Times says lie, Post says false belief!


Cooper grills former accuser: Some will think we're crazily wrong to keep returning to this point.

Credentialed experts widely agree that we actually aren't.  That said:

On the front pages of today's print editions, it was a tale of two sets of headlines. 

On the front page of  the Washington Post, the headlines appeared above the fold. The headlines in question said this:

Legal team exits as Trump fixates on false claims
Defense focus said to be on arguing at Senate trial that election was stolen

In the Post, the headlines refer to the disordered former commander's fixation on "false claims." Atop the front page of the New York Times, the pair of headlines said something quite different:

77 Days: Trump's Campaign to Subvert the Election
How a Lie Stoked the Assault on the Capitol

Was last November's election stolen from Donald J. Trump? The Post describes that as a "false claim." The Times calls it a "lie."

Here in Our Town, many observers hotly complain when journos refuse to say "lie." We're strongly inclined to take the other side. There are several reasons why:

First, journalists should restrict themselves to making statements they know to be true. In that sense, even "false claim" is a bit of a journalistic stretch. 

We prefer terms like "unfounded," "unsupported" and "baseless," accompanied by short summaries of the absurd degree to which the former commander has failed to offer significant evidence in support of his wild, sweeping claims.

Was the election stolen? Three months later, Trump hasn't presented evidence in court. He hasn't even put relevant evidence on the public record. 

Three months later, his sweeping claims remain clownishly unsupported. At some point, most people can see what this seems to mean without recourse to the simplistic term "false."

It's also true, it seems to us, that accusing politicians of "lies" tends to empower them with their base (and perhaps beyond). Beyond that, it tends to launch an argument the journo is destined to lose.

More significantly, it seems to us that the Times is ducking the era's major question. That major question goes like this:

How is it possible that so many people can believe so many crazy claims? 

As a corollary, is it possible that Donald J. Trump believes the election was stolen? Is it possible that Donald J. Trump is actually that disordered?

How is it possible that so many people believe so many crazy claims? In our view, this seems like the question of the age. Just consider what happened on Saturday night when Anderson Cooper received an apology from a former believer.

Daniel Politi describes the interview in Slate. Headline included, his report begins as shown.

POLITI (1/31/21): Ex–QAnon Believer to Anderson Cooper: “I Apologize for Thinking That You Ate Babies”

A man who used to be a follower of the far-right QAnon group and the conspiracy theories the movement has spawned apologized to CNN’s Anderson Cooper for once believing that he ate babies. In a special report about QAnon that aired Saturday night, Cooper talked with Jitarth Jadeja, who said he was a full-on believer until last year. Cooper confronted Jadeja about some of the most outlandish QAnon theories. “Did you at the time believe that high-level Democrats and celebrities were worshipping Satan? Drinking the blood of children?” Cooper asked. “Anderson, I thought you did that, and I would like to apologize for that right now. So, I apologize for thinking that you ate babies,” he said.

Cooper seemed to find it difficult to believe the person he was talking to would think that was true. “You actually believed that I was drinking the blood of children?” Cooper asked. When Jadeja said yes, Cooper pressed on: “Was it something about me that made you think that?” Jadeja went on to explain that it was “because Q specifically mentioned you and he mentioned you very early on.” QAnon believers still talk about Cooper. “I’m going to be honest, people still talk about that to this day,” he said. “There were posts about that just four days ago.” And it wasn’t just about eating babies. “Some people thought you were a robot,” he added.

According to experts, the possibility that Cooper's a robot remains largely unsettled. But there was Cooper on Saturday night, receiving an apology from a person who believed, until recently, that Cooper was a member of the international power elite which goes around eating babies.

The fact that so many people can believe so many crazy things is a major modern discovery. The rise of absurdly partisan "news orgs" and openly crackpot social media sites has brought this surprising fact about human discernment into clear relief.

Millions of people do believe that last November's election was stolen. When they make this assertion, they aren't "lying," and their statement isn't a "lie."

Is it possible that Donald J. Trump is crazy enough to believe this unfounded claim? At the top of our mainstream press, the guild has explicitly refused to consider such possibilities.

