Various ways to pronounce potato!

MONDAY, JULY 10, 2017

Human history's most obvious point:
Here at this incomparable site, we could never be mad at Kevin Drum.

Yes, we preferred the old Kevin Drum, the one who hadn't been radicalized. But we've now surveyed every one of our youthful analysts. They all say, to a man, to a woman, that they still love their Uncle Drum.

That said, good grief! When it comes to skill-free living, we're required to post the brief excerpt shown below. In it, we're back to the question of when to call something a "lie:"
DRUM (7/8/17): [The Daily Howler] says "profoundly misleading," I say "lie." Potato, potahto.
In the post we're citing, Drum quotes something we wrote in 1995 to generate a contradiction or inconsistency of some type. In the process, though, he misses the basic point, which appears in these various raiments:
Misleading statements aren't necessarily lies.

False statements aren't necessarily lies.

Even profoundly misleading statements aren't necessarily lies.

The vast majority of false or misleading statements are probably made in good faith. A lie is an inaccurate statement which was made deliberately.
As happenstance has it, we're going to be discussing this point again this week. But good God! This is a distinction so basic that any third-grader can grasp it, and does. But we liberals are so eager to shout "liar" and "lies" that all previous knowledge fades away, like the morning dew

Just to be clear:

A "lie" is a false statement made with the knowledge that the statement is false. By way of contrast, a false or misleading statement can be made in total good faith.

If we might borrow from Groucho:

They're simple mistakes, of the kind that get made every day.

People! Almost surely, most false or misleading statements aren't lies! Everybody understands this, except in these tribal times.

What is the potential problem with calling a politician's statement a "lie?" Here we go, for the ten millionth time:

When you say a statement is false, you're making a single claim. When you call a statement a "lie," you're actually making two claims:

You're claiming that the statement is false. Plus, you're saying the false statement was made deliberately.

In most instances, the Kellyanne Conways jump with joy when we move from "misstatement" to "lie." They do so for the following reason:

Confronted with the obvious fact that their client is making false statements, they can now create a different dispute—a dispute about the claim that he did so deliberately. They get to move from a point on which they can't win to a point on which they basically can't lose.

Let's be clear:

It isn't that there's some ultimate rule about calling some statement a "lie." It's just that it tends to be a bad way to win a debate.

Beyond that, Jesus Christ! At what point will we liberals advance all the way to fourth grade? Misleading statements and false statements are not necessarily lies!

Might we adjust Drum's old saw? Here we go:

We say potato, you say "let me think of a way I can fail in a cable debate I should win."

A "lie" is always told in bad faith. Misleading/false statements are not.

You can't find a 9-year-old who isn't familiar with this logic. In this tribalized land of skill-free living, you can't find a professional liberal who is.

Also this, regarding the mystery of cuts: In his post, Drum refers to the 1995 debate about the GOP Medicare proposal. That gong-show debate went unresolved for at least a year. It turned on this utterly tedious question, which completely overwhelmed the journalists of that time:

Were Republicans proposing a Medicare cut? Or were they merely slowing the rate at which Medicare would grow?

We wrote about this in the Baltimore Sun in 1995 or 1996. In August 1999, as a hedge against future confusion, we posted three treatments of this baffling conceptual problem—medium, short and long.

We've linked to those reports many times. Krugman linked to them once. People, we're just saying!

Absolutely nothing about this conundrum is new. It's just that, in our land of skill-free living, it's impossible to move information or insight along.

In this land of skill-free living, our professional journalist/pundit class seems to exist to keep such things from happening. No analytical error is ever dispelled. We live for confusion and ignorance.


  1. I don't know why I bother with this site any more. At some point over the past 10 years, Bob has gone completely around the bend.

    Not only he is making a trivial distinction here, he is wrong. This has nothing to do with the distinction between misstatement and lie Somerby discusses here. Drum understands that the word "lie" requires intent.

    But who doubts the intent here? The people spouting this nonsense all know using anything but constant dollars is grossly misleading. People who make a grossly misleading statement (medicare is not being cut) and they know it is grossly misleading (they certainly do) are lying. Period. They intended to mislead. They are not telling the truth - even if there words amount to a "technically accurate" statement - and they know they are not telling the truth.

    1. Well said. Yet given the stakes involved in making excuses for Trump, Bob's using the situation to vent his strange hatred of the left is even worse then you indicate.

    2. In California, the Republicans have little power. Bernie supporters are fighting the existing Democratic power structure, creating opportunities for Republicans. Somerby is more likely part of the schism weakening the Democrats from within. He is part of how Trump got there. He makes me sick.

    3. Hillary is how Trump got there. Jeez, own up, take a little bit of responsibility. You go from "we are the existing power structure, we are beyond question", to pitiful victim. No, get real, Somerby did NOT cost Clinton the election.

    4. The question you girls need to ask yourself is 'can the intent be proven?', can the intent be proven in a cable news segment? When you realize that it's a hard thing to prove, Bob's strategy of preventing them from moving a point on which they can't win to a point on which they basically can't lose (or plausibly deny) starts to make sense.

