Where do embellished accounts come from?

MONDAY, MAY 13, 2019

One last intriguing account of What Harris/Barr Said:
"Mommy, where do embellished facts come from?"

In this media-savvy modern world, 6-year-old children now ask that question pretty much every day of the week.

According to academic research, mothers are confronted with that awkward question a full 63 percent of the time. According to one study, fathers will more often be "working" in the garage, or they'll be off at the bar "with the boys."

Whatever! Future Anthropologists Huddled in Caves, the association of disconsolate scholars who report to us from the eons which lie beyond Mister Trump's Post-Rational War, have told us where our species' endless assortment of embellished facts come or came from.

"Embellished facts? They came from us the so-called humans," these scholars have repeatedly said.

As humans, we were always wired to embellish claims about The Others, these future academics have told us. We instinctively did this in the course of inventing the potent group "fictions" to which Professor Harari referred in the best-selling book which was endorsed and blurbed by Bill Gates and Obama.

According to these future savants, we humans were always wired to work that way. Consider what Rachel said this past Friday night, they told us over the weekend.

The "Rachel" to whom they referred was of course Rachel Maddow. Last Friday evening, she interviewed James Baker, who served as general counsel in James Comey's FBI.

At one point, Maddow asked Baker to comment on Kamala Harris' now-famous Q-and-A with William Barr. We discussed Harris' widely cited question last week. Here's the way Maddow described it:
MADDOW (5/10/19): There was an awkward moment last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee when Senator Kamala Harris of California was asking questions of Attorney General Barr.

And she asked if the president or the White House had ever put pressure on the Justice Department, put pressure on the attorney general, to initiate an investigation...against one of the president's enemies for legal purposes. And Attorney General Barr wouldn't answer directly.
According to Maddow, this is what happened:

Harris asked Barr if President Trump (or "the White House") "ever put pressure on [Barr] to initiate an investigation against one of the president's enemies.


According to Maddow, that's what Harris asked Barr. Also according to Maddow, here's the way Barr responded:

"Barr wouldn't answer directly," Maddow said.

You'll note that Maddow embellished the actual language of Harris' actual question. As we showed you several times last week, here is the actual (four-part) question Harris actually asked:

"Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?"

Maddow made matters more dramatic by amping "asked or suggested" up to "pressured." This made it seem even more amazing when we were told that Barr "wouldn't answer directly."

Maddow made Harris' question more dramatic. Meanwhile, how about her latest account of Barr's response? Is it really true that he "wouldn't answer directly?"

We'd call that claim perhaps a bit embellished too! As we showed you several times last week, Barr said this at one point:

"They have not asked me to open an investigation, but—"

At that point, Harris interrupted Barr, as such people often do. But didn't that statement by Barr seem like a bit of a direct answer? And as the exchange continued directly, Barr also said this:
HARRIS: Perhaps they have suggested?

BARR: I don't know. I wouldn't say suggest—
At that point, Barr was interrupted again. One week later, Maddow was saying that he'd been asked a more dramatic question, and that he'd failed to answer directly.

Last Friday, several future anthropologists were struck by the way Maddow extended the process they describe as "tribal embellishment practice" in their official cave paintings.

We humans always behaved this way, they later sadly told us. This is the way the more "red-asped" of us humans routinely behaved on the way to the latest of our endless tribal wars.

Did Donald J. Trump ever ask Barr to open an investigation? It almost seemed that Barr said no—but Harris, a skilled politician, was careful "not to ask him directly." Or at least, so these occasionally whimsical future scholars have said.

After that, along came Maddow! In our view, she embellished other matters as she spoke with Baker last Friday night—but then, what else is new on this cult of personality-driven, corporate cable TV show?

Embellishment was an instinct bred in the bone. The instinct prevailed in every tribe. Members of all human tribes were instinctively inclined to cheer such conduct on.

This is one of the instinctive ways we ended up with Mister Trump's War. Or at least, so a disconsolate gang of despondent scholars have somewhat despairingly said.

This just in: Future Rhetoricians of Limited Reach have weighed in with some thoughts about Harris' ballyhooed questioning procedure. According to this widely-ignored rag-tag band, Harris should have said this:

"Has President Trump ever asked you to open an investigation?"

