Why is so much political debate in the US seemingly based on pure BS?

I know this is a somewhat contentious things to ask and it may even be a GQ rather than a GD because I honestly don’t know the answer and I’m not from the US.

Over the last year with the healthcare reform debates I’ve been amazed at the level of what can only be referred to as out and out lies passing around the news channels and public forums. I kept hearing the term “death panels” and finally asked what one of these was from someone who said this all related to an argument about how in other countries, like in the UK, old and disabled people’s cases are put in front of panels for review and if they’re not considered a good use of money they don’t get treatment and are left to die, and given that this is a feature of publicly funded healthcare it was part of the argument against it.

“But that’s just not true?!?!?!?” was my immediate exclamation, yet it seemed to be one of the major pillars of the argument against healthcare reform that I read about. Same as what was being discussed in this thread, another stated-as-fact argument being a complete pile of bullshit.

Now I’m not saying that political debate in the UK never strays into the realms of the ridiculous sometimes, but I can’t think of the last time a major government policy was argued against with complete fabrications by the opposition parties, or indeed of newspapers using made up positions as a clarion call for dissent. Instead you either say why the policy won’t work or why your idea is better, you don’t use made up evidence to support your position.

Can someone shed some light on this because it genuinely perplexes me - it doesn’t really say a lot for the integrity of US politics. As a follow up question, is it just the right that does this as I can’t think of any BS arguments put forward by the American left like this.

Well, for one thing, a major news source for Americans is 24-hour news networks, which often prefer sound bites to in-depth reporting. Obviously, this makes the task of those who come up with lies and distortions much easier.

Also, unlike the UK, we don’t have a publicly-funded news source. Although some claim that for-profit news sources will provide more reliable information because they aren’t tied to the government, the reality is that there is considerable deference to the government and self-censorship.

Finally, the lack of a publicly-funded news source and regulation of the media, allows corporate interests to dominate national discourse.

There is only one side of the political spectrum who will skew and distort the terms of the debate with out and out lies and material misstatements.

Why do they do it? Because it’s extremely effective if it works. And it does work, sadly.

Why does it work? Oh gee. That’s another thread.

Because the losers in the USA! USA! know they’re losers. They blat out lies and untruths louder and louder to drown out that knowledge. They are all sheep, wandering fearfully about, looking for a leader who will pump up their righteous self-esteem by proclaiming just how dangerous the world is, how they are all going to the slaughterhouse, how the shepherd is not their friend, that they are doomed, and unless they rise up on their back legs and make a lot of noise, that’s the way it’s going to be. Not having any ideas of their own, they listen to soothing lies and BS to make themselves feel as one: us against them.

The tabloids are famous for it!

Isn’t this a bit of a broad brush hyperbole? :dubious:

ETA: Candyman - actually you make a good point, I forgot the tabs (mainly as I don’t read them and don’t consider something using English on the level of a reading age of 9 to be a credible news source). Still, it doesn’t seem to enter into public discourse as far as it does in the US, but then I don’t really know as I don’t follow their news quite so much.

Yeah, but the liberals can’t help it, really. Their policies are nonsense, so they have to use those tactics to ever get elected. Poor, misguided souls.

yes, yes, you can make a joke. good for you.

can you find an actual example of (edit: recent) blatant distortion or lying committed by the democrats en masse - and i’m not talking about run-of-the-mill obfuscation, concealing, or misdirection that characterizes all politics

i’m talking like Iraq has WMD, or Obama is Kenyan kind of bullshit.

They have their agendas and are very vocal about them.

But the UK isn’t as polarized as the US, which I think is probably a function of size and population. If we had 350M people here, we’d be experiencing the same thing.

But why should population size be so important? Why wouldn’t the same groups exist in the UK, though with *proportionally *smaller numbers?

I’m no statistician; but I’m assuming that a greater pool of samples tends to create a greater variance in the extremes (or, to put it another way, the larger the pool, the higher the likelihood of extreme viewpoints having enough support to matter is).

But, honestly, that’s just a gut feeling and some barely-remembered maths. A statistician could certainly offer a more substantial insight.

Bear in mind the UK does have such groups - UKIP and so forth. So I guess they do exist in proportionally smaller numbers.

There are many sides to most issues. If you can distort well enough then some of the issues will be distorted.

And also for the newspapers and news media. They claim that they are conserned about "the public’s right to know’ and a free press (implying a truthful press). They truly only care about one thing, selling papers or ratings. If they do not distort and report lies, then less papers will be sold or lower rattings will be the results.

This has been going on for years. I do not trust American news media to print the truth. My reason goes back to what a newspaper editor told my dad. When he questioned the editor about a story, and brought in the proff that the story was in error the editor told him. “If I printed what reallyl happened at the meeting it would not sell papers.”

It’s not population size that’s the issue at all - it’s the diversity of the population. The US is huge and consists of a large meta-society of what was originally English settlers, Spanish settlers, French settlers, African slaves and other sub groups. Put all those together, slap on a new country and then cook it for 250 years and of course it’s going to be a polarised country.

The UK has 60m people in it about 51m of which are white and indigenous, and those that aren’t for the most either moved here in the last 70 years or are descendants of those that did. Certainly the population is made up of regular infusions of other nationalities over the past couple of thousand years (Romans, Saxons, Norms, Danes, French Hugeunoughts etc) but these have happened at intervals of centuries and what we have today has resulted over a much longer time period. As a result culturally we’re far more uniform than the US, even with centuries more history.

Absolutely larger numbers result in absolutely louder volume. Proportionality isn’t everything.

I’d also argue that population size and diversity are strongly linked. Diversity will increase as you increase the pool, all other things being equal (i.e. assuming folks are free to hold and express those opinions, as opposed to places like China).

But yes, culturally diverse origins probably pay a large part in it, although there would be a lot of homogenization.

True, but then that volume is still proportional and (other factors aside) would be given the same amount of attention in the media.

I guess there might be a sort of threshold or critical mass (in absolute terms) for national media coverage…

Canada is more diverse (or at least almost diverse as) than the United States, iirc. They are not as polarized on current political issues.

I think they’re probably both necessary conditions, but neither of them alone or together is sufficient, either.

Because the “one side” - the Right - is wrong. Not just in disagreement, but flat out wrong. Factually incorrect on all sorts of issues, incompetent, immoral, nasty and more than a little crazy. Their side of the debate is based on “pure BS” because that’s pretty much all they have to offer. And they don’t value truth, even among themselves much less towards their enemies.

If they DID start speaking truth, they’d have to admit that their basic positions are incorrect, incoherent, inconsistent, or so nasty that no one but true believers and fools would ever vote for them. Self-admitted greedy, incompetent, sadistic lunatics aren’t likely to get many votes or much respect; so they outright lie because the truth is unacceptable.

Having lived in Montreal during the separation crisis of the 1970s, I would say that Canada can be extremely polarized, but on very different issues.

I don’t necessarily think they’re wrong, I think that their factual correctness has an extremely narrow focus and coincident range of appeal. Which is why they have to concoct corresponding or complementary lies to pass their agendas.

Static, conservative political ideologies typically cater to the current power elite. It only makes sense that there are extremely low levels of popular appeal for these policies, which mandates the use of deception to obtain political power in a democracy. As has been mentioned before, the more heterogeneous the electorate is, the more divergent the power elite will be from the mean voter, which requires more dishonesty.