"Lack of evidence" decried by the Times: Once in a while, you just have to laugh.
So it went this very morning when we read the New York Times' front-page report about Donald J. Trump's new remarks.
The unflappable commander-in-chief started yesterday's press event with the usual lunatic claims about how well the United States has done combating the spread of the virus.
The commander repeated recent claims about the massive outbreaks which have occurred in New Zealand and South Korea. For one limited look at the data, you might consider this:
Deaths from covid-19 in past seven days,We haven't adjusted for population. Do you feel we need to?
as of August 20:
United States: 7,150
South Korea: 2
New Zealand: 0
(For the record, South Korea's population is about one-sixth as large as ours. When judged by the standards of carnage in TrumpLand, that nation's recent small rise in confirmed cases is very much under control.)
So goes the commander's daily flight from sanity's bounds. Yesterday, the amusement began when he fielded the day's first question:
REPORTER (8/19/20): During the pandemic, the QAnon movement appears to be gaining a lot of followers. Can you talk about what you think about that and what you have to say to people who are following this movement right now?That was a flaccid, unfocused question, perfect for filibuster. Donald Trump started to speak:
"Well, I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate," the commander said. "But I don’t know much about the movement," the commander said again.
He went on to say that the QAnon crowd is upset by the violence in Seattle and Portland, and by the fact that "the Democrats can't run a city." Or at least, he said that's what he has heard about the movement's members.
The commander said he didn't know much about the movement. But then, dear God—a follow-up question! This exchange occurred:
REPORTER: The crux of the theory is this belief that you are secretly saving the world from this satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals. Does that sound like something you are behind or—Would it really be a bad thing if the commander secretly saved the world from a satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals? Trump filibustered on from there, then called on a different reporter.
TRUMP: Well, I haven’t heard that. But is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? I mean, if I can help save the world from problems, I’m willing to do it. I’m willing to put myself out there...
No reporter returned to this topic as the questions continued. Our press corps is dedicated to one proposition:
They wouldn't follow through on a question if their grandmothers' lives were at stake.
At any rate, the commander had gone on the record with his second statement. He's willing to save the world from a "satanic cult of pedophiles and cannibals" if he can possibly do it.
More generally, the commander is willing to "save the world from problems." If some such satanic cult is one of the "problems" in question, he'll be happy to do what he can.
Alas! No one asked the commander in chief if he thinks that actually is one of the world's many "problems." In this morning's New York Times, Katie Rogers describes the QAnon movement's beliefs in a bit more detail, while possibly seeming to misstate what Trump was actually told at yesterday's press event:
ROGERS (8/20/20): When told by a reporter about the central premise of the QAnon theory—a belief that Mr. Trump is saving the world from a satanic cult made up of pedophiles and cannibals connected to Democratic Party figures, so-called deep-state actors and Hollywood celebrities—Mr. Trump did not question the validity of the movement or the truth of those claims.In fact, the reporter at yesterday's press event didn't mention the part of the "theory" in which the pedophiles and cannibals "are connected to Democratic Party figures" and even to Hollywood stars.
No one asked Donald J. Trump if he thinks that part of the theory makes sense. After the commander filibustered and finessed yesterday's first two questions, no one else returned to the topic at all.
What does the commander in chief think about QAnon? Thanks to yesterday's scattershot "questioning," no information emerged.
Meanwhile, the Times seems to be ramping up its coverage of this deeply strange and revealing movement. But we had to chuckle at some of the ways the topic was handled this morning.
Again, let's get clear on what this movement's adherents seem to believe. According to a wealth of reporting, adherents believe that Donald J. Trump was secretly selected to defeat a worldwide cabal of pedophiles and cannibals.
This worldwide satanic cabal includes some well-known figures. This morning, Rogers says this:
ROGERS: QAnon is a larger and many-tentacled version of the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, which falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton was operating a child sex-trafficking ring out of the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizza restaurant. In December 2016, a man who said he was on the hunt for proof of child abuse was arrested after firing a rifle inside the restaurant.Both Clintons seem to be part of the satanic cabal—and also, even Tom Hanks! Like others before her, Rogers links QAnon to the earlier Pizzagate lunacy, in which crazy people believed that Hillary Clinton was operating a child sex-trafficking ring out of the basement of a Washington pizza joint.
