But first, what Mister Trump said: We humans tend to believe the things we're told by the sources we've come to trust.

This may not always produce good results.  

For example, consider this news report in the Washington Post, "Ukrainians Find That Relatives in Russia Don’t Believe It’s a War." 

Or for an example closer to home, consider what Mister Trump said.

We refer to something Mister Trump said ten days ago in an endless, generally ridiculous speech to the CPAC convention.

The rambling, generally ridiculous speech was delivered on Friday, February 26. Much of the address was the same old mess—but along the way, in two separate passages, Mister Trump also said this:

TRUMP (2/26/22): The Russian attack on Ukraine is appalling. It is an outrage and an atrocity that should never have been allowed to occur...We are praying for the brave people of Ukraine, God bless them all.


Thank you. They are indeed brave. As everyone understands, this horrific disaster would never have happened if our election was not rigged and if I was the president.


The problem is not that Putin is smart—which, of course he's smart. But the real problem is that our leaders are dumb. Dumb. So dumb.

They so far allowed him to get away with this travesty and assault on humanity. That's what it is. This is an assault on humanity. So sad. Putin is playing Biden like a drum...

In a remarkable flip from what had appeared to be his position, the former president described the attack on Ukraine as an outrage. He described it as an atrocity and as an assault on humanity. For the C-Span tape, click here.

This assessment was joined to the usual lunatic claims about the rigging and theft of the last election, along with an array of other ridiculous claims. But Trump's assessment of Russia's attack represented a basic change in the positioning of the former president—and perhaps in the basic positioning of the wider pro-Trump world. 

The former president's statements struck us as highly newsworthy. But by our lights, Trump's remarks were followed by something even more remarkable:

We refer to the way the news orgs we liberals trust failed to report this change in the weather—the way they tended to obscure or disappear these new, anti-Putin remarks.

As a general matter, our news orgs stressed their horror at the way Mister Trump had once again said that "of course" Mister Putin was smart. They disappeared the former president's new, explicit claim that Putin's attack on Ukraine was in fact an assault on humanity—an atrocity.

To our eye and ear, it seemed to us that these favored news orgs were helping us enjoy our continued loathing of this ridiculous former president. In line with that service, it seemed to us that they were obscuring the fact that Mister Trump had stated a view with which we ourselves would agree.

Almost surely, your lizard brain won't let you believe that the news orgs we trust would ever behave in any such manner.  For that reason, we won't waste our time showing you the way the Washington Post and (especially) the New York Times brushed past these new remarks in their reporting of Trump's CPAC address.

That said, it seemed to us that this conduct continued in Saturday's report in the Washington Post. Headline included, the report began as shown:

Pence says there’s no room in the GOP for ‘apologists for Putin’ in veiled swipe at Trump

Former vice president Mike Pence on Friday night said there is no room in the Republican Party for “apologists for Putin” in an apparent swipe at former president Donald Trump.

In a speech to GOP donors in New Orleans, Pence referenced the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As the United States and international community have responded with wide-ranging, extensive sanctions against Russia, Pence said now was not the time for conservatives to voice their support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Ask yourself, where would our friends in Eastern Europe be today if they were not in NATO? Where would Russian tanks be today if NATO had not expanded the borders of freedom?” he said. “There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin.”

While Pence did not explicitly refer to the former president by name, Trump has been among the loudest, and only, Republican voices supporting Putin. Trump recently described Putin as “smart,” “savvy” and “a genius,” while insisting the attack on Ukraine never would have happened on his watch.

So cool! Former vice president Pence had taken a veiled or apparent swipe at former president Trump! It's the kind of thrilling claim our tribe is inclined to adore.

That said, Pence had actually stated the view of the Russian invasion which Trump had already expressed—but so what! In the final paragraph we've quoted, Dawsey et al. skipped past that part of what Trump had said at his CPAC address.

As with people in Russia, so too within our own tribe. We tend to believe the things we're told by the sources we think we can trust. 

It may not occur to us that those sources may be telling us things which aren't especially accurate. It may not occur to us that the sources we trust may be withholding information which is highly relevant.

