CULTURE AND TOWN: Dumbest man in the Senate speaks!

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2021

Are we ever that dumb Over Here?: The last few years have given the nation, and the world, some startling anthropology lessons.

These lessons emerge from the general realm of abnormal psychology and/or flawed cognition. They involve the ability of us the humans to believe any damn fool thing. 

These lessons involve a remarkably widespread lack of basic human discernment. Within the past decade, the story can be said to begin with the rise of the birther tale.

We'll admit it! We were surprised by the early surveys which in large percentages of Republican voters said they believed the absurdly implausible birther tale. At one time, it was hard to believe that so many people could believe such a damn fool claim.

Alas! The spread of this absurd belief reflected a new reality. The rise of certain modern technologies and media—talk radio, "cable news," the partisan Internet, social media—were exposing us humans to crazy ideas on a scale our species never had to confront in the past.

In 2011, the situation got worse. Donald J. Trump decided to anoint himself our nation's Birther King.

On Fox News, Greta van Susteren served as his birther caddy. Year after year, Trump appeared on van Susteren's show to spread his ridiculous  claims.

This included the claim that he had sent investigators to Hawaii to probe Barack Obama's alleged birth in that state. His gumshoes were shocked by what they had found, he even claimed at one point.

Van Susteren just kept letting it go. She would offer tiny peeps of performative protest as the con rolled along. 

As Trump became the Birther King, the crazy idea spread and spread.  This became an early case study in the lack of human discernment. 

Concerning that widespread lack of discernment, the lesson would be this:

Human discernment can be extremely poor when crazy claims are being spread by TV stars on major TV channels. Also, when those same crazy claims are being spread by people's best friends on the Net.

Yesterday, another crazy claim was suddenly pushed to the fore. The crazy claim was being pushed by Republican senator Ron Johnson.

For years, Johnson has seemed to be the dumbest person in the Senate. Yesterday, in a widely televised Senate hearing, he offered his most ludicrous performance yet. 

Is it possible that this ridiculous person could actually believe the ridiculous suggestion he was advancing? We don't know how to answer that question, but Willie Geist's attempt to tackle the logic of this question was heart-breaking on today's Morning Joe.

("Is he that corrupt, that he believes it?" the reliable sidekick said. As the analysts screamed and tore their hair, we only said this: "Bless his heart")

However you score it, Senator Johnson offered the world a ludicrous portrait of what happened at the Capitol building during the January 6 riot.  At the Washington Post's web site, Katie Shepherd has offered a (somewhat belated) news report about what Johnson said.

As Shepherd notes, Johnson's ridiculous claim makes no sense at all. That said, have we mentioned our war-inclined species' widespread lack of discernment?

SHEPHERD (2/24/21): As security officials testified about the intelligence lapses that allowed an armed group of insurrectionists to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, Johnson repeated unfounded claims about the riot that have become a familiar refrain from those who want to minimize the event’s seriousness and distance the worst participants from Trump.

Quoting an article published on a far-right website, Johnson claimed the “great majority” of protesters had a “jovial, friendly, earnest demeanor” and blamed the violence that turned deadly on “plainclothes militants, agent provocateurs, fake Trump protesters, and disciplined uniformed column of attackers.”

In fact, more than 200 rioters have been criminally charged by federal prosecutors, including many who have self-identified as Trump supporters and who have documented ties to far-right extremist groups. Federal officials have said there is no substantial evidence of left-wing provocation or that anti-fascist activists posed as Trump supporters during the riot.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) promptly dismissed Johnson’s claims as the hearing drew to a close.

In fact, Klobuchar's dismissal of Johnson's presentation didn't come all that "promptly." Her end-of-hearing rebuttal came more than two hours after Johnson's inane public reading. 

(On today's Morning Joe, Claire McCaskill criticized other senators on yesterday's panel for their failure to rebuke Johnson as those hours passed. On this C-Span videotape, Johnson's pitiful public reading begins at the 1:45 mark. Klobuchar contradicts him at the end of the hearing, more than two hours later.) 

