TRIBES AND TRUE: The tourists believed they were telling the truth!


A healthy exchange with Ted Koppel: Just last week, the Washington Post's Emily Yahr recalled the CBS broadcast.

As we noted yesterday, the background on the broadcast was this:

Back in June, Ted Koppel had gone to Mount Airy, North Carolina to see what the public was thinking. Once there, he posed several good questions to a group of (mainly) tourists. 

He asked them about the 2020 presidential election, and about the January 6 riot at the Capitol. When he posed those questions, for better or worse, they said such things as these:

KOPPEL: I know you came here to have a good time and not to talk politics. But let me just ask you, as a matter of curiosity: How many of you think we had a fair election?

FIRST MAN: No way!


SECOND MAN: No, no it wasn't.

FIRST MAN: I don't think it was at all.

KOPPEL: Was it a fair election?

THIRD MAN: By no means. I think there was a lot of voter fraud. It's never been proven. There's been people that's voted that's been dead fifteen years. I think it's more the mail-in ballot stuff. You don't know how much of those that were duplicated, triplicated. The whole bit.

FOURTH MAN: Look how many dead people voted for Biden.

At least as broadcast, that's the way the discussion began. And then, the discussion continued: 

KOPPEL: One question, it's a serious question and I know you all will take it seriously: Tell me what you think happened on January 6 at Congress.

FIRST MAN: They showed truckloads of people that they were bringing in for this. It was all staged. And that's how that started. They even showed pictures of it on the news, about these vehicles coming in with all these BLM people.


FIRST WOMAN: I think it was staged. We've been to a lot of the Trump rallies, and I don't understand why they're focusing so much on that one issue when there's so many cities that are being burned down every day by protesters. 

Shortly thereafter, two other women offered their views. We were intrigued by the things they said, and we found these exchanges refreshing:

SECOND WOMAN: We don't even watch news on TV anymore. We don't feel like we're being told the truth. And we find our truth in other ways. And I won't say what those other ways are, but I feel like we're not being told the truth, because we're trying to be swayed in a direction that we know is not the right direction.


KOPPEL: I won't be offended. I've been a journalist all my life. When President Trump talked about the press being "the enemy of the people"

SECOND WOMAN: They are! And I love President Trump. And I love that man. I do.

THIRD WOMAN: I just hope when this airs, it won't show Southerners as a bunch of dumb idiots like so many parts of the country do, you know? We have a lot of love in our hearts. We love our country. We love our fellow man. 

Yesterday, we offered a fuller transcript of this discussion. Why would we find this discussion "refreshing?" Before noting the shortcomings of this discussion, we'll answer that very good question:

We find that discussion refreshing because it is so rare. 

Our modern news media are organized in such a way as to keep such exchanges from happening. You'll rarely or never see members of one of our two major tribes interviewed by a major figure who plainly belongs to the other.

Our "cable news" is built upon segregation—the total segregation of blue from red. You'll never see a group of Trump supporters expressing their views so freely to a major mainstream or liberal journalist. Nor will you see a group of Democratic voters interviewed on Fox.

Koppel's interview segment lasted less than four minutes. We'd like to see many more such discussions, conducted at much greater length, though we know there's little chance that any such thing will occur.

Above, you've seen some of the basic views stated by the tourists. Concerning this unusual session, we'll note the following points:

The tourists seemed fully sincere: As we noted yesterday, Koppel's respondents seemed to be completely sincere as they stated their views. They seemed to think they were stating established facts about the 2020 election and about the Capitol riot. It didn't seem to have entered their heads that their claims were even in dispute.

Koppel presented no objections: As he conducted the interview session, Koppel posed several basic questions, then listened to the tourists' responses. At no point did he question or challenge anything anyone said. 

The tourists were never asked to support their claims—and, by any normal standard, their claims were quite dramatic. In one basic way, this approach was striking, because most of the things the tourists said seemed to be massively wrong.

Many of the tourists' statements seemed to be massively wrong: In fact, most of the things the tourists said—though not all!—seemed to be massively wrong. This was already true back in June, when this exchange occurred.

Everything is always possible, of course. That said, we know of no evidence that any significant  number of dead people voted for Candidate Biden. We know of no evidence that the riot at the Capitol was staged—that truckloads of people, from BLM or from anywhere else, were somehow brought in for that purpose.