Alas! At times of ultimate tribal war, selective information flow may tend to reach a fever pitch. You can't necessarily believe the various things you're told by your comrades. Nor should you simply assume that the basic frameworks of tribal belief actually make good sense.

Within our own failing tribe, most of our tribal Storylines now involve issues of race. For that reason, we were struck by the guest essay by Professors Gates and Curran in Sunday's New York Times.

For our money, the essay was much too academicky in its language. In our view, it would have been a more valuable essay had editors dumbed it down.

That said, the essay appeared beneath his headline. So far, we agree with every word:

We Need a New Language for Talking About Race

Does our failing liberal / progressive tribe "need a new language for talking about race?"

In our view, we very much do. More specifically, we need a new language which returns us to older understandings.

For what it's worth, Professor Gates is better known than Professor Curran. Professor Gates is a Harvard professor; Professor Curran is at Wesleyan. But Gates is also the host of the long-running, popular PBS series, Knowing Your Roots.

According to the two professors, we need a new way of talking about race—but what do the professors have in mind? As a spoiler, we're willing to offer these tidbits:

According to Curran and Gates, "the idea of individual human races with different origins is as farcical as the medieval belief that elves cause hiccups." 

On the other hand, "the social reality of race is undeniable...Its history is too long, its presence and usage too common, for it to magically disappear anytime soon."

What in the world do those two ideas mean? How might they help us create a new and possibly older language of race? 

We'll be exploring such questions all week. For today, we'll only tell you this:

When tribal war starts among the humans, no nonsense is left behind. At various junctures, that nonsense may come from the people you've been trained to think of as "black" as well as from the people you've been trained to regard as "white."

"Race is too much with us," Curran and Gates say at one point. Within our tribe, we'd say that's plainly true. For the record, your lizard is already rising to tell you that this simply can't be the case.

People in Russia believe what they hear from the sources they trust. So do we, here in our self-assured tribe.

Should you trust and believe the things you hear? We need a new language for discussing race, Professor Gates has now said.

Tomorrow: Should this have been dumbed down a tad?


  1. "The former president's statements struck us as highly newsworthy. "

    Meh. General imperial hate-mongering is completely bipartisan, dear Bob. And those who refuse to do it (see 'Tulsi Gabbard') get kicked out real quick.

    Therefore, standard badmouthing the Official Evil Enemy ™ is even less newsworthy than 'sun rises in the east'.

    Besides, saying that someone (who later became the Official Evil Enemy ™) is smart hardly contradicts the standard template of 'the Official Evil Enemy ™ is evil'.

    1. Thanks for always letting us know what the Establishment Elite are thinking.

    2. Mao, are you receiving a fee to keep an eye on Bob, perhaps for his patron, to make sure he never strays too far into critiquing the right media?

    3. Say whatt you will about Mao's trolling, but at least he isn't trying to sell the ridiculous idea that all Republicans aren't bigots.

    4. I think Mao gets a 10 dollars for every reply.

      Here's one more whisky bottle for ya slut

  2. Somerby says: "We humans tend to believe the things we're told by the sources we've come to trust.

    This may not always produce good results."

    Then what does he use for evidence to support a generalization about all humans, including us? A wuote about a country run by a dictator, in which news is controlled and includes war-time propaganda:

    "For example, consider this news report in the Washington Post, "Ukrainians Find That Relatives in Russia Don’t Believe It’s a War."

    Do we human believe what we are told when we have alternative sources of information that permit indepedent thought from whatever the government tells us? No, there is diversity of thought over here, among us Americans in a country that is neither controlled by a strongman nor limited to state news sources.

    So one must ask. Why is Somerby trying to convince us that we don't think for ourselves in our country, which is quote different from Russia? What does Somerby gain by trying to convince us that we are being sold a bill of goods by our own media?

    Ask yourself, what does Somerby want you to believe instead of what is presented by the mainstream media? Last I heard, he was encouraging us to watch Fox News more and listen to experts less. Special question for AC/MA: Is that what a liberal does?