They like their Storylines easy and neat. As we've noted for many years, it's the way these robots play.

This practice has worked out very badly. It helps explain how we got Trump.


  1. "First, journalists should restrict themselves to making statements they know to be true. In that sense, even "false claim" is a bit of a journalistic stretch."

    This is so absolutely false a statement that it is horrifying that Somerby would make it. There is no possibility that the election was stolen from Trump. Every bit of evidence supports Biden's strong win. To admit any possibility that Trump is correct is a huge abuse of truth. No journalist should be shy about affirming that Biden won and calling Trump's claims false.

    It should be clear to everyone who and what Somerby is these days. It is irresponsible to say this stuff because it contributes to the delusion that resulted in an attempted coup on our government, something even Somerby should abhor, but apparently doesn't.

    What is wrong with Somerby? He may be further embedded in right-wing nonsense than we suspect (giving him the benefit of his writing decades ago). He wouldn't be the first idiot to go from supporting Obama to believing Q-Anon, and his work here lately does nothing but support conservatives.

    He should be ashamed to be writing this stuff. That he is not, speaks volumnes.

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  2. unfounded = false
    unsupported = false
    baseless = false

    But unsupported, unfounded, and baseless do not all mean the same thing, slight nuances in meaning among them. Journalists should say what they mean, which is exactly what they have been doing.

    1. Those words do all mean the same thing, but it doesn't equate to 'false'.

    2. @ilya
      Maybe. But what is the effect of saying “the election was fraudulent” is “unsupported?” That means it could be true, we just don’t have supporting evidence yet. But it is not. It is false. Period. Somerby calls it “crazy” for God’s sake. If the claim is crazy, isn’t it unsupported, baseless, false, and just plain bs/gibberish? What is the point of his ridiculous parsing of others’ language when he is so careless with his own?

    3. It's unsupported by facts is a more effective way to cast doubt than calling someone a liar. One claim resides in the realm of ideas, while the other in the realm of character.
      Yes, Somerby switches hats between being an editorializer, when he speaks for his own beliefs, i.e. that Trump is mentally ill, and someone who criticizes the media for using charged rhetoric, which causes an immediate blowback.
      One is entitled to their own conclusions, e.g. Trump is mentally ill; Trump is a pathological liar.
      I, myself, don't believe either. Trump is belligerent and that is the only thing that he knows how to do. He gives no mind to whether the words coming out of his mouth are true, in that sense he's not a liar. He needs and demands acquiescence to his wishes. Perhaps, it's a personality disorder that his niece has described in her book.

    4. @ilya
      I can see the import of calling someone a liar. But it makes no sense to argue that “false” as in “false claim” goes too far. There is no reasonable sense in which the claim that Trump really won isn’t simply false. Besides, saying that someone is making a false claim isn’t necessarily accusing them of being a liar.

      Also, he conveniently forgets that other “not crazy” individuals who surely know better in the GOP and their media are also pushing these claims.

      Also, what about the claim that Democrats perform child sacrifice? Is that “unsupported?” Doesn’t that word confer too much seriousness to a loony and pernicious falsehood?

    5. And what about the notion that one cannot prove a negative? How are those who do not murder children supposed to present evidence of their lack of murders? That is an unreasonable standard when the accusation is not only unsupported but also laughable, highly malicious, ugly and accompanied by not even an attempt at supplying evidence. People seem to be adopting a standard of guilty until proven innocent, but how does one prove he is not a lizard person shape-shifting to deceive humanity?

      Insisting on linguistic precision under such circumstances is not only unreasonable. but one must be suspicious of the motives of the person demanding it -- in this case, Somerby.

      And Somerby says repeatedly that people are not logical or rational, do not apply reason, and yet he keeps demanding that too. But only in certain situations, such as when defending Trump and his followers from their treason.

  3. "accusing politicians of "lies" tends to empower them with their base"

    No, this is not true. Calling out lies, especially by presenting evidence dispelling them, is essential to defending truth and our democracy.

    It is the mendacious support of Trump's obvious lies, to further their own self-interest, that has led to this situation where a deluded bunch of would-be patriots tried to overthrow a lawful election. If Republicans called out Trump's lies, we wouldn't be in this situation.

