At one site (which includes a blog and a message board), "People for the Old American Century," I found a page that supposedly debunked right-wing talking points--and it was some funny stuff.
The list of talking points was long and amateurishly refuted that I decided to do an extensive job on it. As I neared the end of the project, I decided to visit the message board and strike up some conversations.
I'll note here at the outset that the message board is explicitly not set up to entertain debate. The folks who run the site have that posted fairly clearly.
I started out with a self-introduction in which I mentioned that the talking-points page (called "Counterspin") had initially attracted my attention--I let on that I was less than impressed.
POAC (apparently T. J. Templeton): Hi, Bry. I'm the person who collected those talking points and refuted them for that web page. Is there any certain one you'd like to contest with me?The reply made it seem like they were open to the idea of debate, though there had been a bit of confident banter from other regulars leading up to the exchange I'm transcribing here.
Bryan: Most of them, actually. I've done research on about 15 of the entries at this point, and I've found one in that number that I think does a reasonable job of refuting the talking point.
One of the questions I keep having when I'm doing my research is ... where did the supposed talking point come from? I think it would improve that page if you linked to a source for each of the talking points.
This area isn't for getting to the nuts and bolts of discussion, obviously. My findings are posted to a blog, so I can send you the link so you can start topics to defend your work, or I can bring one up from time to time in the discussion area if you would like.
My original plan was to let these things come up naturally, but if you're keen to deal in the criticism of your work just let me know how you'd like to go about it.
Their turf, their rules. I had no intention of pushing the issue if T. J. didn't want to get into it (though I'm not saying I wouldn't have found ways to question the assumptions of the locals while I was visiting).
In T. J.'s next reply, he gave a generalized description of where the talking points came from ("flying monkeys," RNC talking points and talk radio).
And he continued:
Working in the alternative media field as I do, it doesn't take much effort to notice what's a talking point and what isn't.I took that as an invitation to post an example of what I thought was a reasonable job along with at least one example of one that wasn't a reasonable job. So I started a thread in a political forum at the site, giving the two examples as requested.
Any way (sic), you say that you've done research on about 15 of the entries at this point, and have found one in that number that you think does a reasonable job of refuting the talking point. So give some examples.
Bryan: The worst (though it may be close):And that's when the hilarity really started. A regular going by "sky of mind" led off.
In treating the supposed talking point that "Peak Oil" is just a myth, it was shown that the Saudis supposedly admit Peak Oil--but not in so many words. The linked article related Saudi projections that oil production would fail to keep pace with consumption. From what I can tell, this reflects a misunderstanding of the concept of Peak Oil.
The best so far:
Defending Louisiana's Governor Blanco from charges that she did not properly ask for assistance. The defense was apt enough. It just seems to miss the substance of the usual criticisms of Blanco. And that may be the fault of whoever promulgates the so-called talking point. It wasn't one I was familiar with, anyway.
sky of mind: OK, but I would really like to see more detail, even though this is on the correct track and is discussion.I had hoped that the URLs would have helped with the lack of detail. In any case, I didn't want to go overboard with the OP.
Templeton (POAC) wasn't far behind, first offering an explanation for the "worst" entry ...
In the context of Hubbert peak theory, peak oil is when the peak of the world's conventional petroleum ("crude oil") production rate is reached. After this date the rate of production is predicted to enter terminal decline, following the bell-shaped curve predicted by the theory. If you read the article that's what is described.... and then on the "best" entry:
That's probably because the page isn't about defending Governor Blanco from her usual criticisms and it is about debunking falsifications that are repeated on outlets like FOXnews.I was glad we agreed on what peak oil meant. But in spite of Templeton's claim to the contrary, the article did not talk about any terminal decline in crude oil production. This is absolutely the closest thing to a peak oil claim in the story:
The world's biggest oilfield, Saudi Arabia's Ghawar, has been producing for more than 50 years and is showing signs of age, with increasing amounts of water leaking into the oil, according to technical papers by Saudi Aramco engineers cited in a new book, Twilight in the Desert.The only other thing in the ballpark is a section where the Saudis said it would be hard to top 15 m b/d. Templeton apparently supplied the rest with his or her imagination.
