USING OUR WORDS: The chaos moves on!


Preview—An incomparable plan for the week:
We're heading off to do a radio program. For that reason, our first real post today will appear this afternoon.

Over the weekend, the chaos and confusion have spread. We've moved from the issue of President Trump's falsehoods, misstatements and/or lies to the question of his new executive order.

That said, strange claims by President Trump will surely continue. For that reason, we plan to spend the week considering the best ways to describe these peculiar claims.

Will we liberals, and will mainstream journalists, ever learn to "use our words" as we pursue the strange things this president says? Consider two clips from this morning's newspapers.

First example: In this morning's Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan discusses the ways our much-maligned news media can rebuild public trust.

Sullivan says reporters should stick to the facts. At one point, she also says this:
SULLIVAN (1/30/17): More than three in four Americans want the media to “emphasize inaccurate statements,” Pew reports.

They want journalists to call out falsehoods—lies—clearly. That flies in the face of Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon’s testy directive last week that the media “keep its mouth shut,” after widespread condemnation—in the fact-based world—of Trump’s bogus claims of widespread voter fraud.
Wow. Rather plainly, Sullivan conflates "falsehoods" with "lies." That's a very unsophisticated approach—and yes, it actually matters.
Our view? Sullivan isn't using her words—and yes, it actually matters. That said, let's move to a second example.

Over at the New York Times, Francis X. Clinton clearly is using his words. For better or worse, he includes this passage in an Editorial Notebook piece:
CLINES (1/30/17): Headlines from the Trump White House keep feeding a reader’s need for fresh escape. Stephen Bannon, the right-wing iconoclast who is President Trump’s chief White House strategist, imperiously demanded the news media “keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” Such a trusted aide at the president’s ear summons up Chance the gardener (Chauncey Gardiner) in Jerzy Kosinski’s novel “Being There,” who offers simplistic bromides about the nation’s problems to a credulous president. In the movie, Chauncey, played hilariously by Peter Sellers, becomes popular in his own right for “his simple brand of wisdom.”

As Mr. Trump dissimulates further, the reading list can only grow, touching on the works of Richard Condon. He was the author of the Cold War novel “The Manchurian Candidate” who contended, “Although the paranoiacs make the great leaders, it’s the resenters who make their best instruments.”
Has Mr. Trump been "dissimulating?" In our view, Clines may be using his words too much!

Does it matter which words we use? Yes, it actually does! We'll be exploring the topic all week.

This afternoon, we'll return to the question of Donald J. Trump's mental health. We'll be applauding one major columnist who very much got it right!


  1. that's it.
    been reading you since day one Bob, but I can't do it any longer. Any post where you perseverate on lies vs. falsehoods is going to be skipped by me.
    You're wasting your time, which I'm sure you don't want to do. The best thing the media can do right now is call Trump a liar every chance they get. It's simple and gets the point across, and he needs to be destroyed from as many angles as possible.

    Please, please re-focus.

    1. I don't agree.

      Please keep up your focus on where the press is failing.

      Calling "liar every chance they get" is definitely simple, but also isn't effective and generally goes beyond what journalists are strictly capable of knowing: intent.

      Sticking to the facts is much better.

      One type of fact that needs great attention is when a public official makes an inaccurate statement. In such cases, "The President has made yet another false statement" is quite weighty enough.

      I don't need journalists going beyond that -- as a grownup, I'm perfectly capable of deciding for myself whether the President intended to mislead, or is merely ignorant.

      As a general rule, it seems clear to me that mostly it's both.

    2. Is not effective? Tell that to Al Gore. Or Hillary Clinton.

      Heck, their opposition even had to invent lies to put into their mouths, and that gave us both Dubya and Trump.

      Lordy, it's amusing to watch one of Bob's sycophants apply some sort of Marquis de Somerby rules to a knife fight to the point now that our very democracy stands in the balance.

      Heaven's to Betsy, let's not call lies by their proper name, lest poor Nona Nym gets all insulted that he/she isn't being treated like an "adult" who can think for him/herself

    3. "lies by their proper name"

      If you don't know, you don't know. But apparently you seriously enjoy showing just how little you know.

      Everyone notices.

  2. Being There doesn't apply. Neither does Manchurian Candidate. Try William Shirer instead.

  3. When I was growing up there was a common saying that "Ignorance of the law is no excuse".

    I would add that Ignorance of a simple truth is no excuse, and I'm not thinking of toughies like black holes or dark matter.

    The sooner everyone agrees that we are being ruled by a "lying sack" the better.

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