    Somerby should be attacking Republicans for their failure to make it clear that Trump's claims are untrue, false, self-serving lies, a breach of his oath of office, treason against our nation. But he won't even acknowledge the falsity of Trump's statements, preferring "unsupported," which means that Trump's claims could be true but no one has made a case for them yet (Trump's supporters believe the courts refused to hear Trump's evidence, not that it doesn't exist).

  4. “How is it possible that so many people believe so many crazy claims?”

    So, when journalists call the claims “false”, that makes Somerby uncomfortable. But he has no qualms calling the claims “crazy.”

    It would at least be logically consistent if he were to argue that the claims should be termed neither false nor crazy.

    But what question did he ask Saturday? “Does Greene believe the things she says?”

    He has made the same queries about Trump: maybe he really believes what he says, thus don’t call him a liar. But please speculate about whether he is crazy, so that he might be pitied, which is what I, Bob Somerby, do, before even knowing whether he really is or not.

    If we can’t know that a person is lying, then we also can’t know if they are delusional, not for sure, anyway.

    A logical argument would be: don’t speculate at all about a person’s mental state.

    The only recourse for sane people acting in good faith (and that eliminates most Republicans) is to state, unequivocally, what the truth is, and to chastise a party (GOP) and its media wing for spreading false information (or unfounded, baseless, or whatever word Somerby likes; how about bullshit?)

    1. If Somerby were still reading philosophy (instead of pulling old volumes from Harvard off his childhood bookcase), he would have come across this. It would have enabled him to have a reasonable discussion about lying:

      "On Bullshit is a 2005 book (originally a 1986 essay) by philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt which presents a theory of bullshit that defines the concept and analyzes the applications of bullshit in the context of communication. Frankfurt determines that bullshit is speech intended to persuade without regard for truth. The liar cares about the truth and attempts to hide it; the bullshitter doesn't care if what they say is true or false, but rather only cares whether their listener is persuaded. Frankfurt's philosophical analysis of bullshit has been analysed, criticised and adopted by academics since its publication." (Source: Wikipedia)

      Trump is most likely a bullshitter, as are all con men but not all politicians, liars, and deluded people.

      Personally, I think Somerby's knowledge of philosophy is about an inch deep and that he is a bullshitter too, in that domain.

    2. Jake: I think that's a pretty astute analysis. I also don't believe that Trump is a liar, as he has not given any indication that he either knows or cares about veracity of his statement. He's more of a child who is so accustomed to his wishes being acquiesced to that he throws a temper tantrum until he's satisfied. Certainly, it's a character disorder.
      So, Somerby is ostensibly correct: it's pointless to call Trump a liar. In fact, it's counterproductive, as it shifts the discussion in the wrong direction.

    3. @Ilya
      Bullshitting is a form of lying. Mary Trump and Bandy Lee have both asserted that Trump deliberately lies/bullshits. Indeed, that is a fundamental aspect of antisocial personality disorder, that the sufferer knows what the truth is, but chooses to lie. So, unless Somerby was just fooling when he said he wanted Bandy Lee to discuss her professional opinions, then he is full of shit.

  5. “As a corollary, is it possible that Donald J. Trump believes the election was stolen? Is it possible that Donald J. Trump is actually that disordered?”

    This question is unanswerable. It is also irrelevant.

    Because his claims are wrong and harmful to the nation, they must be countered, and the party pushing them has to be opposed.

    Trump had to be impeached, since our Republican friends refused to activate the 25th amendment. I mean, surely, that would have been the appropriate remedy for a vastly disordered President?

    No? Ah, but impeachment only emboldens his followers, and preventing him from holding office again just makes them mad, according to Somerby.

    So what’s left?

    I dunno. Bandy Lee getting her own MSNBC show where she asserts Trump’s dangerous mental state every night, with Special Guest Bob Somerby to express his pity for poor Donald?

    Surely, that would take the wind out of the sails of Trump supporters.

    Do ya think Somerby could be stupider?

  6. "Beyond that, it tends to launch an argument the journo is destined to lose."

