We often find ourselves arguing over the things right-wingers say. That is a distraction. We should instead learn to focus on what they do. One form of this is the STF Rule, when right-wingers accuse it usually means that is what they are themselves doing. Say vs. do.
It happens over and over and over. They throw a bunch of smoke in the air and we chase it instead of keeping our eye on what is really going on. It’s like the Peanuts cartoon, where every year Charlie Brown runs up to kick the football, and just before he gets there Lucy snatches the ball away and he flies in the air and lands on his head.
In a recent NY Times piece, So Who Are the Activists? the authors applied actual data (reality, or the doing) to test the right-wing accusatory phrase “judicial activists” (the words).
Here is the question we asked: How often has each justice voted to strike down a law passed by Congress?
[. . .] We found that justices vary widely in their inclination to strike down Congressional laws. Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by President George H. W. Bush, was the most inclined, voting to invalidate 65.63 percent of those laws; Justice Stephen Breyer, appointed by President Bill Clinton, was the least, voting to invalidate 28.13 percent. The tally for all the justices appears below.
Thomas 65.63 %
Kennedy 64.06 %
Scalia 56.25 %
Rehnquist 46.88 %
O’Connor 46.77 %
Souter 42.19 %
Stevens 39.34 %
Ginsburg 39.06 %
Breyer 28.13 %
One conclusion our data suggests is that those justices often considered more “liberal” – Justices Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens – vote least frequently to overturn Congressional statutes, while those often labeled “conservative” vote more frequently to do so.
The Seeing the Forest Rule — they are accusing “liberal judges” of being “activist judges” and it turns out that it is the right-wing judges who are the activists! I am so very surprised!
So here is how it works. The right-wingers hold focus groups and ask, “if we told you so-and-so, would you believe such-and-such?” And then they go out and spread the so-and-so, whatever it is, in their effort to persuade people to believe such-and-such. They find out that people don’t like “activist judges,” or at least react negatively to the phrase, and know that they are going to be appointing judges who are activist, so they repeat that Liberals appoint activist judges in order to get that fixed in the public’s mind.
And they follow a strategy of first getting people to believe one thing, and then building on that by adding new elements that depend on the belief they previously established. This is a strategic narrative. It unfolds into a story. “Liberal activist judges” is part of an unfolding narrative of “liberals’ meddling with people’s daily lives. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the truth, but it is useful for persuading people to support right-wingers.