"Reality,” Stephen Colbert once famously said, “has a well-known liberal bias.”

It was one of those jokes that isn’t, one of those barbs that captures something painfully true, allows you to see it with clarity you never could if viewing straight on. It’s worth noting Colbert said this years before that jump-the-shark moment last week when conservatives accused the Labor Department of conspiring against them. In case you missed it, it happened when the government released figures showing the unemployment rate has tumbled to 7.8 percent.

Most of us considered the numbers, which may yet revise up or down as new information comes in, to be good news. Because it validates President Obama’s narrative of a slowly improving economy, many conservatives did not. They called the figure a fraud — “monkey business,” in the words of Donald Trump. Former GE CEO Jack Welch saw it as evidence of malfeasance from “these Chicago guys.” Fox “News” asked, “Is the number real?”

And so it goes in the conservative War on Reality.

Not that this was the first salvo in said war. Just before the numbers came out, conservatives were working to discredit polls that showed President Obama leading Mitt Romney. “Bogus,” said Rush Limbaugh.

You see, the war goes back a ways. Back to Sen. Jon Kyl saying 97 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities are abortion-related and, when called on that lie, issuing a statement that what he said was “not intended to be ... factual.” Back to Sarah Palin sounding the alarm about death panels, back to Glenn Beck saying conservatives started the Civil Rights Movement, back to people pretending there is some mystery over the president’s birthplace.

Heck, it goes back to the Bush administration cutting inconvenient facts from government reports, back to Bush brushing aside a pessimistic report on Iraq by saying the intelligence community was “just guessing.”

The point here — this cannot be overemphasized — is not ideology. Rather, it is about the fact we cannot effectively debate ideology if we do not have a body of facts in common.

Under such circumstances, political discourse must devolve into incoherence. We cannot discuss what color to paint the room if we cannot agree on what constitutes red or green — or the room. We literally have no shared language with which to even have the discussion.

This is the legacy of the War on Reality. Some of us live under a new ethos, fueled and abetted by Fox, the Internet and talk radio, which holds that facts are optional and reality, multiple choice — and that anyone who questions this is part of the conspiracy against you. The results have not been pretty. When, in the history of American political discourse, have conservatives — some, not all — seemed more paranoid, put-upon and ready to believe themselves the victims of outlandish plots?

Hillary Clinton was rightly derided for saying a “vast right-wing conspiracy” was out to get her husband. But if that one-time utterance made her sound ridiculous, what shall we make of this constant drumbeat from the political right? What shall we make of a mindset in which the answer to every criticism, the response to every unwelcome fact, is to point to a conspiracy of bias that exists mostly in their minds?

Now, we reach a sobering watershed. Who knew even the professional numbers crunchers in the Labor Department were part of this vast left-wing conspiracy?

Hearing that, one must believe one of two things: either math also has a liberal bias, or it is time to ask ourselves what becomes of a country where problem-solving is paralyzed because problem solvers cannot agree on a common reality?

Math, should it need saying, has no liberal bias. So give that question some hard thought. After all, we have only the one country. We may not share the same reality, but we will certainly share the same fate.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for The Miami Herald. His email address is lpitts@herald.com.

(7) comments

Reality & truth, are casualties of pol campaigns. It reaches new levels of denial & FALSE assertions this time.

Phony claims elevated & MANUFACTURED by BOTH sides leaves the electorate w/ a difficult task. What's better for the nation & its people SHOULD be decided on the record - NOT PHONY claims.

It IS CLEAR that while the vast majority fall behind, the wealthiest sprint to new levels of prosperity. A major factor in this decades-long increasingly OUTRAGEOUS disparity (perhaps the worst in the developed world) IS in large part resultant from GOP, all-for-the-rich tax cuts.

Why & how's that possible.. & TRUE? It's massive ignorance from Joe 6-pks. AWFUL as DEMOS ARE, ineffective, even compliant as they've been, GOP policies (taxation, specifically) widen the gap. In this respect, Romney/Ryan/Doheny are POISON as is the GOP generally... UNLESS a voter IS NOW wealthy. The vast majority's poorer.



Boater, seeing that you are "All" knowing can you explain to us 5 pack people "exactly" how this number was obtained and with all other numbers not performing as one would say "Up to Par" how this .5 % lower number is inline with fact ? Thanks (1) Short :)


Would be glad to try to ans. your question; but, I've NO IDEA what it is. Pls. be more direct in referencing any comments/arguments from boat. E.g., "... exactly" how this number was obtained...(?)" WHICH NUMBER(S)? Any numbers I offer are from as reliable sources as are available.

A primary reason the economy's tanked so badly for most (incl. Joe 6-pk.) is that gov'ts CORRUPTED by big money that's convinced Joe 5-pk to prefer policy that damages him while rewarding those w/ the most, & particularly since the "VOODOO" economics (G H W Bush, 1980) of what's termed "Reaganomics." That's conclusion documented w/ evidence. That MOST are poorer while the few richest become more so is indisputable FACT based on evidence NOT "belief," or preference.


Sorry Boat but I thought the article was talking about the unexpectedly low unemployment number by the BLS, but I can understand after reading this article one would be confused.
So my question is how did the labor and statistic department come up with this figure. I see todays number is about the same but they seemed to have one problem, They left a state out of the stats and I am hearing it is California which has a Large unemployment number concern


No Boater, you are wrong completely. The entire problem is the government is and has been spending more than it can and did take in, reguardless of administration and tax rates. Even if the tax rates had stayed pre-bush era all along we would still be in the hole big time, because both sides are addicted to spending to win favor with voters, and borrowing to finiance the growing empire build course they have adopted, all the while kicking the deficit can down the road for someone else to solve. Total failure of our executive and legislative branches, and it continues to get worse as they struggle to cover their butts by not admitting their co-conspiritor guilt in creating the mess.


First of all "tumbling would imply a movement of more than point 5% and lets look at the objective dialouge, Bush comes into play, Fox News, Sarah Palin, Glen Beck, well tghis is truley an unbiased column. Then we defend The Clintons and as we all know Bill "did not have sexual relations with that woman". Those numbers were not directly from the Labor Dept statistics but rather from poling and the actual numbers will be forthcoming as was stated in the above commentary. The truth in this whole scenario is that the 7.8% unemployment number is unacceptable after 3 1/2 years and all the money that was spent to get us to this point.

I BELIEVE, (as opposed to being certain) that the data calc., reporting of & adjusting employment data hasn't changed in a very long time (don't know that time either).

I learned that it's mistaken to believe "stuff" that either side of a dispute's "sellin'" while the other side's postition's ignored or flatly denied w/out being fairly considered. Joe 6-pk apparently hasn't learned that; & it's crushing HIM economically. (see: many Joe's here, e.g.)

I do know FACTS PROVING that GOP tax policy that wildly favored the rich for decades has FORCED the worker to be more TOT taxed & more on a tax hook for nat debt. Do KNOW there's a HUGE & GROWING DISPARITY between the richest & the rest in this USA'S SYSTEM & know gov't CAN intervene to increase or decrease this.

I do consider SOURCES of info, don't condemn those who disagree w/ my views WHEN they have a "SOLID CASE" for a position. "TPS" editors do make such cases... whether I agree w/ their conclusions or not.

Welcome to the discussion.

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