TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2020
Attention C-Span callers!: How dumb can our public discourse get?
It can get extremely dumb. You might even say it resembles the "world's dumbest" possible discourse, with apologies to the wonderful basic cable programming which carries that very name.
"Nothing gold can stay," Frost once alleged—but the dumbness tends to stick around. Indeed, the dumbness tends to spread. Consider what Rudy Giuliani said, right at the start of last Thursday's so-called "mascara dump:"
GIULIANI (11/19/20): Well, this is representative of our legal team. We’re representing President Trump and we’re representing the Trump campaign. When I finish, Sidney Powell and then Jenna Ellis will follow me. And we will present in brief the evidence that we’ve collected over the last, I guess it is two weeks. Also, Joseph diGenova, Victoria Toensing are here with me. There are a lot more lawyers working on this, but I guess, we’re the senior lawyers. And Boris Epshteyn.
So I guess the best way to describe this is, when we began our representation of the president, we certainly were confronted with a very anomalous set of results. The president way ahead on election night, seven or 800,000 in Pennsylvania. Somehow, he lost Pennsylvania.
We have statisticians willing to testify that that’s almost statistically impossible to have happened in the period of time that it happened. But of course, that’s just speculation.
"That’s just speculation," the barrister said. For transcript and tape, click here, thanks of course to Rev.
In fairness, everything's (technically) possible. You can of course imagine an election in which Candidate A emerges with a large lead, only to have minions from Candidate B introduce a vast number of fraudulent ballots.
As he continued, Giuliani quickly suggested that something like that had taken place in other states, not just in Pennsylvania.
"This pattern repeats itself in a number of states," the barrister thoughtfully said. "Almost exactly the same pattern, which to any experienced investigator, prosecutor would suggest that there was a plan from a centralized place to execute these various acts of voter fraud."
Needless to say, election fraud has occurred in the past. It happens all over the globe.
In theory, it could have happened in Pennsylvania. It's just that Giuliani and the rest of the gang never produced any credible evidence to show or suggest that it had.
As far as we know, the statisticians were never produced. Soon, the barrister Powell was making claims which may have been even crazier, hard as they were to summarize, parse or follow.
How dumb can our public discourse get? It can get this dumb:
The pattern Giuliani described had been widely pre-explained. The explanation made perfect sense.
The explanation had been offered, in advance, again and again and again. It wasn't especially hard to follow. The perfectly logical pre-explanation had gone something like this:
In states like Pennsylvania, Biden voters had been much more likely to vote by mail. In large part due to Trump's Covid denial importunings, Trump voters had been much more likely to vote in person on November 3.
The Republican legislature of Pennsylvania had refused to let the state's election officials count mail ballots as they arrived. This meant that November 3's in-person votes would be counted and reported first.
This would produce an early lead for Trump. This lead would dissipate, to whatever extent, as the mail ballots were counted later.
This pre-explanation had been offered about a million times. Amazingly, the fellow now known as "His Cousin Rudy" didn't seem to have heard it!
Even as late as November 19, why was Giuliani still unaware of this rather obvious explanation? Almost surely, he'd spent too much time listening to C-Span callers!
On Sunday morning, November 15, Bill Scanlan had been in the saddle at C-Span's Washington Journal. During the 7 A.M. hour, he'd fielded calls from the program's famously well-informed viewers.
(Full disclosure: In 1999 and 2000, we guested on Washington Journal three times. On two of these occasions, we were hosted by Brian Lamb. We regard this as an honor.)
At 7:39 AM, it finally happened. Calling on the Democrats line, John from Pennsylvania angrily weighed in.
Eventually, John explained what had happened in his state. We'd have to guess that Giuliani may have been listening in.
John from Pennsylvania went on at length this day. To review the tape, click here.
"When have we ever had to wait this long to find the results of an election?" he agonizingly asked, early on. Eventually, this exchange occurred:
SCANLAN (11/15/20): What have the investigations yielded so far in Pennsylvania on allegations of dead people voting, things like that? Has that turned any votes for the president?
JOHN: Here's the thing. We were winning Pennsylvania Wednesday morning, OK? After the election. He was up by almost 700,000 votes. Can you tell me how they erased 700,000 votes legitimately, OK?
At this point, John voiced a complaint about CNN's Christiane Amanpour. But the damage had already been done.
How dumb can our public discourse get? It can get prehistorically dumb.
It seemed that John had never heard the perfectly sensible pre-explanation concerning the way his state's vote totals were going to change as ballots kept being counted. Nor did Scanlan mention this point. As a general matter, C-Span lets us the people speak without fear of correction or comment.
How dumb can our discourse get? It seemed that John had never heard the perfectly plausible pre-explanation for the melting away of Donald J. Trump's early lead.
He also received no critique from Scanlan. Instead, Scanlan turned to Dwight from Pennsylvania, who instantly offered this
DWIGHT FROM PENNSYLVANIA: I think all the wrote-in ballots should not be no more. It should all be people go to the polling place or they don't vote. And I also think that, after this is through the court, Trump will win.
So it went on C-Span this day. Was Rudy listening in?
Was Giuliani perhaps misled by John this day? Or is it possible that John had been misled by Giuliani, or by other people just like him, at some earlier point?
Whichever way the cluelessness flowed, there was Rudy, four days later, making a presentation which could have aired on cable's World's Dumbest. Statisticians were eager to speak, but they were never called in.
Given the role of modern technologies, the dumbness is everywhere now in our clownish discourse. If you want the honest truth, (we) the American people aren't always all that sharp.
Indeed, Washington Journal routinely produces tsunamis of misinformation. On November 15, vast amounts of the tsunami were coming from Over There.
That said, the dumbness comes from our own tribe too, even from our most exalted intellectual leaders. Over the past four decades, the dumbness and the misinformation have also rather frequently come from our upper-end, mainstream news orgs.
The dumbness comes from our tribe too, even from our tribe's top leaders! At present, we plan to start on that grim topic this Friday morning.
Tomorrow: The AP and Governor Noem