Roger Ailes, president of Fox News, won a Bradley Prize this year, along with the $250,000 award that comes with it, which apparently is bestowed upon conservatives who are good at being conservative. Ailes delivered a curious acceptance speech in accepting the honor, explaining his preoccupation with the manufactured Benghazi political controversy, his concerns about “anti-Americanism,” and his disappointment about the extent which “we” have “allowed ourselves to be manipulated” by others who “want to impose” their beliefs on others.
Fact-checking the entire piece would require a lengthy time commitment, but there was one gem in particular that seemed vaguely important. “The federal government is about to hire 16,000 more IRS agents to enforce health care. Forty-seven new tax increases! No wonder they need guns!” Ailes told the event’s attendees, adding, “[W]e don’t need more people with guns enforcing our health care! ‘Hi, granny, get your hands up, we’re tired of telling you this, but take your Metamucil.’”
As Jon Chait explained, none of this is rooted in reality.
1. The weird idea that the IRS was going to hire 16,000 agents to enforce health care was circulated by Republicans three years ago, and debunked by fact-checkers as a “wildly inaccurate claim.” The agency was authorized to hire some new staff, nowhere near 16,000, most of them not agents, and not for “enforcing” health care but helping process tax credits for businesses to insure their employees.
2. “Forty seven new tax increases” is a distortion of a McClatchy report about the IRS carrying out 47 provisions, including things that are the opposite of a tax increase (i.e. “Provide refundable tax credits for companies with fewer than 25 workers that do provide health care coverage; Provide help for lower-income taxpayers who purchase health insurance from a newly created state-run exchange.”
3. Agents with guns? Well, apparently Republican representative Jeff Duncan toured the Department of Homeland Security and saw IRS agents training with AR-15s, prompting a predictable wave of outrage from Glenn Beck and like-minded freedom-lovers. The IRS has a small enforcement division. (Anybody watch The Untouchables?) It is not a massive new storm-trooper squad, and it has nothing to do with Obamacare.
4. It’s not clear what has connected “granny” to Obamacare in this particular fever dream, since the IRS’s role is confined to people who are of working age and not Medicare eligible. It may be a death-panel reference – an old myth that Fox News continues to recirculate.
I mention this, not because Ailes is confused, but because the anecdote speaks to a larger truth. The Fox News chief was given a lucrative award for his work in conservative media, which includes repeating politically-motivated falsehoods. In accepting the award, Ailes repeats even more politically-motivated falsehoods. In this world, such activities are rewarded and attendees very likely believed what they were told – because after all, the claims were coming from the head of a major news organization.
It creates quite a cycle, doesn’t it? Create propaganda, get rewarded, create more propaganda, get rewarded again.
Why do zombie lies maintain their grip on so many people? I suspect this anecdote has something to do with it.