Amazing, how over the span of eight-plus years, high-powered conservatives with a national reach are touting themselves as such helpless little infants, so untutored in the ways of society, that they can claim they’re unfamiliar with something that’s present in every sports bar and many fast-food places, and has been for over two freaking decades: “closed” captioning on TVs.

I am not kidding. Sarah Janacek and Kellyanne Fitzpatrick did it in late 2002, and Jim Hoft’s doing in early 2011:

It appears that Gateway Pundit saw a picture of the Tucson rally, in which the Jumbotron was featured. He then mistook the closed captioning as “instructions” for the audience to applaud.

That’s right, folks: A bit of technology that every sports bar, many regular bars, and many casual-dining restaurants have possessed for nearly three decades is somehow so unfamiliar to these self-styled wise ones that they can allegedly mistake it for “applause signs”.

If this sounds awfully familiar to some of you, it should: It’s the same bogus story that was bruited about after the Wellstone memorial:

Kellyanne (Fitzpatrick) Conway went on TV the day after the memorial and told a nationwide audience that the Jumbotron instructed the crowd “when to cheer and when to jeer.” (The speeches were close-captioned and would indicate when there was LAUGHTER and APPLAUSE.)

Even though the words on the closed captioning followed the speaker’s words by five or so seconds and were often misspelled, Sarah Janecek, a Minnesota Republican lobbyist, said the speeches on the Jumbotron were proof that the speeches had been written and vetted by the cynically politically motivated Democrat who ran the event. Actually, the people who spoke at the Wellstone memorial were all chosen by the families of those who died. No one’s speech was vetted. The Wellstone people had all spent the previous five days going to funerals. It never occurred to them to vet the speeches. The irony is that because they weren’t thinking politically, they opened themselves to being accused of staging a political event.

Janacek’s tried to deny all of this, but I — and several other persons who were at the event and/or heard Janacek’s dishonest commentary on it on Minnesota Public Radio the morning afterwards — know better. Here’s Techno, a regular Balloon Juice commenter and personal friend of Paul Wellstone:

@Doctor Gonzo:
It is true what you say about this stupid slander about closed captioning being used after the Wellstone funeral. In fact, it was first said by that execrable Republican hack Sarah Janecek on MPR the day after the funeral.

The reason I remember this so clearly is that I was driving my car and got so upset at this lie that I had a heart attack and wound up in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. I have not knowingly conversed with a Republican since that day except to insult them. I am STILL angry about that cynical lie.

And here’s Velveteen Ocelot commenting at Democratic Underground:

She was all frothing at the mouth about the memorial right afterwards, lying out her ass on local Hate Radio about how the organizers were using closed captioning to prompt the crowd, and going on about how horrible and partisan and scripted it was. Maybe she realizes how full of crap she was and feels bad about it now; or maybe — more likely, I think — she just wants to distance herself from the truly repellent Katherine Kersten, who really went off the deep end in that obnoxious column. I was doing some volunteer work at one of the DFL offices just before that election, trying to get out the vote for Mondale, and Al Franken showed up and got after Janacek on the phone to call her on her bullshit. I know what she said then, and it was 180 degrees from what she’s saying now.

A caution to those conservatives who, like Jim Hoft, are tempted to revive and repurpose the Wellstone event “applause signs” smear, or any other of the smears originated and disseminated by Republicans about that event: The lying by Republicans about the Wellstone event in Williams Arena was so egregious and so infuriating that it did two (2) things: it led to the rise of the reality-based, progressive side of the blogosphere, and it caused Al Franken to decide on a career in electoral politics. Do you all really want to risk anything like that happening again?

UPDATE: TBogg notes that at least one other right-wing blogger is jumping into the fray on Hoft’s side — even as his own commenters try vainly to correct him. And when a person who actually works as a closed-captioner tried to explain to Hoft and his fan base how closed-captioning works, one of them looked him up online, found out he was gay, and decided that meant his word couldn’t be trusted. Oy gewalt.