The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

68° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Don’t let lies beat out truth

When the global warming apocalypse comes and if any of us are still around to see it, we should eat the Koch brothers first. David and Charles Koch are one of the main funders of global warming denialism, so they should be held culpable/delicious for what comes, along with GOP political message-gimp Frank Luntz, who practically wrote the book on Republican global warming denial. 

And who we should also consider eating first.

While I joke about the cannibalism, there are people spreading ideas today that are producing demonstrable harm — not just global warming denialism but also the anti-vaccination movement and the misogynist, right-wing, Christian Quiverfull movement. When a lie is repeated often enough, psychology shows us that people begin to believe it’s true. All of these movements rely on this tactic to spread their falsehoods and influence culture.

And yet, none of the people behind these lies face any repercussions for their wicked deeds. One does not see Jenny McCarthy held accountable for the lives lost to preventable childhood disease. 

Michael and Debi Pearl, who wrote a manual for the parents of the Quiverfull movement called “To Train Up a Child,” which recommends beating children into obedience and submission using tools like “plastic plumbing tubing” and “willowy branches,” have been linked to the deaths of three children from 2006 to 2011. The book continues to sell copies.

Certainly, thanks to freedom of speech, they cannot be punished by the state.

“The First Amendment requires ‘breathing room’ around our political speech, even when it teeters on false or may inflict significant emotional distress,” said Toni Massaro, a UA constitutional law professor. 

Her solution?

“The remedy, according to Justice [Louis] Brandeis, is to engage in counterspeech,” Massaro said, “and allow the ‘marketplace of ideas’ act as the crucible, rather than government sanctions.”

This reminds one of an old Mark Twain quotation: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

And indeed, as evidenced by the examples above, there can be horrible monopolies in the marketplace of ideas, even when those ideas are terrible and have the potential to kill children. But, we have to do the best with what we have, and that means we the people need to push the those who are dangerous out of the market.

We need to be loud about it. When somebody you know regurgitates anti-vaxxer talking points, call them on it. When somebody you know is reciting points from one of these scumbags, tell them why that person is an asshole. When people endorsing vile sentiments are given a platform, call the platform-givers out.

Because, ultimately, discrediting them is the only power we have when it comes to repercussions for these liars.


Tom Johnson is a film & television studies junior. Follow him on Twitter.

More to Discover
Activate Search