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OpEdge: Carson’s Alternative Reality

Marc Jampole
November 6, 2015

by Marc Jampole

deadstate-Ben-CarsonEVERY DAY we’re learning more about the fantasy world that presidential candidate Ben Carson inhabits. Carson believes in a curious hodgepodge of fantasies, discredited myths, false ideas, and inaccuracies, all of which he seems to have determined a priori, that is, before he considered any evidence outside his own longings or those of his constituencies.

These false beliefs — many self-serving because they justify Carson’s political stands — are cancerous, because they can spread quickly among people through the Internet and social media, infecting the innocent with ideas that are not only wrong but can sometimes harm them, like the idea that more guns in public will keep us safer.

The latest “Carsonoma” is the revelation that 17 years ago, Carson told a group of graduating college students that the Egyptians built the pyramids to store grain under the direction of the Biblical character of Joseph. Since Buzzfeed first reported this fantasy, Carson has defended his statement with an even greater stupidity: “Some people believe in the Bible, like I do.” It’s a greater stupidity, because the Bible does not mention storing grain in the pyramids, nor does it say anything about Joseph initiating the pyramid construction program.

Media outlets are furiously looking to find a new Carsonoma that tops the last revelation of Carson’s ignorance. I’m quite certain the Bush and Clinton campaigns, and perhaps others, are aiding journalists as they pore over every piece of video or written comment the benighted Carson has ever uttered.

For those who think I’m exaggerating the extent to which Ben Carson lives in an alternate reality, let’s review some of Ben’s greatest hits. Some of these are quotes, and some paraphrases based on quotes and media reports:

  • Homosexuality is a choice because people go into prison straight and come out of prison gay.
  • The theory of evolution is a fraud promoted by the “forces of evil.” Evolution is a theory from Satan.
  • Obamacare is like slavery.
  • Jews could have defended themselves against Hitler if not for gun control.
  • Without Fox News, the United States would be like Cuba.
  • A Muslim shouldn’t be president.

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Carson said that when he visited federal prisons, he was “flabbergasted by the accommodations,” and he worries that we are “creating an environment that is conducive to comfort where a person would want to stay.” Yes, Carson believes that people are committing crimes for the privilege of rotting in a Texas or Alabama prison.

Behind each of these statements is either a political stance or an appeal to Carson’s main constituency, fundamentalist Christians. He is in favor of loosening gun control laws even more than they are now. He doesn’t like it when the government helps the poor or the elderly. He wants to establish Christianity as our state religion. To prove his point, he either makes stuff up, or believes the half-cocked, already disproved theories of others in the reality-challenged community.

Besides looking for new verbal boners, the media is hot on the trail of Carson lies, and it’s about time.

Like all Republican candidates, he tells the standard lies like you cut taxes to stimulate growth and Social Security is in trouble. And again, like all the other republican candidates with the possible exception of Rand Paul, Carson tells special lies related to his own past and/or present. He has certainly lied about his role in promoting Mannatech, which sells nutritional supplements, skin care products, and weight management products, all using multilevel marketing, which essentially builds a pyramid of sales by having sales people recruit other sales people in whose commissions they share. He claims not to have been tied to Mannatech, yet his name and image have been used extensively in marketing the company’s products.

The latest allegation of Carson lying comes from CNN, which could find no evidence that Carson was mean, prone to violence, or a bully in interviewing people who had gone to school with Carson. None could remember any of the incidents of violence that Carson touts in his book. As is typical of politicians who try to pretty up their past, Carson had no reason to pretend he started as a bad seed. The very fact that he went to Yale and became a prominent neurosurgeon is admirable in and of itself. Carson gilded the lily, probably because the myth of the reformed sinner plays so well with his constituency. It took years, but he was finally caught in the lie.

And let’s not forget about the inherent lie underlying Carson’s campaign. Although Carson is raising a lot of money, he’s spending a higher percentage of what he takes in every month than every other candidate except Hillary Clinton. A typical campaign spends money on traditional and online, rent, payroll, and travel, spending that enables the candidate to build a real campaign infrastructure for the long haul. By contrast, virtually all of Carson’s money is being plowed back into raising more money. In other words, Carson doesn’t really have a campaign, but a fund-raising machine built almost exclusively on direct marketing.

The chance of any future embarrassment leading to Carson’s decline is minimal, since lots of people in his core constituency believe a lot of stuff he says. But his fantastical statements and fibs about his past and present will prevent other Republicans and most independents from supporting him. I don’t think we need fear Carson being elected president, or even being nominated by the Republicans.

It seems as if the United States often flirts with candidates who are living in a dream world and build their campaigns almost entirely on lies, myths and fantastical notions, but we never elect them. That’s right... there was Ronald Reagan and that Bush II fella. Make that almost never.

Marc Jampole, a member of our editorial board, is a poet and writer who runs Jampole Communications, a public relations and communications firm in Pittsburgh. He blogs several times a week at OpEdge.