I'm still a bit puzzled why Templeton defended the "best" entry by essentially repeating the point I had already made. Defensiveness, maybe? Not much later, Templeton went off the deep end in a follow-up reply.
Oh Geeze Bryan, I read some of your blog. I think there's a reason why you have no traffic and according to Alexa, only google links to you. Your refutation of almost everything I have read has either been a nit-picking technicality or just plain old cognitive dissonance. Can I give you some advice? Go after falsifications in right-wing blogs. They're are (sic) rich with them and you won't have to stretch and spin so much when you try to make a point. Also, if you aren't privy enough to even know what the talking points of the day are, maybe you shouldn't go around trying to play "gotcha" with people who do.I guess Templeton didn't think it would be a good idea to link to a source for the talking points. I stick with my recommendation, since tales can change in the retelling. I'm interrupting, sorry.
I do want to thank you though, I work to make the site workable for even the most deluded, so I know from your assistance which entries I need to beef up. So I appreciate your help for that.Almost sounds sarcastic, doesn't it?
A good example was how you claimed I didn't disprove "nobody anticipated the breaching of the levees". So I beefed that one up with Mediamatter's (sic) extensive list of examples of foreknowledge of the breaching of the levees.Showing how MediaMatters also fails to make that case might serve as an eventual update on POAC at my other blog.
I stuck to my guns, since I know I made a good case in each instance, and I avoided calling names. Here's a sampling of the responses leading up to my being banned by the following morning.
sky of mind: Same thing [breach vs overtopping of a levee--BW]. The levees failed and New Orleans was flooded.I do have to cut in, here, since this might be the funniest response in the whole lot.
sky of mind (different post): I have a question or two for Mr. Bryan. What is your personal opinion of Mr. Bush, his administration, and his policies?
POAC: Bryan, I'm not going to waste my time critiquing your blog. That's your gig, not mine.
But a quick example:
My talking point: No one expected the levees to fail.
My debunking: Numerous pieces of evidence from various reputable sources citing that everyone knew the levees would fail in category 4 or 5 hurricane.
"Sounds like you're conflating a breach of the levees with an overtopping of the levees."
The original debunking was a single article in the Houston Chronicle, and it didn't mention anything at all about the levees failing, though it's possible to infer it from statements regarding cataclysmic outcomes and the like. Templeton's claim of "numerous pieces of evidence" is apparently based on the addition of material from "Media Matters" that were mentioned as a late addition to the entry. On top of that, the statement offered as my rebuttal was a comment in reply to "sky of mind." This is a perfect example of the type of slipshod reasoning that Templeton brings to his/her work.
The next entry picks up after Templeton has listed all the sources he/she borrowed from Media Matters after I showed how pathetic the original attempt had been.
POAC: If that;s not goofd up enough for you, well, something tells me you're kind of like all those things you call me on your blog.I don't normally make fun of the spelling of others, but the pun in the typo was irresistible, so I did say the entry was "goofd" up enough for me.
POAC (same post): What's it like to have your right wing reality challenged and having to engage in such efforts to try to keep all that misinformation categorized in your head as "truth". That's gotta be tough.It's true that the POAC site did not argue that Social Security wasn't in trouble--but on the other hand my critique, aside from that one comment, dealt only with what POAC did provide in argument. Taking the comment out of context provided a distraction and an excuse to engage in more ad hominem attacks. Yippee.
sky of mind: "But let's not get too far diverted from POAC's attempt to show that Social Security isn't in trouble."
I don't believe anybody has stated that Social Security doesn't have any solvency issues. The question as stated by many, is it wise to let Bush Privatize social security?