    So-called "journos" don't engage in arguments. They present information, as clearly and succinctly as possible, to inform the public.

    Perhaps Somerby is lumping journos (a stupid term) in with pundits, commentators, flacks and hacks?

    This is more of his slippery tactic of making an argument, then labeling someone and then broadening his attack to to include others who were not included in his original argument, as if they were the same when they are not.

  7. "How is it possible that so many people believe so many crazy claims? "

    Perhaps it is because so many people in positions of authority are unwilling to label those claims false, as lies.

    1. This is really important. Since the GOP and their media have abdicated the responsibility of telling the truth, but instead push lies, it thus falls on the Democrats and the mainstream media to do the right thing.

      But Somerby rushes in to attack the truth tellers.


  8. Yeah. Too many pixels as usual, but yes, there is a grain of common sense in your deranged stream of consciousness, dear Bob.

    Apart from a large amount of undisputed evidence, what makes me certain that the election was indeed stolen is your zombie cult throwing a hissy fit every time someone says it was. Yes, the panic, the hysteria, "lies", "false claims", all that stuff.

    1. Of course, you have never cited a single bit of evidence to support that election was "stolen", hence the term baseless or unfounded. You, of course, make a perfect case study, as you spew your overblown, noxious nonsense, just like Donald the magnificent.
      It is much more effective to point out how people like you are detached from reality than to call them names.

    2. Yeah but, calling mao a fucking idiot shouldn't be discounted.

    3. True. But I am hoping that Mao will come to see himself that he's a fucking idiot. I do understand that it's unlikely. After all, perfectly rational people went on to die in Jonestown.

    4. Mao is being paid to troll here. Don't dignify his profession.

  9. "According to experts, the possibility that Cooper's a robot remains largely unsettled."

    This is Somerby's idea of a joke, but it is bad one in a context where Q-Anon followers are targeting people for murder.

    It also illustrates why so many people believe crazy stuff. Because non-crazy people refuse to call out the crazy lies, much as Somerby does here. He perhaps thinks it is obvious that Anderson Cooper is not a robot, but others are not so sure about it. You need to be very clear about what is real when dealing with delusional people, to the point that it is affecting politics. There is too much at stake to make stupid jokes like this one, just because you don't like Anderson Cooper.

  10. “Millions of people do believe that last November's election was stolen. When they make this assertion, they aren't "lying," and their statement isn't a "lie."”

    First of all, how do you know?

    Secondly, why do they believe it?

    Thirdly, just because they may “believe” it doesn’t mean they aren’t guilty of believing a lie.

    Let them grow up and act like responsible citizens rather than lemmings, or let their Thougt Leaders tell them the truth.

  11. "The fact that so many people can believe so many crazy things is a major modern discovery."

    Somerby can only say this because he is so completely and entirely, wretchedly ignorant about psychology. Not only have psychologists know this for longer than psychology has been a science, but there is body of research on it.

    Somerby has clearly given up saying anything meaningful at this blog. I find my self wondering why he keeps writing it, except that narcissists can't seem to let go of the spotlight, even one as dim as this.

  12. ‘accusing politicians of "lies" tends to empower them with their base (and perhaps beyond).’

    What evidence is there that calling them crazy wouldn’t also have this effect?

    More specifically, does Somerby think that there is any criticism of Trump that wouldn’t embolden his followers?

    Trump said it himself: he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, etc.

    In retrospect, does that sound like the words of a delusional man? Or one who accurately sized up his marks?

  13. ‘accusing politicians of "lies" tends to empower them with their base (and perhaps beyond)’

    Wait a minute. A big major theme of Somerby’s is how the press relentlessly calling Al Gore a liar undermined Gore and led to his defeat.

    Does Somerby read Somerby?

    If he did, would his head hurt with the cognitive dissonance?

  14. “77 Days: Trump's Campaign to Subvert the Election
    How a Lie Stoked the Assault on the Capitol”

    Maybe read or discuss the actual article, which makes a pretty convincing case that it was deliberate, and promoted by many people, not all of whom Somerby has pronounced “crazy.”

    Then decide if you think “lie” is the appropriate word.

    (Wonder why Somerby didn’t link to it???)

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