One thing that has always amazed me about the Right is its ability to discover obscure but outrageous anecdotes and quickly transform them into evidence that Christians and conservatives are under attack.
Years ago, I remember reading an Ann Coulter column in which she related the sad tale of one Raymond Raines, who supposedly received a week’s detention for simply praying before lunch in the school cafeteria. The story hung around for years and was regularly trotted out by the likes of Newt Gingrich and David Limbaugh whenever it served their purposes, despite the fact that it was completely untrue.
Ever since then, I have been fascinated by how these stories pop up in right-wing news outlets and are immediately taken as gospel by the Right, which uses them to further their political agenda.
As a prime example, take this new column by Sandy Rios, former president of Concerned Women for America, explaining why Sonia Sotomayor must be defeated:
It was Good Friday when the knock came on the door at the home of Pastor David Jones and his wife, Mary. San Diego County officials were hot on the trail of reportedly suspicious activities taking place inside the couple’s home each and every week.
Mrs. Jones, the co-conspirator, was interrogated vigorously. “Do you sing? Do you say ‘Praise the Lord?’ Do you say ‘amen?’” San Diegans can be relieved their county officials are in hot pursuit of major trouble makers. Especially on Good Friday. How could authorities possibly sit by and allow homes to be the centers of meal sharing and Bible Study in the midst of unsuspecting, at-risk neighbors?
The Joneses were warned that if they did not pay for an expensive Major Use Permit, normally used for the city to conduct studies on environmental impact, traffic patterns, etc., their weekly gatherings of 15 would have to stop. And if they did not stop, there would be escalating fines and “then it will get ugly.” Seems like it already has.
Meanwhile, down in Louisiana, a man was reportedly stopped by police and held for questioning and a background check for displaying the notoriously offensive “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker. Christopher Gadsen, a Revolutionary War era general designed “Don’t Tread on Me” for a flag representing the need to defend America’s rights from tyranny. Ben Franklin loved the symbolism Gadsen used of the rattlesnake and the rebellion. Good thing Franklin wasn’t traveling in Louisiana, bearing that flag on his carriage, when those police were out to catch “right wing extremists.” Imagine … Homeland Security urging the nation’s law enforcement to protect the homeland from those who want to protect the homeland. Is there a category for that?
Or for that matter, for this: Debbie McLucas is a hospital supervisor at Kindred Hospital in Mansfield, Texas. Her husband and sons have all served in the military. Her daughter is currently stationed in Iraq as a combat medic. In honor of Memorial Day, Debbie did the unthinkable: She hung a three-by-five foot American flag in an office she shares with three other supervisors. One was quite offended. So offended, she took down the flag all by herself. Take that, Debbie McLucas. The hospital refused to support the display, claiming other patients and visitors were also offended.
These three stories currently in the news represent the types of issues that may very well end up in the United States Supreme Court … What’s at stake with the nomination of a judge like Sonja Sottomayor [sic] are real-life consequences for ordinary American citizens. What we don’t need is a justice taking the bench with the notion that somehow the Constitution doesn’t mean what it has always meant, who proceeds to twist it to reflect his or her own viewpoint—a justice like Sonia Sotomayor.
Of course, if you bother to track down some non-right-wing news coverage of these anecdotes, you inevitably end up with far more rational explanation of what actually happened.
Every Tuesday night about 15 people drive to Jones’ Bonita home to eat dinner and discuss the Bible. They usually park on Jones’ property, he said, but sometimes that parking spills out into the cul-de-sac.
Last month, someone filed a complaint about the number of cars.
A county code enforcement officer visited the house and asked Jones’ wife about the weekly Bible studies.
“She said, ‘Do you say amen?’ and my wife said, ‘Well, yes,'” Jones recalled.
“And she said, ‘Do you say praise the Lord?’ she said, ‘Well, yes but what does that have to with it?'” Jones said.
10News asked the county official about the officer’s line of questioning.
“Did the officer actually do that? Is that part of the requirements to ask those questions?” Reporter Joe Little asked.
“Obviously, I wasn’t there, so I can’t tell you exactly what was said. However, what our officer was trying to do is establish what the use is so that we know what regulations to actually utilize,” explained Chandra Wallar of the county’s land use and environment group.
Wallar said it’s the officer’s job to determine what kind of event is hosted at Jones’ house to decide what part of county code the event falls under.
And here is what happened with McLucas and her flag:
A Texas hospital owned by Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare drew online criticism after a Dallas television station reported that it wouldn’t let a supervisor display a large U.S. flag in her office.
But Kindred said yesterday that the incident has been portrayed inaccurately, giving the false impression “that we do not respect the flag or the sacrifice it represents.”
According to the TV report, Debbie McLucas hung a 3-by-5-foot flag last week in the office she shares with the other three supervisors at Kindred’s hospital in Mansfield, Texas. Later her boss told McLucas that an officemate found the flag offensive and that some patients’ families had also complained, the report said.
Kindred said “this was simply a dispute between two employees who shared a small workspace, one of whom removed the flag because of its size.” Both employees have had family in the military, the statement said.
As for the tale of some motorist being pulled over for having a “Don’t Tread On Me” sticker on his car, that can’t even be verified because it is based almost entirely on a WorldNetDaily article in which WND withheld “the driver’s name and the relative’s name at their request” and was itself largely based upon an American Vision blog post:
Our friends at The Patriot Depot just received a call from Rosemarie in Ball, Louisiana alerting Patriot Depot that her brother-in-law was stopped by small town Louisiana police and detained by the roadside for half an hour. A background check was conducted to determine whether he was a member of an “extremist” group. Why? Her brother-in-law (name not disclosed for privacy) had purchased and displayed a conservative “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker on his car.
So did this actually happen? There is no way of knowing … though, personally, I am not particularly inclined to give too much credence to fourth-hand hearsay that originated with the brother-in-law of “Rosemarie in Ball, Louisiana.”
Yet, for the Right, these sorts of completely unverified and/or fundamentally misrepresented myths are presented as established fact which are then used to explain why Sonia Sotomayor is unfit to sit upon the Supreme Court.