Her first question should have stopped right there, these experts have hotly insisted. After waiting for Barr to answer, she could have moved to her next (non-compound) question.

"Compound questions were often a skillful dodge," one of these analysts scornfully said. With a genuine edge in her voice, she spoke to us from the future.

29 comments:

  1. Solomon expresseth it upon a higher occasion, “If it befall to me as befalleth to the fools, why should I labour to be more wise?”

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  2. Embellishment? Ain't you The Master of Euphemisms, dear Bob, describing your goebbelsian lib-zombie media's PSYOPs as mere 'embellishments'...

    Come to think of it, 'embellishment' is what you do here, Bob. Embellishing and whitewashing your zombie death-cult.

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    1. Mao - This is diplomacy—of a certain sort. It is a deep and mysterious science. We probably cannot do better than to confess our inability to understand its intricacies and sinuosities but at this point we can hardly keep out of mind the methods of the shrewd, sharp trader who demands exorbitant terms, and at the same time invites negotiation, looking for a result abundantly profitable in the large range for dicker which he has created, like a goose.

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  3. Somerby demands absolute accuracy of wording from journalists but he thinks it is OK for himself to just make shit up when talking about psychological research findings. That's because he ultimately has no respect for science, academics or anyone involved in knowledge gathering. This is another reason why I dislike Somerby so much. He is engaged in making our world much stupider, beginning with himself.

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    1. 3:25 To preserve nectarines, split the nectarines, and take out the stones, then put them into a clarified sugar; boil them round, till they have well taken sugar; then take off the scum, cover them with a paper and set them by; the next day boil a little more sugar till it blows very strong, and put it to the nectarines, and give them a good boil; take off the scum, cover them, and put them into the stove; the next day drain them and lay them out to dry, first dusting them a little, then put them into the stove.

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  4. Somerby’s quote of Barr is inaccurate:

    "They have not asked me to open an investigation, but—"

    Barr emphasizes the word “asked”, so it should be surrounded by quotation marks or written in italics, as it was in Somerby’s original posting of Barr’s response:

    http://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/2019/05/elliott-williams-misstates-rather-badly.html

    This indicates a hesitation on his part that is not conveyed by the simple black and white text.

    Harris asks for a yes or no answer. She does not get one. Barr wouldn’t say “asked”, he grappled with “suggest”, he ultimately left it at “I don’t know.”

    The attorney general did not answer directly.

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  5. Note that, as of 2:42pm Central time, 5/13/2019, the transcript for Maddow’s show of 5/10/2019 has not been officially posted yet.

    Somerby couldn’t wait for the official one, so he has gone to the trouble of creating one himself.

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  6. TDH seems to be disingenuous with this issue, perhaps it is dementia.

    HARRIS: Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?

    BARR: [smacks lips, long pause, looks off into distance] ... um ... I wouldn't, I wouldn't ... uh [licks lips nervously]

    HARRIS: Yes or no

    BARR: [long pause, appears very confused] [looks over for guidance] Could you, could you repeat that question [appears totally at a loss]

    HARRIS: -repeats question- [Cory Booker can be seen trying to suppress a smirk]

    BARR: Um ... [looks lost, mumbles the question] the president or anybody else [long pause, looks lost]

    (Here Barr slightly emphasizes "anybody else" perhaps considering an attempt to make it seem he is hung up over that phrase, you can see the wheels turning as he considers and then semi-rejects that ploy)

    HARRIS: Seems you would remember something like that and be able to tell us [Barr looks over for help, none is offered, Plan B]

    BARR: Yeah but I'm, I'm trying to grapple with the word 'suggest'. I mean uh uh there have been discussions of of matters out there [waves arm like a magician] that uh they've not ASKED me to open a [sic] investigation, but ...

    (Here Barr emphasizes the word 'asked', "not ASKED me [...] but ... " implying there was some other form of communicating an investigation request, which is why Harris suggests alternatives.

    And here we see TDH seeming to employ fraud as TDH repeatedly quotes Barr's response out of context. At a minimum, Barr's response of "they've not ASKED me to open a [sic] investigation" is merely in reference to his own "discussions of of matters out there", which is vague, not all inclusive, and does not preclude Harris' question of "an investigation of anyone".)

