As do we modern liberals: We humans! Our tribal groups have always been inclined to repeat their compelling group "fictions."
So it was, decades ago, on the plains outside Troy.
Swift-running Achilles sulked in his tents, angered by the misbehavior of Agamemnon the lord of men. Odysseus and Ajax were sent to urge him to cast aside his great anger and return to the field of war.
As reported by Homer, "Ajax and Odysseus made their way at once where the battle lines of breakers crash and drag, praying hard to the god who moves and shakes the earth that they might bring the proud heart of Achilles round with speed and ease."
And sure enough! When they arrived at Achilles' tents, they found him pleasuring himself with favorite tribal songs:
Reaching the Myrmidon shelters and their ships,According to Homer's uncontradicted account, "Across from him Patroclus sat alone, in silence, waiting for Aeacus' son to finish with his song."
they found him there, delighting his heart now,
plucking strong and clear on his fine lyre—
beautifully carved, its silver bridge set firm—
he won from the spoils when he razed Eetion's city.
Achilles was lifting his spirits with it now,
singing the famous deeds of fighting heroes.
Lost in anger, the famous runner was delighting himself with the glories recounted in his tribe's favorite songs! In a similar way, Donald J. Trump talked trash to El Paso's mayor last week when he was told that his previous treasured claims had, alas, been wrong.
As usual, Trump's silly claims had been wrong. The Washington Post describes the subsequent fall-out:
ITKOWITZ (8/15/19): The mayor of El Paso said after he corrected President Trump about crime statistics in his city, the president called him a “RINO,” a pejorative nickname that means “Republican in Name Only.”Trump never stops singing his stupid songs, which are built out of misinformation.
Mayor Dee Margo told PBS’s “Frontline” in an interview published Wednesday that Trump made those comments in a private conversation they had while the president was in El Paso last week to pay respects after a mass shooting that killed 22 people and injured dozens more.
“He said, ‘You’re a RINO,’ and I said, ‘No sir, I’m not a RINO, I simply corrected the misinformation you were given by our attorney general, and that’s all I did’,” Margo recounted.
Still and all, we humans! Especially at times of tribal conflict, we seem able to believe any fool thing, as long as the bogus claim in question has come from tribal leaders.
Thanks to the efforts of Trump and others, a large percentage of those in the other tribe apparently came to believe that Barack Obama was actually born in Kenya, or possibly on Mars. That said, our tribe has its own treasured false beliefs, and their number does seem to be growing.
Some of these tribal beliefs are significant; some are just silly and small. That said, we love to recite these tribal tales. Consider the letter which appeared in the New York Times after the most recent Democratic debates:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (8/2/19): It is time to give up on Joe Biden. He sounded weak, can’t remember the difference between a URL and a text in trying to tell people to go to his website (I can, and I am even older). Worse, I can imagine Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris besting President Trump in a debate; not so Mr. Biden.We liberals! We love the idea that Candidate Trump "stalked" Candidate Clinton at their October 10, 2016 town hall-style debate.
I would love to see what Senator Warren would do if Mr. Trump stalked her as he did Hillary Clinton!
M— M—, ATLANTA
For a previous letter making this claim, you can just click here. Indeed, Candidate Clinton made this claim in her own recent book!
Tribal members understand the outrage we're discussing when we advance this tale. That said, you can see what actually happened starting at the 29:45 minute mark of this, the full videotape of that town hall-style debate.
(You'll see Trump standing at his appointed station as Clinton speaks to the audience member who posed the question being discussed. To do so, she moves, completely appropriately, in front of Trump, and therefore "into his space." This produced the doctored clips and the photographs which produced our fevered cries. Like Achilles in his tents, we still sing this song today.)
That tribal song is silly and small. That said, on the very day that letter appeared, we saw Al Sharpton allude to another treasured tale.
Sharpton appeared on Deadline: White House. At one point, he sang the song about voter turnout in Alabama when Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in their 2017 Senate race.
