POSSIBLY WIRED FOR LACK OF SOUND: Furor erupts in wake of forum!


Part 4—"Who cares what Trump voters think?"
Last Thursday morning—one week ago—the New York Times took a big chance.

The newspaper published fifteen letters from people who still support Donald J. Trump—letters the Times had solicited. These letters consumed the whole editorial page that day. In their letters, fifteen Times readers explained why they still support Trump.

In publishing those fifteen letters, the editors had taken a chance. And sure enough! According to the next day's Times, publication of those letters had touched off a furor!

What kind of furor had occurred? The editors didn't explain. But on this day, they published seven (7) letters in response to the Trump supporters. The seven letters appeared beneath this eye-catching heading:
The Furor Over a Forum for Trump Fans
What kind of "furor" had the forum touched off? The editors didn't say. They simply published seven letters which had emerged from the furor.

Let's repeat an earlier point. The seven letters which appeared that day can't be seen as a "scientific sample" of the letters the Times received as part of this uproar.

As far as anyone can tell, those seven letters are simply the letters the New York Times chose to print. There's no way to know what kinds of letters the editors threw down the drain.

Those seven letters can't speak for the liberal, progressive or anti-Trump world as a whole. That said, those letters may seem familiar to anyone who has read comment threads at online liberal "news sites."

All in all, those letters made us think of the late Gene Brabender, the former major league pitcher. Way back when, in a famous book, Brabender voiced his view of the world, especially his loathing of discourse.

Out in the bullpen on a long, lazy day, Brabender's teammates were trying to hold a discussion. Its abstruse nature made the ptcher's gorge rise. Finally, the rawboned righthander erupted, as quoted below, or so Jim Bouton said:

"Where I come from, we just talk for a little while. After that we start to hit."

The big guy could tolerate some discussion. But soon, it was time for a brawl!

We thought of Brabender's famous remark when we read the seven letters which emerged from the anti-Trump furor. In fairness, one of the letters, from distant Corvallis, reflected no "furor" at all:
To the Editor:

I wanted to express my appreciation for these letters, and in particular to the people who came forward to express their views.
I hope that these thoughtful voices can be the seed for real dialogue in what has too often become a vicious shouting match in which both sides fling invectives at each other.

J— G—
No fury or furor was visible there, just a great deal of sweetness and light.

This woman actually thanked the Times for printing the letters from Trump supporters. She claimed the Trump supporters were "thoughtful." She even suggested that we fling invective over here, on the left, just like they do on the right!

There's one in every crowd! On thia day, in fact, there may have been two. A second letter said this:
To the Editor:

I value your effort for fair discourse by printing letters from readers who do not agree with your viewpoint.
Though I could delineate a point-by-point rebuttal to each of these letters, I will simply sum up my takeaway: The majority of writers note the positive impact of President Trump’s policies on their lives. My question for them: Did you ever consider the impact of Mr. Trump’s policies on others’ lives?

J— M— T—
This letter writer, also a woman, also applauded the Times. Unlike a certain major league pitcher, she said she valued the Times' attempt to create "fair discourse"—though she also said she disagreed with the Trump supporters' views.

Disagreement is good! That said, might we express two skeptical points concerning this courteous letter?

This writer made a bold claim. She said she could "delineate a point-by-point rebuttal to each of these letters" from the previous day. We find that hard to believe.

The fifteen letters from Trump supporters praised Trump on all sorts of points. Could this writer really rebut the imprecise claim that Trump had done away with "wasteful regulations?" That Trump had removed this country from "bad international agreements?" That Trump has "reined in a number of out-of-control agencies?"

Could she knowledgeably discuss all those claims? Is she able to discuss the claim that Trump has instituted "policies and programs that are stimulating the private sector?" The claim that Trump had "destroyed ISIS" by "letting the generals crush" it?

Those fifteen letters had praised Donald J. Trump on a wide array of fronts. Could any one person really speak, with actual knowledge, to so wide an array of points? Self-confidence is often refreshing, but we think this courteous writer may perhaps have been getting a bit out over her skis.

In fact, none of the seven letters the Times chose to publish made an attempt to rebut any specific policy claim from the day before. Consider one claim by several Trump supporters:

Have Donald J. Trump's economic policies really produced a "roaring economy?" Or are the economic gains in question really a welcome extension of trends which existed under Obama?

We've seen several posts by Kevin Drum which seem to support the latter view. But no one in any of those seven letters tried to rebut any particular pro-Trump claim. This writer said she could lick every claim in the house, but none of the letters the Times chose to publish specifically addressed even one.

Our discourse tends to be like that. In last week's inherently limited, forum-to-furor format, the fault may lie with the New York Times more than with any of the people who submitted letters. That said, it would be extremely hard to delineate so many rebuttals! With the overweening self-confidence with may appear within either tribe, this courteous letter writer seemed to think she could do it.

She also may have directed a bit of unfair snark at to those Trump supporters. Is it true that "the majority of [the Trump supporters] noted the positive impact of President Trump’s policies on their lives," as opposed to Donald J. Trump's effects on anyone else?

We can't say that's really the case, though it does fit tribal stereotype.

We've focused today on the two letters which thanked the Times for printing letters from Trump supporters. Truth to tell, though, these courteous letters were the outliers this day.