    5. Better trolling please

  2. The "Liar" train left the station some time ago, Bob. In fact, the Wikipedia entry for Liar has a short bio w/photo of DJT.

    Over the years I have left Kevin and then gone back. Again this past week I dipped my toe back again and quickly left following his arrogant dismissal of Sy Hersh's article on the Syria poison gas issue. He's hitting the Kool Aid again.

    1. I stopped liking Somerby when he became a Bernie bro and helped get Trump elected last year. Before that I considered him harmless but amusing. Now I understand that we don't have the luxury of humoring our cranks, whether they are socialists from Vermont or idiots in Baltimore.

    2. Bernie would have beaten Trump. None of that Goldman Sachs baggage.

    3. How do you imagine Bernie beating Trump when he couldn't win the nomination?

    4. Sanders would have beaten Trump. Just look at the unfavorability numbers of both Sanders and Clinton. The DNC also helped Clinton beat Sanders as you know. Plus Clinton is a woman in a male dominated world.

    5. In boxing there's a saying- "styles make the fight". It's all about particular match-ups. Against Trump, Bernie gets all the Hillary primary voters, except for the approximate same number that boycotted Obama in '08. He puts a sizable dent in Trump's blue collar support, and he gets an energized youth vote who otherwise stayed home by the millions for Hillary.

    6. He loses women and minority voters and middle-of-the-road (establishment) Democrats, Catholics and older voters. You cannot just count the additional segments he might attract without also figuring in the ones he will lose.

      He couldn't put together a big enough coalition to take the nomination and he will not gain Hillary supporters because of the way he conducted himself -- no reason to assume he would have a personality transplant if Hillary were somehow out of the picture. Those same voters who are blue collar are also union stalwarts and people who value party loyalty, something Bernie entirely lacks. That would be held against him.

      When women were disappointed by Obama's nomination, a sizable number voted for him anyway because of his historicity and out of support for civil rights and party loyalty. That would not happen with Bernie because (1) he is not a historic candidate, (2) he is not a party member and he in fact continuously attacks the Democratic party. So why would the same number that boycotted Obama avoid Bernie? There is no reason to assume Bernie can attract any of the disaffected Hillary supporters and many reasons to believe they would stay away in much greater numbers.

      So, this is a pipe dream that consoles those who cannot accept their loss in the primary. Further, Hillary won the election but lost due to Russian tampering. While I personally believe there was tampering to benefit Bernie adding to her defeat, there is no reason to believe that Bernie would be any more successful in overcoming a concerted ratfucking campaign launched against him by Russians and Republicans. He never felt the full brunt of what could be brought against him during a regular general election campaign.

    7. I think Sanders easily wins the Democratic base, including women and minorities, with the exception of those few disgruntled Hillary holdouts. Clinton was an enormously flawed candidate with a great deal of baggage.

    8. 2;22 PM,
      What was the giveaway about Hillary? Was it the 8 official (and two dozen or so unofficial) GOP-led investigations, which turned up that she might have been sloppy with her emails?
      Based on the above, i'll write it again: Hillary Clinton was the least corrupt major-party Presidential nominee of my 54-year old lifetime.

    9. She lost because she was crappy presidential material. She never would have been in that position if her husband hadn't been the big dog badass. She never would have been close. Everyone hated her cackling boring wet blanket bullshit. People need their soul's stirred by their leaders. She did not come close to that. She was only there because of her husband. Full stop.

    10. better trolling please

  3. "In this land of skill-free living, our professional journalist/pundit class seems to exist to keep such things from happening. No analytical error is ever dispelled. We live for confusion and ignorance."

    Who is more confused, the person who joins Somerby in splitting hairs or the person who understands exactly what the Republicans are trying to accomplish with their healthcare bill and says so?

    The Republicans are lying. They are doing it to keep some of their base on board, to justify the massive tax cut they wish to accomplish. The biggest lie is that they care at all about anyone's health care. It is better to go to the heart of the falsehood than it is to study the words used to mislead the public.

    Journalists know who is lying here but they must also appear unbiased, so they cannot come right out and tell the public directly what is happening. That is their sin, not any lack of skills or inability to split hairs as Somerby wishes. They lack the guts to alienate their bosses and a portion of their readers. No truth was harmed in the writing of these stories, since everyone knows what's what and can read between the lines, a skill Somerby has never seemed to acquire.

  4. "A 'lie' is always told in bad faith. Misleading/false statements are not"

    I can't agree with that - by my estimation many if not most misleading and false statements made by politicians of all stripes are intended to at least muddy the waters, and that's bad faith in spades.

  5. "A "lie" is a false statement made with the knowledge that the statement is false."

    Not necessarily. Sarcasm is a false statement made with the knowledge that it's false, but it's not a lie.

    "A 'lie' is always told in bad faith. Misleading/false statements are not"

    This makes more sense. A lie is told with the intention to mislead.


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