    HARRIS: Perhaps they have suggested? [Barr can be heard uttering confused noises]

    BARR: [meagerly] I don't know, I wouldn't say 'suggest'.

    HARRIS: Hinted?

    BARR: [faintly, barely audible] I don't know

    HARRIS: Inferred?

    BARR: [deflated, makes face, no words]

    HARRIS: You don't know?

    BARR: [weakly] No

    HARRIS: Ok

    Complete exchange between Sen. Kamala Harris and Attorney General William Barr (C-SPAN)

    Harris did pressure Barr, Barr clearly felt pressured, Barr did not answer the question directly, here is the full context of Barr's response:

    "I mean uh uh there have been discussions of of matters out there that uh they've not ASKED me to open a investigation, but ..."

    Barr's claim here is that there were discussion of matters that he was not asked to open an investigation of. Barr is not making a claim that he was not asked to investigate anyone, it is almost comedic in how he avoids the question asked. Barr came up with his own premise and then did not even answer his own question directly.

    TDH wants you to think Barr answers the question by limiting the quote:

    "They have not asked me to open an investigation, but—"

    TDH leaves out that Barr is not referring to Harris' question, but to his own invention of "there have been discussions of of matters out there" which in no way answers the question of was there a request to investigate anyone.

    Additionally Barr's response suggests (hints?,infers?) that while not directly asked there may have been indications that he was to investigate matters out there.

    "I mean uh uh there have been discussions of of matters out there that uh they've not ASKED me to open a investigation, but ..."

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  7. If his silence on this weren’t so deafening, Somerby and his hangers-on would surely tell us that it would be an egregious example of “identity politics” if Democrats were to point out the deleterious effects to “women” of the plethora of new draconian anti-abortion bills being signed into law around the country by GOP-dominated legislatures.

    Complaining about these new laws and their specific impact on the identity interest group known as “women” would distract from the more important message of appealing to the (non-identity-based, natch) male white working class via purely economic class warfare messaging.

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  8. Bard's reaction to Harris' important question was telling and troubling. Harris' failure to let him complete his answer was not helpful to her own purpose. Maddow's description of the exchange was conclusory. The entire affair validates the need for what TDH does. I am a liberal and I want my side to do better.

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    1. So, what was telling and troubling about Barr’s answer, if not for its lack of directness, as Maddow stared?

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    2. “stated”

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    3. It would have helped to let Barr complete his answer and then ask a follow up question or two. Obviously, he was uncomfortable with the direction of the initial question. Obviously, he had something he didn't want to disclose. There was more to get, not that it would have been easy. But Maddow assumed into evidence a question Harris never asked, in order to frame Barr's answer to the asked question (which was fairly direct in substance, if "tellingly" mincing and parsing in manner) as a refusal to give a direct answer to the unasked question.

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    4. You just described his answer merely as “fairly direct”, and “mincing” and “parsing”, none of which describes a direct answer.

      Also, from Kamala Harris’s letter to the DOJ IG:

      “Attorney General Barr proved unable or unwilling to state whether
      he`d been directed to open investigations at the request or suggestion of the president or other White House officials –

      I urge the Office of
      Inspector General to investigate whether the A.G. has received or acted upon requests, suggestions, whether implied or explicit, to investigate the president`s perceived enemies.”

      Maddow was paraphrasing Harris’s question, but her paraphrase was clearly in line with Harris’s intentions.

      The more important question, it seems to me, is the troubling behavior of the US Attorney General, not Maddow’s reasonable if not verbatim description of his behavior.

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    5. Substance? Manner? "Directed"? Oh, whatever.

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    6. David, the problem with letting the witness complete his answer is that they employ a deliberate tactic of giving excessively wordy and meandering answers in order to burn up the time allotted to the Democratic senators. That is why you see so many of the senators interrupt and try to refocus the witness. It is also why she asked for a "yes" or "no" answer.

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    7. Barr's answer was "fairly direct in substance".

      Uh, no. This has been demonstrated in the comments here exhaustively. Or you can watch the clip.

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    8. 7:22 PM. You are right about that. It's a dilemma: work one question hard, or try for more. Very understandable that Harris just moved on.

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    9. Harris moved on because she achieved success, Barr's corruption was revealed. If you thought he would actually admit to crimes, that is misguided, continuing would only lead to more weaseling from him. Barr got trapped between admitting something corrupt and avoiding perjury, thus all the sputtering, long pauses, and indecisive, muddled, and obfuscatory language.

