MONDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2021
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.