Again with the basic skills: We've been catching up on old blog posts today. We were intrigued by a discussion by Kevin Drum.
The post appeared last Saturday. Drum was reacting to Shepard Smith's complaints about the Trump camp's serial "lies."
(Why didn't we see the post in real time? If you ever decide to fact-check Maddow, you'll find you have time for little else, pretty much just like us.)
"Journalists are reluctant to call something a lie, and with good reason," Drum wrote. He then presented the basic reasons behind this long-standing policy, which is, on the whole, very wise.
(That's especially true for reporters, as opposed to opinion writers. But, for about ten million reasons, it's basically wise all around.)
In the passage shown below, Drum explained why journalists have, by long tradition, avoided dropping L-bombs. On the one hand, this is extremely basic stuff. On the other hand, his reasoning is basically sound:
DRUM (7/15/17): Journalists are reluctant to call something a lie, and with good reason. To be a lie, something has to be incontrovertibly untrue and the speaker has to know it’s untrue. Politicians say incontrovertibly untrue things frequently, but it’s the second part of this formula that trips us up. Short of mind reading, how can we know that they were aware of the falsehood?Most of the time, a journalist can't be sure that a misstatement was a lie. Still, Drum says, there are times we can know for sure.
Occasionally, of course, we really can know for sure. Most of the time, though, we just have to do our best, and we have to apply a standard of “beyond reasonable doubt,” not “beyond all possible doubt.”
There are times when we know that a statement's a lie. As Drum continues, he gives a recent example:
DRUM (continuing directly): In the case of Don Jr. and the meeting with the Russian attorney, we have proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We know that his first statement was not off the cuff, but carefully crafted on Air Force One by the White House. He said it was just a quick meeting about Russian adoptions. The next day, after the New York Times demonstrated this was untrue, he admitted it was actually about getting dirt on Hillary. Two days later, after the Times once again poked holes in his story, he released emails showing that he knew beforehand it was part of a Russian government effort to smear Hillary Clinton.The reasoning here seems amazing. Drum cites Trump Junior's initial statement as an example of a clear-cut lie. And then, he offers a paraphrase of what Trump Junior said! He doesn't even quote him!
At each step along the way, he admitted only what he had to. He revealed more only when forced by the Times. No reasonable person thinks he just forgot about all this until the Times jogged his memory. He was, obviously, lying.
Before we started The Daily Howler, we toyed with two other ideas.
First, we thought about writing a spoof called "My Life on Earth, Among 'The People.' " It would have been the story of a being from a more advanced world.
In the story, the author would have been sent to Earth to send back dispatches about these amusing, primitive lifeforms called "people." In short, the author would have been sent to Earth to amuse his own society's rulers.
This spoof would have been written as a parody of 19th century dispatches from British explorers discussing more "primitive" people. We abandoned the gloomy idea when we realized that we didn't the slightest idea how to write such a parody.
After that, we planned a comic novel called Socrates Reads. Eventually, we settled on The Daily Howler.
Who would do what Drum did here? Who would present a paraphrased statement as the ultimate example of an obvious "lie?"
In the past two weeks, we've been musing on the level of basic skills possessed by us the people. By human standards, Kevin Drum is quite smart.
That said, who reasons like that? Who would cite a paraphrased statement as the perfect example of an obvious lie?
Concerning that initial statement: Having said that, is it true? Did Trump Junior's initial statement qualify as a "lie?"
In this July 9 report by the New York Times, his initial statements are quoted at considerable length. For various reasons known to past humans, we would go with a no.
By traditional standards, we wouldn't say that his quoted statements were obvious lies. All in all, it isn't even clear to us that his statements were misstatements. (If we try to use our words, we can probably describe the situation more clearly.)
(Here's the Day Two New York Times report, with Trump Junior's second-day statements.)
Might we make one final statement about the desire to drop L-bombs? Our statement goes something like this:
Lies tend to be in the eye of the beholder. Conservatives can rattle off a long list of lies by Barack Obama. It isn't entirely clear that their claims are always wrong.
Remember when Candidate Obama said he didn't favor an individual mandate—that it wouldn't be necessary? That helped him beat Candidate Clinton and then McCain. He suddenly changed his mind after winning the November 2008 election.
