any country on the entire planet. Yes, excellent universities exist outside the US, but there is no country which can match the sheer number of excellent schools that the United States has.

At one time, going to college was a badge of honor, particularly for the working class and the poor. I fear that this current trend of anti-intellectualism will continue, and what was once a pathway for the otherwise marginalized to become engaged citizens (of any political bent), will become a badge of suspicion.

If we are to be derided as “Marxists” let it be. I’ve read Marx. I doubt that the creator of this graphic, nor the individuals spreading it have taken the time.

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About Peter Larson

Post-doctoral researcher at the University of Michigan School of Public Health Department of Epidemiology

6 responses to “Right Wing Internet Memes: Please, sir, don’t confuse me with the facts”

  1. RIck Cronn says :

    The US (I live there) may have the most and some of the best universities in the world, but their products (capable, critical thinking, independent citizens etc) is sorely lacking. Only my opinion, but based on observation and interaction with more than a few of the young people who have attended those bastions of higher learning.

  2. Bill Brennan says :

    I had a graphic pop up in my FB stream the other day claiming the following:

    “German solar power plants produced a world record of 22 gigawatts of electricity per hour, equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity.

    Solar power in the United States has been demonized as a ‘Left Wing conspiracy’.”

    Now, Germany has done no such thing, nor has solar power been demonized by anyone in the USA as a “left wing conspiracy,” and yet there it is sitting in my timeline. My point being that people of all political persuasions make simplistic graphics which twist facts in an attempt to paint their ideological opposites as evil. “Wrong” is never good enough, only “evil” will do.

    Also, I think your estimation of left-wing memes being more diverse than right-wing memes might be clouded by the fact that your reside on the left.

    • Pete Larson says :

      Yes, I saw that one, too, and thought it equally uninformed. I don’t deny that there are ridiculous left wing memes.

      You are right. I have more lefty friends than righty friends, hence likely increasing my exposure a wider variety of left leaning graphics.

      • stumpwater says :

        What actually happened is that Germany achieved 22 GW output from solar panels — this is an instantaneous rate, not a total of energy output (GWh) for the day. The distinction is lost on your average reader. However, given the fact that the average instantaneous output of nuclear reactor based power plants is between 700 and 1000 MW, I see absolutely nothing at all misleading or incorrect about the statement.

        Note that I have not encountered this particular meme before reading this blog post, and have no emotional investment in it — I just want to know what, besides the unclear designation of units, is incorrect about this. Please explain.

      • Pete Larson says :

        It’s good to see some background on that, not being an expert on energy myself. Thank you.

  3. William W Smith III (@wsmith1213) says :

    I agree, what our universities in the US are turning out is basically crap.

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