Part 4—Concerning the role of Power: Has American president Donald J. Trump imposed a "Muslim ban?"
It certainly feels good to say so! Unfortunately, this feel-good claim is also amazingly easy to bat away.
Can we talk? The vast majority of the world's Muslims weren't affected by Donald J. Trump's executive order last week. In what sense, then, can that order be described as a "Muslim ban?"
(Warning! People like Us will never tire of the task of finding answers to that question. We love to use our harshest words in pursuit of those we dislike. Owing to our true belief and our low IQs, we rarely shrink from the task of defending our uses of words.)
On the Fox News Channel, it's amazingly easy to bat away the claim of a "Muslim ban." In the process, it's amazingly easy to tell millions of viewers that they shouldn't believe a thing "the liberals" say.
(It's even easy to bat away the ridicule aimed at Kellyanne Conway for her use of the term, "alternative facts." We were watching Hannity on the occasion when he and Conway accomplished this remarkably easy task. Conway is one of the most ridiculous people in public life today. But it was amazingly easy to bat away the childish complaint on which our tribe has settled.)
It's time for us liberals to accept a key point—as a group, we just aren't super smart. As an example of what we mean, consider what Nicholas Kristof has now said.
In yesterday's column in the Times, Kristof was making a string of good, if dangerous, points. (We liberals aren't supposed to say some of the things he said in the passage we'll show you.)
Kristof was making a string of good points! Then, he decided to paraphrase what the increasingly crazy Rudy Giuliani is pleasingly said to have said:
KRISTOF (2/2/17): I don’t want to take Trump-as-an-extremist too far: He’s not beheading anyone, and the security challenge is real. Nobody has a problem with improving safety, and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both oversaw improvements in vetting. Yet Trump tackled the issue in a way that bolsters the ISIS narrative and thus makes us less safe.Careful, Kristof! We aren't supposed to say things like "the security challenge is real."
In effect, Trump took a real problem, inflated it with hysteria, handled it with incompetence and created an unjust policy that targets seven mostly impoverished Muslim countries that haven’t produced a single person involved in a lethal terrorist attack in America since before 9/11. Islamophobia swirls through the order, and Rudy Giuliani has helpfully explained that Trump asked him to devise a way to create a Muslim ban and “do it legally.”
We aren't supposed to say that the security challenge constitutes "a real problem." That tends to limit the joy we can take from dropping R-bombs on the heads of those who react to that challenge in ways with which we differ.
Despite those gaffes, Kristof was making excellent points in that passage. He said Trump's crazy approach to that real challenge was making a real problem worse.
But then, he just couldn't help himself! Despite his educational advantages, Nicholas Kristof just isn't real skilled when it comes to using his words:
Did Rudy Giuliani "explain that Trump asked him to devise a way to create a Muslim ban?" More expansively, did Rudy say that Trump told him "to create a Muslim ban and 'do it legally?'"
Actually, no—the crazy ex-mayor actually didn't say that! Claims like that can feel very good inside our tribal bubble. But out in the wider world, silly, childish claims like that can be batted away with great ease.
This raises the question of paraphrase. At this juncture, we'll raise a point of personal privilege.
As Journalist Barbie once said, "paraphrase is hard!" (Editor Ken agreed.) Here's why the helpmates said that:
Paraphrase is basically always subjective. There are no ultimate rules we can apply to show that a paraphrase of someone's remarks is accurate, reasonable, fair.
For that reason, the power to paraphrase is the power to spin. Paraphrase is easily abused. People need a measure of skill to handle this dangerous tool.
Long ago, we spent years immersed in paraphrase studies. We did so because the twenty months of Campaign 2000 involved unrelenting abuse of the practice, with mainstream journalists agreeing, as a group, to put strange, even ridiculous, claims into one candidate's mouth.
(On occasion, they flatly misquoted the candidate. For the most part, the candidate was taken down by inventive paraphrase, not by "misquotation.")
We liberals just sat there and took it. Years later, we slowly came to the obvious conclusion. The issues raised by those acts of faithless paraphrase went beyond the intellectual skills of our own liberal tribe. These issues were also beyond the reach of the bulk of the mainstream press.
We liberals! We simply weren't smart enough to diagnose the dissembling which dominated the coverage of that fateful campaign. Nor were we rank-and-file liberals smart enough to see that we were being played by leading "liberal" figures within the mainstream press.