These claims were almost certainly wrong, yet Koppel posed no objections. This produced a fascinating session, but one which lacked give and take.

Sources of true/false belief: "We don't even watch news on TV anymore," the second woman said. "We don't feel like we're being told the truth."

In fact, people are "being swayed" in certain ways when they watch mainstream news. But the tourists seemed to be deep in the grips of certain mistaken beliefs, and Koppel never asked them to state, consider or evaluate the source of their prevailing views.

To our eye and ear, these people really did seem to believe that the election was stolen. Some of them seemed to believe that the Capitol riot was staged.

They'd heard these claims made by people they trust. And for better or worse, as a general matter, they don't trust people like Koppel.

That said, the tourists were courteous throughout, and it seemed their beliefs were sincere. We think it's healthy when people feel free to state their beliefs in the open air, and Koppel, to his credit, seemed to create that healthy circumstance on that trolley that day.

Our nation can't endure half slave and half free, Abraham Lincoln once said. In the modern day, it's hard to see how a functioning nation can survive half blue and half red.

Powerful operations are going to continue to exist—powerful operations designed to create mistaken beliefs of the kind Koppel encountered that day, and perhaps certain others.

How should mistaken beliefs be approached? As advocates for charity and for good health, we'll move  to that question tomorrow.

Tomorrow: "We don't feel like we're being told the truth"


  1. ""We don't even watch news on TV anymore," the second woman said. "We don't feel like we're being told the truth.""

    Meh. Personally, we feel that it actually does make sense to watch establishment TV once in a while.

    You see, dear Bob, whatever establishment-owned TV dembots say, the opposite of that is the truth.

    Yes, it's that simple.

  2. "A healthy exchange with Ted Koppel"

    I don't see anything healthy about giving a bunch of Trump supporters a free podium to tell lies about the last election. Lies don't deserve a "respectful" hearing. They need to be refuted, as our President did in his speech this morning.

  3. "We find that discussion refreshing because it is so rare. "

    Everyone already knows that Trump supporters love them some Trump. What is "rare" about this view? Nothing at all.

    This was just a gratuitous propaganda moment for the right under the guise of giving access to Trump true-believers, as if their viewpoint is never presented on TV (except on Fox News, on Twitter and Facebook and on the alt-right's many outlets (Alex Jones, Newsmax, all the Rush wannabes).

    And giving air time to such views gives legitimacy to them that they do not deserve. Such views have now reached the level of treason (in the context of 1/6 and efforts to overturn elections).

    The rare opinion is the one that calls such beliefs sedition and such acts treasonous. Even Trump's mother didn't love him the way these retards off a tourist bus claim to. But love isn't the point. The point is that we have a system of democratic elections that cannot be set aside by those who wish the other candidate had won instead of the actual victor, in this case Joe Biden.

    It makes me sick to hear these folks claim that they love our country, when they obviously do not love our democratic system, which is the one thing that makes our country unique among nations. I don't love such cretins and I won't love them any more for hearing that they genuinely believe Trump's bilge. They are worried about being called stupid because they are so fucking stupid that stupidity itself is amazed by their dumbness.

    And Somerby argues that someone should listen to people like this! No way on Earth. These are foul beliefs, way beyond deplorable, and people need to push back against the destructive forces inherent in their beliefs, as it seems many people are doing today, on this anniversary of their shameful attempt to overthrow our government via violent insurrection.

    What is the biggest indicator that Somerby is no liberal? He too has no shame.

  4. "Everything is always possible, of course. That said, we know of no evidence that any significant number of dead people voted for Candidate Biden."

    No, it is not possible that any significant number of dead people voted for Biden and left no trace whatsoever so that repeated audits could find no evidence to support such a claim.

    Somerby ignores evidence entirely to claim that "anything is possible" when it is not. That gives true believers a small crack of possibility to crawl through, when that window should be slammed shut. Otherwise we get a smoldering spark of sedition nourished by Somerby's knee-jerk refusal to make a firm statement about anything, except whatever nonsense he is pushing.

    Today it is that Trump supporters should be taken seriously and listened to respectfully because there is a slight possibility their views could be right, because "anything is possible," even dead people voting (who all somehow turn out to be alive after investigation).

    1. "Everything is always possible, of course."

