One would think that a member of the United States Senate would be aware of whether or not The Pentagon had approved educational benefits for an unprecedented demographic. Even more assuredly, you’d expect the Senate Minority Leader (and member of the Subcommittee on Defense, Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs and Related Agencies, the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Committee on Rules and Administration, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) to know whether or not those educational benefits intended for military veterans were going to prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.
One would think.
That, however, was not the case with Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY). This week, the Senator sent a letter (see image at left) to The Pentagon expressing his concern about a story that one of his constituents brought to his attention. The story originally appeared on The Duffel Blog, a military themed site that delivers satirical and often hilarious stories (think The Onion…in uniform…with their hands in their pockets). In a letter penned to The Pentagon and uncovered by Wired Magazine’s Spencer Ackerman, McConnell expressed his concern with “Guantanamo Bay prisoners receiving post 9-11 GI Bill benefits.”
Wouldn’t the Senate Minority Leader know if such a drastic and ridiculous measure had been taken by our Defense Department? Perhaps Mitch is so far removed from reality, and cushioned by the lobbyist-funded bubble he lives in, that he no longer can distinguish between the ridiculous and plausible. This could be fodder for opponents of McConnell in the 2014 elections as actor and singer Ashley Judd is gaining traction and is looking to be a possibly strong contender to unseat him next year.
This is certainly not the first time someone has fallen for outrageous satire and expressed their outrage at nonexistent issues. The Stew has chronicled these gullible knee-jerk reactions in the past as the combination of ignorance and indignant outrage provided hilarious entertainment for those of us that can distinguish reality from satire.
Representative John Fleming (R-La) infamously fell for an Onion article about a phony multi-billion dollar “abortionplex” to be built using taxpayer money, and posted his concern, outrage, and apparent ignorance on his Facebook page for all the teabagging world to see with the angry caption, “More on Planned Parenthood, abortion by the wholesale.”
So, a pattern of gullible ignorance and a penchant for knee-jerk reactions to satire are becoming more prevalent as this isn’t the first time a lawmaker has given us all a good laugh by falling for ridiculous stories of satire. That would be embarrassing enough if an average Joe fell for it, let alone an elected official who would most definitely be expected to know better. They should certainly be expected to behave a bit more cautiously and sanely than the nuttiest of their constituency. Instead, they are contributing to, and thereby encouraging willful ignorance and indifference to checking facts before reacting. These are traits we normally associate with cults, serial killers, and irrational children. It now seems that Republican aversion to checking simple facts has been sort of commonplace in recent years. For example, Mitt Romney’s campaign manager was rightfully ridiculed during last year’s Presidential campaign for stating that they would “not allow the campaign to be dictated by fact checkers.”
Perhaps some good could come of this, either way. Perhaps some of Mitch’s colleagues will take the time to be responsible enough to check more than one source and gather actual facts before acting and requesting that the Defense Department waste the time and resources to confirm or deny what could have been ascertained with a simple search of the source, or a visit to the main page of the source itself, but apparently that is harder than writing an angry and gullible letter to your angry and gullible Senator. Who knows what could happen if citizens and lawmakers took time to check facts and distinguish ridiculous satire from reality?
Perhaps facts will become fashionable again, and sensationalism and grandstanding will fall to the wayside…but I doubt it.