      TDH continually misrepresents the Harris/Barr exchange, if one needs to do better, it is Somerby.

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    10. 6:38 AM. I agree Harris succeeded in revealing that Barr had something (he wanted) to hide, which is not nothing. But if a little weaseling proves success (and "reveals corruption"), why would even more weaseling to ever tighter questions not prove even more successful? I would never expect Barr to "admit to crimes," but sustained questioning might have brought Harris to actually ask the question she claims in her letter to have asked: was he "directed" to open an investigation? To "asked," he answered "no." To "suggested," he answered "I wouldn't say." In substance, I find that "fairly direct." In manner, I find that "telling and troubling." It begs further careful questioning aimed at forcing Barr to admit to tiny little facts (if only to avoid perjury), not to conclusory opinions (at which he is adept, in the face of imprecise questioning). It is tedious incremental work, not condusive to triumphal video clips. And if you are satisfied that by Harris' questions "Barr's corruption was revealed," thankfully we can all be saved the muss and fuss!

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    11. Careful analysis indicates this as inaccurate:

      "was he "directed" to open an investigation? To "asked," he answered "no.""

      What Barr claims is merely that there were discussions of matters that he was not asked to investigate.

      Barr's claim does not preclude the occurrence of him being asked, or requested in some way, to investigate someone. He claims there were some discussions of matters he was not asked to investigate; however, there may have been many other discussions or occurrences where he was requested to investigate.

      Barr does not say that he was never requested to investigate anyone. Indeed he avoids saying this.

      Barr is skilled at manipulation, yet for a moment he was out-skilled by Harris. Further questioning would not likely yield Barr admitting to anything.

      More so, Barr emphasized "asked" implying that there was some communication of requesting an investigation, but not by asking.

      The alternatives Harris offered - suggested, hinted, inferred - Barr was hardly direct in answering. This is clear if you watch the video. The long pauses, the glancing around for help, the nervous muttering. When pressured more Barr weakly mumbles "I don't know". Fairly indirect in substance.

      This was not testimony in a courtroom regarding legal charges, this was public testimony to offer elucidation and oversight for the public. The goal was achieved. If you were hoping for Barr to be prosecuted for perjury or some other crime, dream on.

      The problem here is that TDH misrepresents the interaction between Harris and Barr, leading to people getting the wrong impression, if they were to take his word and not watch the video. TDH is manipulating, just like Barr attempts.

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    12. No need to torture the transcript trying to prove what Barr avoided saying or didn't preclude or revealed numerologically. Nor to shine up a crystal ball to prove that Harris cut off the questions precisely where Barr had recovered his composure enough to start clamming up. We all know what obfuscation looks like. Barr almost certainly was - as he manifestly appeared to be - concealing communications with Trump that amounted to directives to investigate someone, but could (perhaps) tenuously be described as something other than "asking." Everything we've seen from Trump and Barr make it unreasonable to believe that such did not occur. Harris questioning Barr about it was good, not perfect. I think TDH is mostly correct about the interaction, and about its novelization by sloppy or deceitful media figures.

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    13. No one is torturing the transcript or whatever shining up a crystal ball is except TDH.

      It has been demonstrated that TDH's narrative on the Harris/Barr interaction and how it has been portrayed in the media, is inaccurate. He clips Barr's quote to make it seem Barr is saying something that Barr is clearly not saying.

      If you think TDH is mostly correct, I would have to say you, along with TDH, are either being disingenuous or incompetent.


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    14. Well, look, my sense is we agree on a lot and disagree on some things at the margins. I read TDH because I like the focus on how framing issues bear on perceptions of substance. I think that is what we have been tussling over. I appreciate the exchange and thank you for it.

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    15. Discourse is always good.

      I read TDH now because his critics make interesting comments.

      I read TDH in the past because he provided good analysis of issues, as well as good analysis of journalism. This has ended, broadly speaking. The first crack for me was TDH's nonsense over Bush's sixteen words. That was back when he responded to emails, we had a nice exchange, but he persisted with his odd take.

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    16. The best thing about this site is that it is (or should be) about the quality of discourse itself. Or rather, this site at its best is about that.

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