QAnon supporters often flood social media pages with memes and YouTube videos that target well-known figures—like Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and the actor Tom Hanks—with unfounded claims about their links to child abuse. Lately, activists have used anti-child-trafficking hashtags as a recruitment tool.
By normal reckoning, you had to be crazy to believe something like that. By normal reckoning, you have to be even crazier to believe the much wider current "theory," which holds that the commander was secretly recruited by shadowy figures to bring a much larger worldwide conspiracy to a halt.
By normal reckoning, you have to be something resembling insane to believe such crazy claims. And as we told you yesterday, the press corps has had, and will continue to have, a very hard time coming to terms with that deeply strange fact.
We almost had to laugh at times as we read Rogers' report. There's little journalistic precedent for reporting the fact that large numbers of citizens seem to be stone-cold crazy. For that reason, Rogers had to introduce a strange word, "falsely," into the passage we've just just posted.
Did people "falsely" claim that Hillary Clinton was trafficking children out of that pizza joint? We laughed at that word so we wouldn't cry. As we continued, we came upon this:
ROGERS (continuing directly): “It’s not just a conspiracy theory, this is a domestic extremist movement,” said Travis View, a host of “QAnon Anonymous,” a podcast that seeks to explain the movement. Mr. View said that Twitter and Facebook pages exploded with comments from gleeful followers after Mr. Trump’s comments.We don't know why View would say that the commander "supported the central premise of the theory" in what he said yesterday. There too, we'd say that Rogers may have been embellishing what actually was said.
Mr. View pointed out that the president answered the question by supporting the central premise of the QAnon theory—that he is battling a cabal of left-wing pedophiles—rather than addressing the lack of evidence behind the movement.
That said, we had to chuckle at Rogers' formulation, in which View called attention to "the lack of evidence" in support of the theory:
Really? There's "a lack of evidence" behind the claim that Trump is battling a worldwide satanic cabal of pedophiles and cannibals which includes Tom Hanks? You almost have to chuckle when you see such formulations—or when you read something like this:
ROGERS: “I’m not surprised at all by [the commander's] reaction, and I don’t think QAnon conspirators are surprised either. It’s terrifying,” Vanessa Bouché, an associate professor of political science at Texas Christian University, said in an interview. “In a democratic society, we make decisions based on information. And "if people are believing these lies, then we’re in a very dangerous position.”We agree on one basic point--it ought to be deeply disturbing to learn that millions of people seem to believe the crackpot tenets of this lunatic "movement."
But was it really a "lie" when people said that Hilary Clinton was running that sex ring out of that pizza joint? It's true that people believe lies all the time. But is that what that lunacy was?
The mainstream press has uniformly refused to discuss the commander's possible mental illness. The mainstream press is also poorly equipped for the task of discussing a matter like this.
When so many people can believe such lunatic claims, the very foundations of democratic theory are instantly called into question. That said, our highly unimpressive press corps doesn't have the skills, or the nerve, to discuss a moment like this.
Rogers did make one instant move designed to make this matter more edible. In paragraph 9, she quotes a think tank research director linking QAnon to classic anti-Semitism. When HRC was running that sex ring out of that pizza joint, was that anti-Semitism too?
At present, our mainstream culture uses two basic tools in explaining the world—racism and sexism. Anti-Semitism is a part of this limited tool kit.
For all we know, there may be elements of classic anti-Semitism mixed in QAnon's crazy brew. That said, anti-Semitism has long been a global manifestation of something resembling mental illness.
Embarrassingly and disturbingly, the QAnon movement simply reeks of The Crazy. But as crazy ideas become widely held, the Times will be inclined to view these crazy ideas as "falsehoods" or "lies," even as claims which "lack evidence."
Is Tom Hanks part of a worldwide cabal of pedophiles and cannibals who drink the blood of their victims?
There's a "lack of evidence" in support of that "theory," the New York Times now explains.
Tomorrow: Lunatic claims about Harris, plus pathways to The Wrong