      I believe Vladimir Putin once said that, or was it Joseph Stalin?

    2. Dan Brown said "Everything is possible. The impossible just takes a little longer." He wrote the Da Vinci Code.

      Here are 50 more "anything is possible" sappy quotes:

      I like this one: ""Anything is possible in this world. I really believe that."

      - Liza Minnelli.

      It is Somerby's speed.

  5. "In fact, people are "being swayed" in certain ways when they watch mainstream news."

    Note the passive construction of this sentence, as if people do not actively construe their own sense of what is real and what is not. Being swayed is akin to being indoctrinated, Somerby's words imply. But people who watch mainstream news have a better grasp of facts (study after study shows) and they are testing what they hear against other sources. That is not true on the right, where viewers believe what they hear, never encounter conflicting sources and make little effort to test or evaluate what they are told against reality. They cannot do so because their grasp of facts is poor. Feeling confused is aversive (unpleasant) so they work to feel more confident of their opinions, which means seeking news that agrees with their beliefs, not seeking truth as a matter of preference or principle, as occurs more frequently on the left, among those who not only watch mainstream news but also seek out other sources, many divergent to each other and to mainstream news.

    More people on the left can tell lies from fiction. That's why they won't watch Fox News. I used to occasionally listen to Rush, just to see how long it would take before I stopped debating him out loud and shut him off in anger. Not long, as it should be. The difference on the right is that they nodded their heads and agreed with Rush instead of hearing outrageous garbage, offensive to most people.

    Somerby seems to have lost his grasp on reality too. That makes him an unreliable source of anything except entertainment. And even that is denied to someone with empathy because he is so warped that one can only feel sad.

    Shouldn't one be swayed toward truth by a news organization whose job is to report facts? I believe that is what generally happens with the mainstream media. I believe it rarely happens on Fox News and almost never on other alt-right sources. Somerby, of course, wants us to think that any kind of swaying is bad. That is true on the right, less so on the left. But what is the virtue in being unaffected by anything that one hears? None whatsoever. The name for that is intellectual autism.

  6. "And for better or worse, as a general matter, they don't trust people like Koppel."

    I'd be surprised if any of them knew who Koppel was. This boils down to not trusting anyone who isn't Fox News or Rush or Alex Jones.

  7. "Our nation can't endure half slave and half free, Abraham Lincoln once said. In the modern day, it's hard to see how a functioning nation can survive half blue and half red."

    There is massive stupidity in this statement. We have been a two-party system for much of our existence as a nation. We have survived many close elections without this kind of turmoil. It isn't the 50-50 split or the red/blue divide, it is the embrace of violence as a means of overturning a legitimate election that is the problem these days. Violence has been encouraged by Donald Trump since day 1 of his campaign. It should be no surprise that he has mobilized that violence in support of his ongoing political goals, abetted by people who see no harm in it themselves and hope to suck at the same teat as Trump.

    Our country can save itself by eschewing violence. Those on the right need to take that step -- since they are the ones using violence for political gain. They are the ones advocating "national divorce" and calling insurrectionists "political prisoners" and encouraging people like Cawthorn and Boebert and Gaetz and Goshar and MGT in their antics. The right needs to clean up its act.

    That was the gist of Biden's speech today. Somerby doesn't appear to have listened to it.

  8. "How should mistaken beliefs be approached? As advocates for charity and for good health, we'll move to that question tomorrow."

    Don't hold your breath.

  9. This is what I believe:

    "Today is the first anniversary of the violent attack on the Capitol, by a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters who were trying to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election. The mob smashed windows and threatened the vice president and members of Congress. Seven people died as a result of the attack, including three police officers.

    The Jan. 6 attack was part of a larger anti-democracy movement in the U.S. In the year since, the movement — which is closely aligned with the Republican Party — has changed some laws and ousted election officials, with the aim of overturning future results. The movement’s supporters justify these actions with lies about voter fraud.

    Encouraged by Trump, other Republican politicians and conservative media stars, the anti-democratic movement is following a playbook used by authoritarians in other countries, both recently and historically. The movement is trying to use existing democratic laws — on vote counting and election certification, for example — to unravel democracy.

    “We are in a terrible situation in which one of two major parties is no longer committed to playing by democratic rules,” Steven Levitsky — a political scientist and co-author of “How Democracies Die” with his Harvard colleague Daniel Ziblatt — told me. “No other established Western democracy faces such a threat today, not this acutely anyway.”

