Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lies Abound in Politics, Internet

FBI Director James Comey recently apologized after writing a Washington Post op-ed article in  which he accused Poland of being a collaborator in the Holocaust. Actually, the Germans placed concentration camps on occupied Polish soil, and the country had long been the most hospitable to Jews in Europe.

This was hardly the first time that anyone’s make mistakes with history.  They are commonplace despite the incredibly easy access to the internet and its wealth of information.

That’s why there are various organizations that fact-check whatever some politician makes a claim.  Most of elected officials have facts; they just skew them to match a political viewpoint or stretch them beyond reality.

For example:
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, a possible Republican presidential candidate, claimed that Howard Zinn, “an anti-American Marxist wrote the most popular textbook taught in our high schools today.”  Wrong.  Zinn, who died in 2010, was a Boston University political science professor who wrote a popular history of the United States as seen through the eyes of common people rather than via the elite or elected officials.  His book helped change how historians look at the past.

Sen. Ted Cruz, of course, contributes his usual assortment of false statements.  For example, his claim that “small businesses are going out of business in record numbers” is completely wrong.  The economy continues to improve; small and large businesses are doing better.

He also insisted that that “many of the alarmists on global warming have a problem because science doesn’t back them up.  In particular, satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there’s been zero warming.”  That’s absurd. Studies consistently show rising temperatures globally.  Glaciers are melting.  Some port cities, like Miami, face serious flooding problems because of the rising oceans.

Cruz also insisted that in the 2014 election, the American people “overwhelmingly” rejected Obamacare and amnesty for immigrants.  Actually, exit polls found the exact opposite.

Rand Paul, another would-be presidential contender, chipped in his own falsehood by claiming that U.S. military involvement in Libya “allowed thousands of surface-to-air missiles to fall into the hands of radical Islamists.”  No, actually, the military destroyed the missiles.

Venerable Sen. John McCain, a feature of many sites that fact check, offered this laugher:  “About 30 percent” of prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay on terrorism-related charges “have re-entered the fight.”

Stephen Vladeck, a law professor and expert in national security at American University, said the numbers are suspect since evidence is lacking. "To paraphrase a Scottish writer, Sen. McCain and his colleagues are using these numbers the way drunks use lampposts—more for support than for illumination," Vladeck said.

Then there’s Sen. Marco Rubio, another candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. In opposition to increasing the minimum wage, he claimed in a new book that that “if people work and make more money, they’ll lose more in benefits than they would earn in salary.”

That’s wrong. pointed out in response that “the vast majority of people face some higher taxes and lost benefits when they make more money, but they would still take home more in pay than they would under a lower salary.”

The list could go on: almost every prominent politician from all parties has earned a place on this list of shame, including President Barack Obama, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Sen. Mitch McConnell.

However, the most bald-faced liars inhabit Facebook and similar sites, posting insidious fabrication.  Often, the images have been photo-shopped to “illustrate” the lies. 

Executed? posted this whopper: “According to recent reports, a group of death panels organized under Obamacare ordered their first execution.” There are no such panels.  By the way, the first person “executed” was one of the Golden Girls, Dorothy Zbornak, a character played by the late Bea Arthur.  

Then there’s this Facebook post: “When Obama took office, 2.3 million people were out of work.  Five-plus years later, we have 5 million-plus out of work.”  The actual facts?  “The number of unemployed Americans has declined by 3 million, or by one-fourth, since Obama took office,” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This vicious image also made the rounds on Facebook:  Supposedly a sign posted in Dearborn, Mich., by the Advancement of Islamic Agenda for America, reads, “Allah be praised.  America we will kill you all and nothing you can do to stop it.”

That was photo-shopped.  No such group exists.  Muslims have lived peacefully in this country for generations. 

Then, there’s this absurdity circulating through e-mail: “Hillary Rodham Clinton, as a New York State Senator now comes under this fancy ‘congressional retirement staffing plan’ which means that if she never gets re-elected, she STILL receives her Congressional salary until she dies. If Bill out-lives her, he then inherits HER salary until he dies. He is already getting his Presidential salary ($20,000 a month) until he dies. If Hillary out-lives Bill, she also gets HIS salary until she dies…”

None of that is true.  Clinton gets the usual benefits accorded any elected official and, in her case, as former Secretary of State.

At least FBI Director Comey apologized.  Most everyone else has continued spewing nonsense and easily convincing those refusing to do a little fact checking of their own.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history, as well as an occasional foray into current events.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

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