Sharpton was discussing the likely effects of Trump's attacks on Elijah Cummings, our own congressional rep. Sharpton said that such disordered attacks by Trump would energize the liberal base:
SHARPTON (8/2/19): The example that I would embrace is Alabama. When you saw the Democrat in Alabama get a bigger turnout than Barack Obama did, it was in reaction, and I think the same effect is going to have, is going to have on Donald Trump if he continues it. He's declared war. He comes after Elijah Cummings, he comes after everybody. And he really is going to energize the vote.Stating the obvious, "the Democrat in Alabama" did not "get a bigger turnout than Barack Obama did." Nothing resembling that actually happened.
Nothing like that actually happened. In real time, Salon's Amanda Marcotte (along with everyone else) recited one of the more popular versions of this silly but beloved tribal tale:
MARCOTTE (12/13/17): [T]he lesson of Alabama, which Democrats should carry with them into the 2018 elections, is to focus on motivating the base. This was true in 2016, when Hillary Clinton lost largely because black turnout was down in several key states. It proved true in Alabama, where Jones was able to win the reddest of red states because black voter turnout was incredibly high, despite extensive Republican attempts at voter suppression in the state. Some of this was due to the high profile of the race, but a lot of it was due to aggressive efforts to get out the black vote in the state.Our tribe loves this tale. In fact, black turnout was not "incredibly high," or anything like it, in that special election.
Because our tribe especially likes creating invidious stories which turn different groups against one another, the version of this tale we most adore involves the claim that turnout was especially high among black women. No black men need apply!
That isn't true either. But if sacred Achilles belonged to our tribe, he'd be sitting on his keister, as Patroclus looked on, singing a song about that.
These treasured tribal tales are bogus, but they're relatively minor. We were struck by the way we heard each of these familiar songs on the very day we returned from our sojourn in Maine.
While in Maine, we had of course seen Candidate Harris offer her latest statement of the bogus claim about the "eighty cents on the dollar" gender wage gap.
Everyone knows that claim is wrong, but no one complains when Warren sings the treasured tribal song we've composed about it. It's one of the many songs about significant matters our silly, sad tribe likes to sing.
In fairness, the tribe which gathers around the campfires on Fox sings many ridiculous songs affirming all sorts of false claims. That said, we think our tribe would be better off if we were better able to see the ways our conduct resembles theirs.
How many false claims does our tribe like to sing? It isn't just the wage gap and various embroidered claims about Trump. Borrowing from sacred Wittgenstein, there are countless such tribal songs!
As a tribe, we enjoy the most extreme claims about what happened in Flint. After all, we heard those claims from Rachel, and we believe she always corrects herself when she makes a mistake.
We enjoy the claim that Michael Brown was "murdered." In fact, we enjoy that claim so much that Candidates Warren and Harris repeated it just last week, completely ignoring what Attorney General Holder's official investigation found.
We're being told that we should believe that "test prep" explains the achievement gaps in our public schools. In a word, that claim is insane. We're also being told that we should believe that the New York City Public Schools are "segregated" in some meaningful sense of that term, and that some form of "desegregation" will somehow address those achievement gaps, which are of course an illusion.
Today's New York Times contains this embarrassing, front-page report about the various things our tribal groups want to tell children in California's public schools. We were also struck by this inevitable claim in a New York Times column last weekend:
RENKL (8/12/19): I once believed that Jim Crow was safely buried in the past, but I know better now. White supremacists march proudly in parades and speak openly to the media. The time of the dog whistle is over: President Trump himself believes there are some “very fine people” among the neo-Nazis.We don't know what Trump "believes," but we can tell you what he has said. Has he said there are some very fine people among the neo-Nazis?
In that column, Margaret Renkl was quoting Trump from his August 15, 2017 press conference at Trump Tower. During that event, the gentleman said this:
"I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally."
Thus spake our disordered and dangerous president. That said, we liberals love our tribal songs, like sulking Achilles before us.
Margaret Renkl seems like a very good person with very good values. We'll bet the farm that she's never reviewed the transcript or tape of the rather jumbled press event she cited.
Instead, Renkl was singing one of our songs, the songs we sing to lift our spirits. We human beings have always tended to exhibit such unhelpful mental states.
But wait! Aren't The Others much worse than we are?
That too is one of the favorite songs of our unimpressive tribe! In our view, we'd be better off, and more successful, if we learned to suppress such thoughts.
Coming this afternoon: This actually counted as an "answer" at those most recent debates