POAC: He has to put words in my mouth to debunk them, falsely framing the conversation. Intellectual dishonesty, a common trait of the wingnut.
sky of mind: Yeah, that's similar to the wingers claiming we support terrorism because we voted for Gore in 2000, or that we fight them over there so that we don't have to fight them here.
happymisanthropy: Wow. That's the dumbest thing I've read in hours [difference between "breach" and overtopping"--BW]. First of all, the difference is irrelevant because the consequence is identical. Second, it's really unlikely that an overtopped "levy" would NOT fail.
happymisanthropy (new post): Is that the best you have, Bryan?Got all that? It's part of the New Physics, if I'm not mistaken.
POAC: Stop dancing around and address the issues and questions posed to you or be banned. You're wasting our time, space, and bandwidth. Intellectual dishonesty isn't tolerated here.
You claim you could present how the counterspin page was unremittingly preposterous and yet all you've done is parse the differences between "topped" and "breached" when the talking point was concerning their failure. Your breached/topped ******** is a red herring. I've specifically and directly responded to your attempts to discredit me, now extend to me the same courtesy. And don't act stupid and ask me to repeat them. Scroll up.
POAC (different post): Note to our resident conservatives: This is precisely why you received the crappy welcome you did when you first arrived. 9 times out of 10 when someone calling themselves a "conservative" enters and claims they want a rational reasoned discussion, this is what we wind up with.
sky of mind: Heh, dude, less than 30 minutes before that storm made landfall it WAS a s CAT 5 hurricane [incorrect--BW], and as a CAT 5 Hurricane it was pushing a storm surge equal to a CAT 5 hurricane, which was still in front of the CAT3 katrina that made landfall.
sky of mind (later on in the same post): You're a desperate little human. Go back to church.I admit that one freaked me out a little bit. How did they know I eat Cheetos?
If you don't get banned very soon, you will be ignored. And in my opinion, that's worse. Especially for one that craves attention.
POAC (still defending the supposed "peak oil" story): The point of the article was that the oil supply will plateau and then decline.
POAC (different post, still trying to erase the distinction between breach and overtop): I'll repeat myself: Bryan, let me explain something to you. I work in the alternative media industry. I monitor these things for a living. You type bitter little diatribes and take pictures of little trains [a reference to material on a backup site/experimental blog of mine--BW]. If you don't know something is a talking point the problem may be on your end. The fact is, that for days following the Disaster in NOLA, the wingnuts were parroting that all over the net and on talk radio.
sky of mind: Give it up boss.
This guy doesn't even know what a Talking Point is, how the hell is he gonna manage anything even more difficult? What is unremittingly preposterous is the notion that this guy can actually put whole sentences together, let alone attampt (sic) to have a lucid thought and then discuss it reasonably as he stumbles from point A to point B.
POAC: I think I have it figured out. He's a wanna-be bully. He wants to pick on people, but he can't do it in real life. He's a puss. But on the internet? Super tough guy. Why he can type all night with his stubby cheeto stained fingers about how stupid everyone else is.
I was going to move on to other comments, but this stuff is just too hilarious.
POAC (ramblin' on, same post): Correction: not everyone. He has to go after the liberals! Yeah! Cuz everyone picks on the liberals. He reads it on the right wing blogs, he sees it on FOX, he hears it on talk-radio. We can blame everything on liberals. Liberals are so stupid. And he wants to join in. He needs an outlet. He needs to feel superior. He's lonely. Not particularly attractive. Has an unpleasant smell and personality. His affection for miniature trains and an affinity for a blog called Captain's Quarter's (sic) has him thinking that maybe he's gay. Yeah, so he's gotta go out and pick on someone.
Karen: Oh, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan! I'm SO disappointed! I had hoped for a debate worthy of POAC, instead I got to read through arguments so rediculous (sic) and pathetic that they didn't stir me to any kind of passion.
Jubal: Bryan, I honestly believe you are a true conservative. You say so, and I have no reason to doubt it. But I haven't seen it yet. I've seen a snarky little sniper who would argue that a particular person in Dresden was actually killed by a car that went out of control, proving that it was traffic accidents and not incendiary bombing that killed all the Dresdeners.
You're also a crashing bore. Why don't you do conservatism a favor and castrate yourself?
There was plenty more in a similar vein, but you get the idea.