An anthropological primer: In recent days, we've been approached by anthropological experts from all around the world—admittedly, mainly in dreams.
They've asked us to discuss the ways our species' shortcomings have been put on display in this challenging time. (They could do this themselves, of course. But they have their jobs to protect.)
They've asked us to discuss the following episodes:
The New York Times' "Here to Help" feature from Thursday, June 14. In spectacularly crazy fashion, it told readers how to get to sleep on a warm summer night when their air conditioning doesn't provide enough help.As you can see, the world's leading anthropologists see plenty of grist for the mill. They're focused on the disordered ways our species tends to behave when the tribes wage war with the tribes, as the tribes are doing today.
(We'd planned to discuss that feature today. We've now pushed it back to Monday.)
Kat Stoeffel's tragic essay in the June 10 Sunday Review "The Age of the MSNBC Mom." Commenters said they regard the hosts on that tribalized channel as (their own words!) their "friends."
Essays by liberal, progressive or radical professors from that same day's Sunday Review and Outlook sections. In one essay, a department chairman explained why women actually should hate men. In the other, a George Mason professor explained the greatness of the late Kate Spade's wonderful handbags, even this many years on.
Also, many people can't afford to go to the dentist.
The discussions which consumed CNN this Thursday afternoon and evening concerning Melania's jacket, with special attention to the 8 PM foolishness involving Cooper, Bash and Powers. We'd considered handling that topic today. We hope to get to it next week.
Genghis Khan was hailed for uniting the tribes. So, in a way, was Lincoln.
A revered leader said, "Do unto Others." Mandela honored his jailer. But these are among the exceptions to the way our species is wired to behave, our experts continue to tell us.
(According to these anthropologists, we tend to honor these exceptions—but in the main, we're wired to stampede the other way. See the silly Southern boys, impressing Miss Scarlett with talk of war at the start of Gone with the Wind.)
For today, we'd considered discussing that Here to Help feature. We considered dumping that in favor of Cooper and Bash.
But then, we read Colbert King's new column in the Washington Post. What could be more illustrative of our current dilemma than that?
King is thundering today about "false" statements and "lies." His column is built upon the angry yelling which only serves to harden hearts of both sides of tribal divides.
We're wired to behave this way, international experts have said. But it hastens the descent into war, they've explained, insisting that their remarks must be off the record.
What the heck is wrong with King's column? The column starts in predictable fashion, with an angry tribal figure repeating scripted claims you've heard a million times before.
Accurate hard-copy headline included. Online, the headline has been hardened:
KING (6/23/18): Trump can't be believed or trustedIn candor, there are many other possible words for it; we'll offer a few below. But King is refusing to use his words! This is the way our hotheaded species has always marched off to its wars.
In all my years, I have never seen anything quite like this: a U.S. president who lies and demonizes at the drop of a hat. I don’t just mean President Trump makes statements that tend to be inaccurate or misleading or that he exaggerates, equivocates and, at times, shades the truth.
No, this president repeatedly makes declarations that are flat-out at variance with established facts; assertions that on their face cannot be true.
As The Post’s “Fact Checker” column noted this week, until Wednesday, when Trump signed an executive order ending the separation of migrant families at the Mexican border, his “administration was insisting that it didn’t have a policy of separating families (false), that several laws and court rulings were forcing these separations (false), that Democrats were to blame (false), that only Congress could stop family separations (false) and that an executive order wouldn’t get the job done.”
No other words for it: Trump is a baldfaced liar.
In fairness, that hard-copy headline is certainly accurate! American president Donald J. Trump is a reliable engine of statements and presentations which are false and/or grossly misleading.
You can't automatically believe the various things he says. Absent verification, his statements and presentations certainly can't be trusted.
Still, we'd say the Post's fact-checkers (Rizzo and Kelly) got out over their skis with the statement King has quoted. Meanwhile, King moves directly, in the standard tribal way, from the assertion that statements are "false" to the assertion that the statements are "lies."
Who does that, except Homo sapiens on the way to a war? Our experts tell us that members of that famously self-regarding species are wired to behave that way at times of major tribal strife.
Having said that, let's cut to the chase:
Over in the other tribe, adherents are being given a different way of understanding those "false" statements. The story goes something like this:
What The Others are angrily told:That's what The Others are being told in their own angry gatherings. We're not entirely sure that we'd call any of those statements "false."
1) Concerning "policy," Trump has a policy of arresting people who enter the country without authorization.
2) Given that policy, "several laws and court rulings" do in fact force family separations in the wake of arrests.
3) Given that policy, only Congress can address the laws and court rulings which result in family separations.
4) Democrats refuse to pass laws which would accomplish that task.
Inevitably, King doesn't stop at calling them false. In the tradition of the species, he angrily calls them "lies"—baldfaced lies at that!
Your lizard is currently telling you that what we've said is crazily wrong. That said, even you will have to admit that King's column flies off the rails in its next section. He returns to a famous exchange where a major reporter, in standard fashion, posed the wrong question to Trump:
KING (continuing directly): Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, Trump said April 5 that he was unaware of a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.King goes on from there. By now, though, we've all read this particular script about a million times.
From the White House transcript:
Q: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
The President: No. No. What else?
King seems to think that Trump was lying when he said "no" to that question. In fact, everyone, including King's own newspaper, understood Trump to be saying that he didn't know about the payment at the time the payment was made.
It's still not clear that Trump knew about the payment at the time it was made. In typical fashion, the reporter had asked the wrong question. She should have asked Trump this:
Mr. President, when did you learn about the payment to Stormy Daniels?Most likely, Trump wouldn't have answered. But at least it would have been the right question to ask.
We haven't read the rest of King's column. By the time we reached this point, the analysts were crying and the anthropologists were coming to us in dreams.
King's righteous fury is duly noted—but then, the silly boys impressing Miss Scarlett were sure of their righteousness too.
We're strongly inclined to lobby for war. It's done within all "human" tribes.
A final thought about this particular righteous fury:
We liberals think we're being tough when we call Trump a "liar." It seems to us that we're being dumb, and that we're giving him an easy way out.
When Donald Trump does make crazily inaccurate statements, how do we know he's a "baldfaced liar?" Using some different words, how do we know that he isn't some version of "mentally ill?"
In our view, that remains the more disturbing possibility. But at times like these, we love to yell. According to several experts!
Still coming: The craziness of that "Here to Help" feature. The weirdness of Cooper and Bash.
The moral greatness of those handbags. The many, many, many people who can't afford a dentist.