At any rate, Johnson read from that far-right website at considerable length. Truly, it can't get stupider.

Johnson has always seemed to be "dumbest in show" in the current Senate. Yesterday, he "repeated unfounded claims," Shepherd somewhat mildly says—unfounded claims which "have become a familiar refrain."

Now for a note on our failing national culture:

Misinformation and disinformation have become very big business over the past three or four decades. In part for that reason, many people will continue to hear that same "familiar refrain."

The lack of discernment takes over from there. According to anthropologists, the ability to believe any fool thing is hard-wired inside our species' brains. 

That said, here's the problem:

At one time, it was very hard to hear presentations as transparently stupid as Johnson's. The rise in those modern media means that transparently stupid refrains are now a round-the-clock phenomenon. 

The Crazy is just a click away. Our remarkable lack of discernment keeps taking over from there.

Was Barack Obama born in Kenya? In the past, surveys said that many millions of people came to believe that groaner. 

Was the Capitol riot a "false flag" operation staged by a bunch of Trump-haters? Presumably, millions of people are going to believe that too.

As is becoming increasingly clear, you can't run a modern nation in the face of so much false belief. But false belief has become big business. False belief, even crazy belief, won't be going away.

We see no obvious way out of this burgeoning mess. Under the guidance of major experts, we're merely describing the forces at play as our transparently failing nation continues to slide toward the sea.

As we do, a question arises. Are we liberals ever that dumb in our own town, Over Here?

There's no truck scale to measure the relative lack of discernment put on display by the denizens of warring towns. But we'd have to say, a lack of discernment is also on wide display right here in Our Town.

We think we see it every day. In our view, it's quite widespread.

No, we don't expect that to change. As is always the case when war draws near, we've largely gone all in in Our Town,  as the others have done Over There.

Tomorrow: Ezra Klein offers sound advice, Also, the way Tucker started...


27 comments:

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    Gradations are a commie plot.

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    ReplyDelete
  3. It's one large cult and you and I are in it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "We were surprised by the early surveys which in large percentages of Republican voters said they believed the absurdly implausible birther tale."

    What are you talking about, dear Bob? Demigod Barry's own literary agent advertised him as 'Kenyan-born'.

    We can't believe you're so ignorant that you don't know it. Or, have you chosen to suppress this knowledge in the 1984 'crimestop' manner?

    We suspect it's the latter.

    As for your righteous indignation at 'unfounded claims', why don't you concentrate on a zillion of unfounded claims made by your own zombie cult, like the ubiquitous lie about a cop killed by fire extinguisher.

    And when you manage to cast out the beam out of thine own eye (we won't hold our breath, frankly), thou are welcome to get all exited about the mote in Mr Johnson's.

    Oh well. Not a chance of course.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Does the Establishment still make you wear a leash and collar on your walks?

      Delete
    2. Good god! We already rubbed your nose in this nonsense. Obama's "literary agent" -- or whoever it was -- made it up out of whole cloth. It was shown and demonstrated to you -- although you could do the same yourself, once you master the skills to use a search engine. Yet, here you're, blathering the same old shit. Quite ironic given your penchant to fret about Goebelsian propaganda.

      Delete
  5. Birtherism didn't start with Trump. It started in the 2008 campaign between Clinton and Obama for the nomination. The original rumors are anonymous and most likely came from the right, but they were attributed to Hillary by Obama's staff. That helped spread them. In 2008, Obama's webpage disputed the rumors about his birth and presented evidence that he was born in Hawaii in 1961 (after statehood). The right maintained a rumor that Obama presented only the short-form Hawaiian birth certificate, that it could have been forged, and claimed he was hiding his birth in Kenya, supposedly substantiated by African relatives.

    Trump's role was to revive these rumors and claim that he had investigated in Hawaii (without saying what he found), and demanding the long-form birth certificate, which Obama then provided. Somerby gives Trump too much credit when he claims that Trump originated any of this.