Was his original statement a "lie?" Within the political sphere, little is ever gained by attempting to make such assessments. That's especially true at highly partisan times.
The Others are always seen as the liars. It never seems true Over Here.
Good grief. "We did not meet with Russians." "We met with Russians, but no collusion." "Collusion isn't illegal." According to Somerby, we have no right to judge whether the first 2 statements are lies. "I have investigators in Hawaii...you won't believe what they're finding." Maybe he really did. We broken-souled libs have no right to judge, right Bob?ReplyDelete
For that matter, according to Bob, we can never know anyone ever lies. I guess editorial writers should just quit having opinions.
When you paraphrase, you are focusing on the gist of an expression, not its linguistic form. There are many ways to say the same thing. Drum is talking about the truth of the inherent meaning of Trump's statement. He need not quote to do that, unless Somerby wants to claim that Drum's paraphrase did not capture that meaning. It is safer to quote but not obligatory. Somerby needs to read a basic book on language.ReplyDelete
Yes, the Times actual quote was a big improvement over a paraphrase. But, note the word "linked" in the Times' headline: "Trump Team Met With Lawyer Linked to Kremlin During Campaign". That word is impressive, but actually almost meaningless. Does it mean that the lawyer was ever employed by the Kremlin? No. Does it mean she was representing the Kremlin when she met with Trump, Jr.? No. Does it men she ever represented the Kremlin? That's unclear. According to the Times, she has "connections" to the Kremlin (whatever that means) and has "history of pushing the Kremlin’s agenda." Apparently, that latter phrase means only that she once campaigned against the Magnitsky Act, which provoked a Cold War-style, tit-for-tat row with the Kremlin.ReplyDelete
I'm sorry, but that's not much of a link.
I'm sorry, but you're a crashing bore.Delete
Drum paraphrased. Was his paraphrase accurate? The Howler won't say! Darlings! It isn't done!ReplyDelete
If "he admitted only what he had to" amounts to "He was, obviously, lying", then everyone of us is obviously lying all day every day.ReplyDelete
For example, if you ask me what I did yesterday, I'll reply: 'yesterday I went to work, had some meetings and sent some emails'. Am I obviously lying now?
Of course in your mind the question you're really asking is this: 'please tell me something about what you did yesterday that I can interpret and proclaim as something evil, criminal, or unseemly', and you're disappointed with my reply, but hey, that's your problem, not mine.
This comment has been removed by the author.Delete
Well, if you did evil, criminal or unseemly at a meeting yesterday (entirely possible since you're a defender of Don Jr), and are asked about it, and make a public statement about it, then hell yes, I'd say you're lying, besides being an evil unseemly criminalDelete
Not at a meeting, no, but I actually did talk for a few minutes (in a corridor) to a colleague named Nina.ReplyDelete
Since you appear to be a new-mccarthyist (to borrow a characterization from Stephen Cohen), that probably amounts, in your mind, to something utterly evil, criminal, and unseemly. But then, again, this is your problem, not mine...
Well, if you and/or close associates were under investigation and you had a long (not a few minutes) planned meeting (not in a corridor) with some people with dubious backgrounds that are linkded to the investigation, and said that the meeting was about an unrelated topic (although the very subject matter of the meeting was shown to be a topic under investigation), I would definitely say you were a liar and were likely indulging in unethical, unseemly and criminal behavior. And if you had a highly public profile, then a widespread perception like this is definitely your problem.Delete
Of course, anyone who so vigorously defends DJTjr through obscure nitpicking is likely evil, unseemly or deluded anyway.
"with some people with dubious backgrounds that are linked to the investigation"Delete
Eh - what?
"and said that the meeting was about an unrelated topic"
Apparently adoption is what the woman wanted to talk about, and, in fact, what she talked about. When you're digging dirt on someone, you shouldn't expect their enthusiastic cooperation, and interpret the absence of it as 'lying'.
"And if you had a highly public profile, then a widespread perception like this is definitely your problem."
I don't think there's any "widespread perception" of this guy.
"Of course, anyone who so vigorously defends DJTjr through obscure nitpicking is likely evil, unseemly or deluded anyway."
Now, look. May I remind you that the issue here is journalistic malpractice, and nothing else. If, as it sounds like, you're not interested, and want to pursue some other topic, there are plenty of places where your obsessive hatred of everything Trump will be well-received.
