Another day, another right-wing lie spreads through the media and across the country…
The current $mear on Speaker Pelosi is a case study in how the right-wing $mear machine operates. The right has been working to spread a lie that Speaker Pelosi “demanded” a “luxury jet” to fly herself and “supporters” and “contributors” around. The lie is effective because it ties a current event to a deeper, long-term resentment narrative about “limousine liberals” that the right has been pushing for years. It is spreading across the country because it is passed through a prepared pipe to the places where the general public receives their information.
The facts are simple: since 9/11, for obvious security reasons, the Speaker of the House of Representatives (who is next in line behind the Vice President to become President) has flown on government rather than commercial aircraft. Speaker Pelosi is from California, so with the House now back to a five-day workweek the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives requested a jet that can make it to California non-stop. According to the Sergeant-at-Arms,
“The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable.”
That is the entire story, period. But the right’s propaganda machine has been working to blow this up into a story that supports their “limousine liberal” resentment narrative, adding various embellishments with each passing day. According to this narrative, liberals are rich “elitists” from the coasts who think they are smarter and generally superior to the “regular people” in “the heartland.” This is meant to create a resentment backlash, bringing votes to conservative candidates so they can get into office … and give tax cuts to rich elitists.
Over several days, the “Pelosi plane” story has been expanded into a fable that has Speaker Pelosi “demanding” a “floating pleasure palace,” a “luxury 757” with two beds, a bar, and 40 first-class seats, so she can “transport her political cronies, favorite Members of Congress, congressional staffers, friends and relatives.”
An interesting point to note about this story is that such government planes do exist. The Bush administration has actually purchased such planes for use by executive branch officials and military brass. But this “use of luxury aircraft at taxpayer’s expense” is not objected to in the retelling of this story. The objection is to their use by Speaker of the House Pelosi in particular. So perhaps part of the right’s anger driving this issue can be laid to authoritarian resentment about a member of Congress – “the People’s House” – a female Speaker, no less – being “demanding” enough to possibly gain use of one of “their” luxury planes.
As so many $mears do, this one originated with the Reverend Moon’s Washington Times and was quickly spread across the right’s echo chamber. Though the Reverend Moon preaches that Christianity must be “torn down” because he is the true Prophet and our “True Parent,” the Christian Coalition again joined forces with him to condemn Pelosi,
Christian Coalition of America condemns the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat from San Francisco, for trying to get luxurious travel paid for by the American taxpayers. Is a first class seat on a commercial jet no longer good enough for Speaker Pelosi? Nancy Pelosi is demanding that the Air Force provide her with a large jet on demand – “Pelosi One” – so she can transport her political cronies, favorite Members of Congress, congressional staffers, friends and relatives back and forth to her district in San Francisco every week.
Others joined forces with Moon’s efforts. The New York Post wrote in the story,
AIR-OGANT NANCY, DEMANDS 22G-AN-HOUR JET OF SAME TYPE VEEP GETS,
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is demanding regular use of the military’s “Lincoln Bedroom” in the sky – a luxurious aircraft of the same type that carries Vice President Dick Cheney and First Lady Laura Bush on official trips, officials said yesterday.
In a development that has some Republicans and defense officials fuming, Pelosi recently asked the Pentagon to give her access to the Air Force’s super-opulent C-32 for flights to her San Francisco home and other official trips.
The floating pleasure palace is a reconfigured Boeing 757 stored at Andrews Air Force Base with Air Force One and the rest of the fleet of executive aircraft.
The aircraft has a game room, stateroom, showers, a communications center and seats 42 to 50 people, according to the Air Force.
It costs taxpayers $22,000 an hour to operate, according to military and congressional sources.
“It will be a flying Lincoln Bedroom,” said House GOP Whip Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
“This shows an unprecedented sense of entitlement. This is a symbol of hypocrisy, this is a symbol of excess and this is a symbol of arrogance,” said a member of the House Republican Conference.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Wants Non-Stop Military Aircraft For Herself, Staff, Family, And Other Members In California Delegation
And right-wing talk radio has, of course, echoed the $mear all day, every day.
But the right’s “echo chamber” reaches far beyond newspapers, TV and radio. People receive information in lots of ways, and the conservative machine has studied them and puts them to use. Online message boards and e-mail chain-forwarding, for example, can be a useful barometer of right-wing smear-planting operations. The same wording repeated at many boards often indicates that something is going on. The number of examples resulting from a Google search for the phrase “Nancy Pelosi’s Gas Guzzling 757 Flying Bedroom”, for example, demonstrates that this may be occurring.
One message board example, posted by “Air Pelosi One” at various discussion groups, (also found here) reads:
Note: The author of this message requested that it not be archived. This message will be removed from Groups in 4 days (Feb 16, 2:21 pm).