    And the editorial continues, in the New York Times by David Leonhardt.

    "Violently attacking the Capitol is not consistent with American democratic traditions. Nor is trying to airbrush the horror of that attack, as many top Republican officials have. Nor are flamboyant, repeated lies about election results — and promises to act on those lies in the future.

    “The vast majority of Americans — Republicans and Democrats — want to live in a country that continues to be characterized by the freedoms that we enjoy and that they are fundamentally faithful to the Constitution,” Cheney told “The Daily.” “It’s a dangerous moment. The stakes are really high.”"

    Leonhardt presents the idea that Republicans and Democrats must join together to oppose anti-democracy forces in 2024. I am less sure that I agree with that, but I am very sure that the solution to this problem rests with the Republicans who have embraced the dark side and need to find their way back to American values. When I see them trying to control their white supremacist elements, I will believe they are sincere and feel more willing to form a coalition with those Republicans who have not lost their tiny little minds.

  10. I'll bet the sonsabitches watch the fake news when there's a hurricane or tornado bearing down on them.

  11. The great Driftglass has a wonderful description of most of the people who identify as republicans. He calls them the "Tribe that rubs shit in their hair". The meaning being that when they're around each other they never notice how fucking offensive they are to normal decent citizens just trying to live their lives in peace.

    The other night on Ari Melber's show we saw a perfect demonstration of this phenomenon when Peter Navarro came on to explain his brilliant plan (Operation Green Bay Sweep) to execute a coup and overturn the election on January 6, 2021. You have to marvel at his total lack of self-awareness, how proud he was of his criminal plan to overturn an election. I am sure that when he is in the company of likeminded fascist members of the Tribe that rubs shit in their hair he has no clue how fucking offensive he is.

  12. "We don't feel like we're being told the truth"

    Republican voters believe virtually everything their leading politicians and pundits say. Polls showed that a majority of them still believed the lie that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq by the US and it illegal invading forces. Self-serving falsities, like the claims that Biden didn't legitimately win the 2020 election, will be continue to be spread by Republican leaders and propaganda outlets basically forever.

  13. “ Our nation can't endure half slave and half free, Abraham Lincoln once said.”

    And Lincoln chose sides.

    He stopped trying to “understand” the others.

  14. I sympathize with and share the desire to berate the tourists and refute their beliefs. But to what end? It would only make things worse (i.e. they would simply add me to the list of people not to trust). If the goal is to reduce the number of people believing such insane things, that would probably be the wrong way to go about it.

    There was a fascinating story on NPR several days ago, about "deep canvassing" on abortion. Canvassers sought to engage people in discussions that lasted on average about 20 minutes. During which, they asked questions to elicit their views on abortion from different perspectives. They began with general views about public policy, and honed in on specific responses to difficult circumstances they have found, or might find, themselves in. Finally, they circled back to general policy. Not many, but some, actually changed their answers, expanding their tolerated scope of permitted abortions.

    What clearly worked in those cases was that the respondent had been brought to see his or her own beliefs differently in light of other beliefs they also held, and judged to have priority. They were only able to do this because the canvasser never judged or contested the views expressed, acting somewhat like a midwife assisting a childbirth.

    Obviously this takes time. Koppel's encounter sounds like how such an encounter might begin, but there was no time to continue it. And just as obviously, a public dispute between powerful political figures (or a speech by the President) would not be the place to try this. But if the goal is to change beliefs (and not to defeat an adversary), I'm not aware of any shortcut (excepting possibly self-reflection occasioned by a sentencing hearing).

    Incidentally, a great transcript of such an exercise is Plato's Euthyphro. It didn't actually work in that case, but it points the way.

    1. This sounds like Albert Ellis's method of disputing irrational beliefs, widely used in cognitive behavioral therapies. It might work to deprogram relatives, but I don't think it would work on Lindsay Graham, for example, because his beliefs are based on his own self-interest and not sincerely held opinions. There is probably a difference between casual Southern tourists and political operatives or fanatics, like those who would have attended on 1/6.

  15. Indeed. Whatever beliefs Lindsay Graham may hold (if any) is perfectly unknowable, especially from his words, probably also to himself.


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