(For one of the craziest statements of all time, we still recommend Jonathan Chait's account of the New York Times' coverage of Candidate Gore. On the bright side, Chait's ridiculous account of what the Times did has presumably helped him stay "viable within the system.")
In truth, our team just isn't especially sharp; this seems to be a basic fact about the human condition. But within our own tribe, this lack of skill intersects with a second problem:
For decades, we liberals have told ourselves that we're just exceptionally bright—that the dumb ones are all Over There. This is a very basic part of our enduring tribal belief. It blinds us to the actual ways we've greased the skids, in the past thirty years, for the rise of a President Trump.
Did Donald J. Trump impose a "Muslim ban?" If you're three years old, yes—he did.
Did he tell "his latest lie" in the instance screeched about here? Sadly, we'll offer that same assessment.
We liberals have loved our R-bombs for a good many years. We're almost as fond of our L-bomb now. We'll offer two basic thoughts about the childish, silly, self-defeating ways we use our words.
First, we'll suggest that you should consider the role of Power. As a general matter, the loosening of procedural constraints will tend to serve the interests of Power.
During the civil rights era, brilliant strategist wanted Power to be constrained by the rule of law. When adherence to procedure is loosened, Power will generally gain a great advantage.
This is likely true in the use of our words. If we loosen the rules which govern the throwing of bombs, Power is likely to gain. In the current circumstance, consider the slow, but steady erosion of traditional strictures against the use of the L-bomb. Right up through this last election, which party has been harmed by the assertion that its candidates lie?
(In Campaign 2000, the candidate of the more liberal party was the press corps' big giant liar. This was done by the mainstream press, not by the RNC. In 2016, the crazy dissembling of Candidate Trump was overlooked as the clowning clowns of the mainstream press worried about the character flaws of Candidate Clinton! When liberals grant these people additional license, that license will tend to be used in service to Power.)
The second point we'll recommend is this:
Unless your mental age if 3, you don't have to overstate what you actually know to devastate Donald J. Trump. You don't have to say he has "lied" to challenge the dangerous craziness which is involved in his endless stream of bogus, ridiculous statements.
He persistently makes ridiculous claims in the absence of any evidence. He persistently makes unlikely claims which are contradicted by all available evidence.
Our English language affords us many ways to describe this crazy, disturbing behavior. If we learned to use those words, Trump's craziness is easily described. But because our mental age is 3, we tend to run to unsupportable claims using our favorite bombs, to claims which are easy to bat away.
(We run to unsupportable claims. This, of course, is what Trump does.)
We're sorry, but no—Rudy didn't say that. That said, the past twenty-five years have served to make something clear:
Our emotions, and our intellectual skills, don't equip us to see such things. We're very, very easy to beat. The data we'll show you again down below help prove that obvious point.
Very, very easy to beat: We're very, very easy to beat. You know that because Our Own Rhodes Scholar started last night's TV show with this typical crap:
MADDOW (2/2/17): And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.Friend, do you think that sounds like a groanworthy premise from a comedy club? If so, you're thinking quite clearly.
You know how some politicians always sound a little drunk? Like even when there's no reason to think they've been drinking—I'm not accused of anybody of drinking on the job!—there are some people in public life where there's just something about them that innately seems a little tipsy, particularly when they're happy?
But so what? This ridiculous corporate stooge went on and on last night, offering examples of politicians on several continents who "always sound a little drunk." Particularly when they're happy!
She laughed and laughed at her own hilarity. Off-camera, stooges from her ridiculous staff joined in the raucous laughter. Later, she offered additional wonderful humor aimed at the way Trump's press secretary once got an acronym wrong. We're offered this crap every night.
Rachel Maddow is a multimillionaire corporate clown. Our team flocks to her TV show each night. This helps show how unimpressive we actually are. It's dangerous that we don't understand such facts about ourselves.
Darling Rachel's mugging and clowning are on display each night. Below, you see astonishing data, data you'll never see discussed on her TV show:
Per person health care spending, 2015You'll never see those data discussed by Our Own Rhodes Scholar. She'd jump off the Golden Gate Bridge before she'd break faith with her owners.
United States: $9451
(Do you fail to see why those data are central? If so, that's what we mean!)
You won't see Kristof go there either. Our team just sits there and takes it, year after year after year. Instead of complaining about the looting reflected in those astonishing figures, we prefer to mock 59-year-old women who can't afford medical care.
Why won't Those People vote our way? As we pleasure ourselves with our "Muslim ban" talk, we liberals can't figure it out!