The list of things Nancy Pelosi (allegedly) wants with relation to her air travel just gets funnier and funnier every day. Each new day someone comes up with something wilder she allegedly is asking for. So here’s the Top Ten List of what Nancy Pelosi wants:
10. Hot male strippers as pilots
9. Young gay nubile boyz as flight attendants
8. Hot lesbian oil wrestlers for inflight entertainment
7. Nonstop supply of recreational drugs
6. Wall-to-wall mattresses for Democratic Party orgies
5. An olympic sized swimming pool
4. Dubya’s bronzed balls mounted in a trophy case by the plane door
3. A Boeing 747 – previously the largest commercial plane in the world
2. An Airbus A380 – the current largest commercial plane in the world
1. The Space Shuttle!
Many similar examples can be found across the Internet. A Google search for the terms “Pelosi” with the term “757” already yields over 160,000 results. A quick check shows that a substantial number of the listed results are about this particular story.
“Heartland” newspapers piled on, picking up the “limousine liberal” narrative. The Evansville Courier Press, for example, in and editorial titled Air Pelosi, The Issue: House speaker demands airliner-sized jet, writes,
… She is demanding – and, given her style, “demand” is the correct verb – that the Pentagon supply her with an airliner-size jet, the military version of a Boeing 757, to fly her to and from her San Francisco district.
… One Republican-allied group weighed in, decrying the “42 leather business-class seats, a fully enclosed stateroom for Nancy Pelosi, stewards who serve meals and tend an open bar, and other such luxuries aboard.”
Maybe that’s a little overwrought, but Pelosi should know from what happened to the House Republicans last November that voters resent what they saw as the GOP’s overweening sense of entitlement and privilege.
Even though no facts supported Reverend Moon’s smear, the $mear quickly migrated to the corporate media, as documented by Media Matters and Think Progress, with CBS News (and here), Nightline, CNN, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, and , as the right’s Media Research Center bragged, others. (Media Matters covers this topic in detail here.)
Right-wing weblogs also helped spread the story. The weblog GOP Bloggers, in Democrats Weak on America’s Enemies, Tough on America’s Armed Forces, wrote,
If these matters weren’t so serious, it would be humorous to watch the Democrats wield their power in the clean, non-corrupt and open way they advertised prior to the election.
The weblog Redstate, in the post, Roy Blunt on “Pelosi One”, wrote,
In case you have not heard, Nancy Pelosi is trying to take advantage of her position and force the military to provide her with a 50 passenger plane which would be about the size of a Boeing 757.
[. . .] For those of you who still do not believe Pelosi and Democrats are obessed with power I would ask you to think again.
At first, it was hard to pay attention to this scrap between the military and Nancy Pelosi over how big of a military plane she’d get, but when it gets to the point where Pelosi wants to inconvenience the troops so she can shuttle her political supporters around the country with her, that’s a little much.
[. . .] If it were up to Nancy Pelosi, the troops getting ready to go overseas would sit and wait for a larger plane while she had the military ferry her and her campaign contributors across the country on junkets. The military is not a taxi service.
The “military weblog” Blackfive, in the post BLACKFIVE: Pelosi’s Air Force wrote,
Coming from perhaps the least military friendly district in America, it is a little disgusting to watch Nancy Pelosi shamelessly try to use her new power to get as many toys and perks as possible.
She has basically put the Air Force on notice that she and an entourage must be transported at a moments notice in the largest and most luxurious manner possible. She shunned the C-20 that Speaker Hastert used as insufficient for her needs. It’s a Gulfstream IV FFS, a luxury jet that billionaires fly on. But Speaker Grandma needs more. She wants her own military 757 and a crew of 14 to handle her and up to 50 guests, family, and hangers on.
Particularly revealing about these weblog posts are the comments they elicit. For example, one commenter writes,
The idea that Speaker Granny is too lofty to stop in Podunkia somewhere and gas up her Gulfstream IV is pathetic.
They’d have to stop somewhere in “flyover country,” and exposure to how the real America lives would be too much for HM Queen Nancy to handle.
Note the “heartland resentment” narrative.
Other comments illustrate anti-democratic authoritarian resentment,
She should be happy the Pentagon makes jets available to her in the first place.
They despise the military, unless and until THEY need them.
Another commenter resorts to eliminationist threats, writing,
…Just throw her out in mid-air. Murtha, what a fat, bloated stuffed shirt. He really f’d himself, he needs a grenade stuffed down his throat.
So there you have it. Another day, another right-wing lie told and re-told. This is the pipe. At one end you have the strategic, coordinated $mear pushed out to the public. Coming out the other end you have the street-level reaction: resentment and threats of violence.
A final note – Newsweek today continues the circulation of the lie, complete with conservative narrative reinforcement, writing, (with a big, red down-arrow):
“Sure Hastert had military jet, but seeking bigger one (to go nonstop) makes her sound like a 757 liberal.”