Saturday, March 18, 2023

What we can learn about right wing politics from the response to SVB

When it became clear that the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) was failing, Speaker Kevin McCarthy had a message he wanted Republicans to embrace: "Biden’s spending triggered a rise in inflation, and the Federal Reserve’s subsequent interest rate increases wiped out the bank." 

Of course, that is all based on a half-truth. Rising interest rates did pose a problem for SVB's long-term bond investments, but given the global nature of inflation following the pandemic, it wasn't Biden's spending that triggered the problem. However, McCarthy's message would have presented a problem for Biden and Democrats, given voter's concerns about inflation. 

As we now know, McCarthy's messaging on this one was rejected in favor of blaming the whole episode on wokeness.

House Oversight Committee chair James Comer: "We see now coming out that they were one of the most woke banks in their quest for the ESG [environmental, social, and governance]–type policy and investing."

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: "I mean, this bank, they’re so concerned with DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] and politics and all kinds of stuff. I think that really diverted from them focusing on their core mission.”

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley: "SVB = too woke to fail."

WSJ columnist Andy Kessler“the company may have been distracted by diversity demands,” specifically citing the bank having women, Black, and LGBTQ+ board members.

That's just a sampling. But the message is clear. When given the opportunity to use a crisis to spread a negative attack on their opponent's economic agenda, Republicans rejected it in favor of fanning the flames of their culture war against wokeness. That is further confirmation of what Ron Brownstein said about the state of our politics today: 

The dividing lines between the parties now is not so much economic as it is how you feel about the way the country is changing. That is a fundamental fault line in our politics. And it is clear the energy in the Republican Party is for candidates who express resistance to that in all sorts of ways, from classroom censorship to book bans to what is happening on LGBTQ rights in the red states."

There is another political lesson we can learn from the SVB failure about the nature of propaganda. Take a look at what happened on Fox News

Contrary to those claims, SVB did NOT donate $73 million to Black Lives Matter and related organizations. Both Judd Legum and Josh Marshall have written excellent exposés documenting the lies.  

The Fox News hosts touting the lie got it from a database that was put together a few days after the SVB crisis by the right wing think tank Claremont Institute. It claims to be "the most comprehensive database to date tracking corporate contributions and pledges to the Black Lives Matter movement and related causes from 2020 to the present."

The crux of the lie comes in how Claremont defines "the Black Lives Matter movement and related causes." They claim that BLM's "goal is to undermine capitalism, the nation state, and Western civilization." But in their database they included donations made to organizations like the United Negro College Fund, historically Black colleges and universities, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Urban League, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Equal Justice Initiative, and Bank of America financing for housing and business development in minority communities. As Marshall summed up, "the general message is that anything in any way connected to Black people in pretty much any way is 'BLM riots,' and explicitly supporting mayhem and violence." In other words, it's nothing but vile, racist propaganda. 

The fact that Claremont was able to post this so-called "database" within a couple of days of SVB's failure and had Fox News spouting their lies immediately tells us a lot about the nature of propaganda. While it will take weeks/months to unpack the truth about SVB, it was possible to put together the lies in a matter of days. By the time the truth comes out, major media will have moved on and those living in the right wing bubble will have swallowed the propaganda whole.

That is the challenge that liberals face. To the extent that we are grounded in facts, it is important to keep in mind that reality is complex and most of the time it's hard to unravel (see: origins of the coronavirus). The party based on lies has the advantage of being able to produce simplistic fabrications almost immediately. 

There are no easy fixes to that challenge. But at minimum, we have to recognize the problem. 

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate how Nancy, although at heart an optimist, insists on the right's trumped up but very real advantages. It still scares me. Here again, the us vs them mentality could easily win. That's especially important to Republicans who, after all, normally would be on the side of banks. That's their whole platform, whatever tactics they assume to get there.

    We can only hope that it won't play to a broader public no clearer about the technicalities of banking scandals than you or I. It may yet endanger a coalition built on us vs them. Mainstream media like the NY Times and its mythic moderate Republicans have been promising that for years, it may yet happen, or so we can hope. Take what my seem unrelated, Covid-19.

    For some time, the right has been insisting on a lab leak, while others have pushed back, able to point to nonhuman to human spread of previous diseases from recent times back to the great plagues of Europe before there were labs to leak. And even the agencies halfway supporting a lab leak consider the lab to have harbored a virus found somewhere else rather than engineered. And why would animal transmission whitewash China rather than reinforcing its appalling handling of open markets, including one at the very site of the outbreak? The main evidence in support of a lab leak has been China's reluctance to hand over information, but that's a totalitarian regime, and just the other day a U.S .agency slammed China for withholding evidence about its markets, too.

    The only answer I can see is that Trump, under fire for mishandling the crisis, made an off-the-cuff remark hoping to shift the blame to China by imagining an engineered virus that surely never existed outside of sc-fi (although it might next time). And then, in the game of us vs them, if it was Trump's platform, it had to be "ours." With people with real needs, that's surely asking a lot for us vs them.


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