The other five letters the Times chose to publish tended to drop payloads of bombs on Trump supporters. "Who cares what they think?" one writer directly asked, expressing a sentiment which is on wide display wherever liberal views are sold.

Did the Times get a lot of letters like that? Is that the "furor" to which what the editors referred? We aren't able to answer that. But given our many other furors, would anyone be surprised?

"Who cares what they think?" That sentiment struck us as amazingly dumb. It made us think of thelate Brabender, and of the instinct to hit.

Is our species wired for discourse, or are we wired for tribal war? Quite often, we liberals seem to be wired for lack of sound. We don't want to hear what The Others may think. Why should we care about them?

Brabender railed against all that discussin'. Are we perhaps wired like him?

Tomorrow: Deplorable flat-earthers


  1. "There's no way to know what kinds of letters the editors threw down the drain."

    Puh-leeze, Bob. You know as well I do that the NYT is a tool of establishment propaganda.

    Everything, every piece of drivel they publish is 100% made up; fake, phony, sham, fraud, and travesty.

  2. I agree with the letter writers.

  3. NY Times editorials have been consistently strongly anti-Trump. Their regular op-ed writers are all anti-Trump. So, Times policy has been close to "Who cares what they think?". No wonder Times readers were shocked and dismayed.

    I imagine that the decision to print a full page of pro-Trump letters was due to Arthur Gregg Sulzberger replacing his father as Publisher on 1/1/2018. Hopefully we will see other improvements from the young Mr. Sulzberger.

    1. Come back to the reality, David.
      The media has been interviewing Trump voters (and trying to sweep their bigotry under the rug) since November 9, 2016.
      Alas, each and every excuse the media gives to Trump voters, is belied by Trump voters indifference to the rigged economy, and their calls for taking back their country to the pre-Civil Rights Era.

    2. "Come back to the reality, David."


  4. There's no guarantee the Times didn't write those letters thanking themselves for publishing the pro-Trump letters.

    The policy-based claims in those pro-Trump letters are all talking points from Fox News and similar conservative sources. The letter writers didn't think them up themselves. They themselves cannot supply any depth of argument besides asserting the claims. Somerby doesn't ask them to either.

    Refuting conservative talking points by stating liberal talking points is the illusion of discussion. It is a major waste of time.

    It does not surprise me that liberals are less eager to waste their time that way than conservatives are. Conservatives are telling lies and each time they repeat a lie, it sounds more like truth to them, it makes them feel less anxious. Liberals gain nothing by pointing out Obama's accomplishments, since he is no longer in office. It just makes liberals sad to repeat the refutations of the nonsense spouted by conservatives.

    Somerby pretends there is still such a thing as discourse. That's why he is critical when someone asks "who cares what they think?". These letter writers are not thinking. That's why it doesn't matter what they say in their hand-picked letters. There isn't an original thought among them.

    I care what economists think. I care what political analysts think. I care what educators and historians think. I don't care what the average Trump voter thinks.

    Somerby doesn't value expertise. Like most conservatives, he is suspicious of so-called elites and he thinks anyone who is a professor is doubly suspect. (What did they DO to him at Harvard?) But those elites have new facts and new ideas and are not just parroting talking points, and especially not pushing conspiracy theories and marching orders. I don't understand why the NY Times wasted space on the garbage coming from the Trump indoctrinated. I would have skipped that page the minute I realized what it was.

    Why didn't Somerby? Why is he giving it continued life? Is there anything anyone can say to a person who would vote for a president who pays off porn stars to have sex with him while his wife is home with a new baby? There is no discussion possible.

    1. Dave the Guitar PlayerJanuary 25, 2018 at 1:01 PM

      If what you say is true, then there are only two possible outcomes to our "Trump" problem. Since Trump voters are capable of winning elections, we may be doomed to a future with nothing but Trump and his ilk for years to come. The alternative is to abandon democracy (where 50+% gets to win) and replace it with us (the elites) who will wisely rule. Sadly, I won't give up on democracy just yet, so I have to believe we can still win elections. That may require (horrors!) addressing the concerns of people who voted for a guy who paid off porn stars.

    2. Trump voters are not capable of winning elections. The Russians, Comey and voter suppression delivered the election to Trump. He didn't win it. Even with this interference, he lost the popular vote by 3.5+ million votes. Democrats are now winning elections in conservative districts all over the country and are on track to do very well in 2018. So your premise is wrong.

      You do not aim your campaign at specific people. You devise campaign statements and programs and inform the electorate of where you stand, with the belief that they will elect you if you can show that you are a strong, well-qualified candidate. In a valid election, Trump's inability to do that would have resulted in a resounding loss. The meddling in the electoral process prevented that. We need to address that interference, not think up ways to argue with morons.

    3. "a president who pays off porn stars to have sex with him"

      Yeah, I share your frustration, friend. Indeed, why not just fuck some fat underling intern, for free.

    4. Because the fat orange abomination is too repulsive and repugnant for anyone to want to touch him for free. OK, Vodka Breath? How's the winter in Latvia going?

    5. I hear those cold temps are pretty hard on Dragonspeak (eg, Mao-troll's comma key seems to be stuck).

  5. He "defeated" ISIS by continuing Obama's policies while giving the military a free hand to kill more civilians. ISIS was already toast when Trump took office.

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