'Apparently adoption is what the woman wanted to talk about, and, in fact, what she talked about. 'Delete
That doubtless is why the email setting up the email setting up the meeting states that they had dirt on the Clinton campaign.
'When you're digging dirt on someone, you shouldn't expect their enthusiastic cooperation, and interpret the absence of it as 'lying'. '
The analogy might be a meeting with a hit man (with an email indicating that this was the topic of the meeting), and saying the meeting was about a financial transaction (which it obviously would was, since money is involved in arranging a hit). I doubt any unbiased jury would take the interlocutor to be the apostle of truth.
Of course whoever hired the hit man is not obliged to reveal incriminating information, but it is easy for anyone possessing the intellect of Winnie the Pooh to make conclusions.
'May I remind you that the issue here is journalistic malpractice, and nothing else. '
May I remind you that includes malpractice by bloggers who nitpick and focus not just on trees, but maybe on miniscule twigs to miss the forest. The technical term for that is 'wilful blindness'.
"That doubtless is why the email setting up the email setting up the meeting states that they had dirt on the Clinton campaign."Delete
But perhaps if he was asked about the email, he would've answered about the email.
"I doubt any unbiased jury would take the interlocutor to be the apostle of truth."
I dunno, it seems to me "the meeting was about a financial transaction" would've been a perfectly predictable answer. And not a lie.
"May I remind you that includes malpractice by bloggers who nitpick and focus not just on trees, but maybe on miniscule twigs to miss the forest."
The forest I see is the US media (and the western media in general) being a propaganda tool that reminds me of the ministry of truth from 1984. And I don't think I'm alone in this. The last time I observed something similar, it was 2003, war-mongering for the Iraq invasion. But these days it goes far and beyond.
And I, for one, am glad that someone is making a serious effort to document the atrocity.
chengjimao, this is basic skills level stuff. Junior omitted telling the whole story, obfuscating the truth. He withheld relevant information. He deceived in an instance where deception protected himself; it was his intent to deceive.Delete
I seriously doubt you read 1984 as clearly the totalitarian here is Trump. The run up to the Iraq war was similarly propagated by Republicans. Ironically, your real complaint here is that the media is NOT being used as a propaganda tool of Trump. You also misunderstand Bob's take on the media, as he largely ignores the issue of corporate owned news media, and focuses on the lack of skills of journalists.
'The forest I see is the US media (and the western media in general) being a propaganda tool that reminds me of the ministry of truth from 1984. And I don't think I'm alone in this. The last time I observed something similar, it was 2003, war-mongering for the Iraq invasion. But these days it goes far and beyond. 'Delete
If there were indepedent media organizations in 1984, opposing a would be Big Brother and his Number One Son and state media (Fox, BretBart), then your analogy might be appropriate. But ypur analogy actually turns the truth on it's head in a way that is well .. Orwellian.
Anyone who nitpicks to defend Trump and his son is indeed acting as a Trump enabler, just as anyone defending the would be hit man in my earlier example would be defending a true, real atrocity. !
"You also misunderstand Bob's take on the media, as he largely ignores the issue of corporate owned news media, and focuses on the lack of skills of journalists."Delete
I get it. But he's wrong, there's no doubt in my mind that what we're witnessing is a well-organized coordinated campaign.
This particular nonsense (president's son met a women named Natalia - the horrors!) was clearly held back and timed to be played out in the aftermath of the meeting with Putin.
The purpose is the same as in 2003: war-mongering. But this time they have to bend the elected president, and the target is a state with 7,000 nuclear weapons. High stakes.
In fact corporate bosses largely support Trump. The notion of some attack by 'corporates' on Trump is bizarrely counteractual.Delete
'This particular nonsense (president's son met a women named Natalia - the horrors!) was clearly held back and timed to be played out in the aftermath of the meeting with Putin. 'Delete
And if it had been published earlier, you would doubtless have said that it was published in the run up to the meeting with Putin to damage the meeting.
"And if it had been published earlier, you would doubtless have said that it was published in the run up to the meeting with Putin to damage the meeting"Delete
No. You don't start this sort of drivel before the event; the event will kill it, it'll be forgotten. You start it after the event, to break the positive dynamic.
Lazy, witless trolling.Delete
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