    Trump's purpose in reviving the birtherism rumors was to establish conservative credentials in advance of his own political aspirations, prompted by those behind him (Roger Stone, Russians). Before that, he had been an apolitical quasi-Democrat.

    Greta Van Susteren was no more important than anyone else at Fox in spreading birtherism. She is on Somerby's shit-list for some reason (perhaps because Maddow praised her).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The publishing mill that churns out right-wing books against Democratic candidates is responsible for a lot of the wrong information. Corsi probably helped spread this too (way before Trump). Drudge and Breitbart were spreading this stuff too.

      Delete
  6. "In fact, Klobuchar's dismissal of Johnson's presentation didn't come all that "promptly." Her end-of-hearing rebuttal came more than two hours after Johnson's inane public reading."

    Does Somerby not understand that Senators must wait their turn to speak and ask questions? Who speaks earliest is determined by seniority. "Promptly" in this situation means that she talked about it first, before asking about anything else.

    But Somerby just loves to attack women, whether journalists or senators, in this case making it seem like female senator Klobuchar dallied, or female reporter Katie Shepard was puffing her up. These small digs may go unnoticed by a casual reader of this site, but Somerby's continual knocks add up to a misogynist stance that I find grating, especially because it is so petty and gratuitous. Racism works the same way, and it wears you down, which is its purpose. These so-called microaggressions are difficult to address because they are so petty that an asshole like Somerby can claim the slights are imaginary, that readers are oversensitive.

    Klobuchar is never shy about speaking up about such things. That makes Somerby's complaint doubly unfair.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Does Somerby not understand that Senators must wait their turn to speak and ask questions?"

      Bob went to Harvard. I'm willing to ignore how Harvard graduates are morons by pointing out how much damage to the world their business school and law school graduates have perpetrated, just to call Somerby a chronic bullshitter who knows better than what he posts.

      Delete
    2. "Somerby's continual knocks add up to a misogynist stance that I find grating, especially because it is so petty and gratuitous"

      Are you the patron who asked to speak to a manager? Your refund request will be processed, um, *promptly.*

      Delete
  7. Gosh, Somerby claims we are NOW believing weird shit, almost as if the McCarthy hearings back in the 1950s had never happened.

    Medieval religion is much weirder than anything people believe today. Our knowledge is only as good as our facts and we have never had access to as much solid factual information about our world as we have today. More people know and believe more accurate stuff today than ever in the past. But Somerby keeps saying the opposite. Maybe it is
    Somerby who believes weird stuff, not the rest of us?

    ReplyDelete
  8. "Are we that dumb over here?"
    If by "Over here," Somerby means the liberal world or the so-called main stream press, I would say "No."

    ReplyDelete
  9. A few years back that bastion of Ivy League conservatism, the National Review, published a highly publicized piece excoriating the subset of white males that are languishing and blamed them for their situation, manifest as drug prone (opioids) and shiftless in their proclivities. As far as the authors were concerned they had become Negroes. It was a shot across the bow at a group, the low educated socioeconomically floundering white male population, soon to become ardent Trump supporters. The conservative intelligencia formally parted ways with them in that piece and of course that group would have nothing to do with liberals. Ultimately they became the backbone of what is now the Republican Party insofar as Trumpism dominates. They don’t care to be understood by liberals. Say hello to Mao. So Bob, we’re not social workers. We know when we are wanted. And we have better things to do with our time than pound against a brick wall that we seem to understand better than the guy who is always wondering why we, as in you, don’t.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The only problem with this is that Trump supporters are not socioeconomically floundering. They are middle class white and male, not drug abusers or shiftless. Their common denominator is bigotry not economic struggle. Otherwise, I agree with you.

      Delete
    2. He has ardent supporters across all strata, agreed. I would argue that the most ardent demographic in percentages is white male non college educated, thereby using the word “backbone”.

      Delete
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  11. Quaker in a BasementFebruary 25, 2021 at 8:04 PM

    “plainclothes militants, agent provocateurs, fake Trump protesters, and disciplined uniformed column of attackers.”

    Or in other words, Roger Stone's people.

    ReplyDelete
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