  3. "In a remarkable flip from what had appeared to be his position, the former president described the attack on Ukraine as an outrage."

    This was not actually a flip from Trump's previous position. His previous position was that Putin was smart for taking all that Ukrainian real-estate for $2 in sanctions. He called Putin a genius (again). He said nothing about whether the invasion was good or bad from any other perspective.

    So, when he now calls the invasion an outrage, he is stating an opinion for the first time, about the invasion itself. But Trump has not reversed his position about Putin's intelligence. He again calls Putin smart and Biden and our government dumb, dumb, dumb. That is the same position he has always held.

    I personally believe that someone coached Trump by telling him that he would never get the 2024 nomination unless he came out against the invasion. But Trump has not walked back any part of what he said about Putin's genius.

    So where is the flip? There is none.

    What does it mean if Trump is thought to have flipped? Maybe it makes Trump more palatable to those who support Ukraine's independence? Maybe it makes Trump seem more reasonable? Portraying Trump this way clearly benefits Trump, aside from being a major distortion of truth by Somerby.

  4. Somerby himself ignores that this news report was about what Pence said, not about what Trump said. Pence did not mention Trump by name because Pence is quite clearly running against Trump for the 2024 presidential nomination. You do not mention your opponent's name during a campaign, because it adds to his name recognition among low-information voters.

    The paragraph that supposedly disappears Trump's reversal of position is actually there to make it clear that Pence was referring to Trump during his speech, because Trump still supports Putin by calling him a genius:

    "While Pence did not explicitly refer to the former president by name, Trump has been among the loudest, and only, Republican voices supporting Putin. Trump recently described Putin as “smart,” “savvy” and “a genius,” while insisting the attack on Ukraine never would have happened on his watch."

    If the reporter were to gratuitously mention that Trump is now singing another tune about the invasion itself, that would evidence pro-Trump bias by combatting Pence's words and intent. It is not any reporter's job to defend Trump against accusations by his political opponents.

    But Somerby thinks this reporter should have supplemented Pence's speech with his own addition of "positive" facts about Trump, contradicting Pence's statements. And he thinks that failure to do so shows bias, when exactly the opposite is true -- adding pro-Trump statements to Pence's anti-Trump accusations would show bias in reporting.

    What does it mean that Somerby is upset because a reporter didn't contradict Pence's speech by adding pro-Trump information to a report of Pence's appearance at CPAC? Special question for AC/MA: What kind of liberal thinks Trump is being unfairly treated by Pence and should be defended by the mainstream press, even in a report about what Pence said about Trump?

  5. "For our money, the essay was much too academicky in its language. In our view, it would have been a more valuable essay had editors dumbed it down."

    Somerby calls writing in a non-academic way "dumbing down". That isn't what is done when academics write in everyday language. It has nothing to do with being dumb or smart. It has to do with being educated in technical jargon within a field, or not knowing the meanings of technical terms.

    When Somerby uses pejorative terms such as "dumb" to refer to those who are simply not educated, he deepens the divide between those with technical expertise and those without it. People choose to become educated in the areas that they are interested in and consider a worthwhile use of their time to learn. If someone is educated in computers but not neuroscience, that is a choice not a matter of smartness versus dumbness.

    Somerby thinks educated people are laughing at him. That is an odd view for someone who has made a career encouraging people to laugh at him, but it is also an incorrect view that causes Somerby to think elites are looking down on others when they tend not to do that.

    If Somerby or anyone else wants to know what someone is talking about, they should ask questions, look up unfamiliar words, read background info to get up to speed, and educate themselves. That is within any average person's reach to do, with sufficient motivation. That is what the elites themselves did to acquire their own knowledge about their field.

    What is gained by encouraging his readers to think that academics are laughing at the dumb average people? First, it undermines the message of such elites. Second, it makes people less willing to listen to any future messages. Third, it makes people more receptive to the statements of whoever is saying, "don't listen to academics, they are elitists and looking down their noses at you" when they go on to say things like "pedophiles are trafficking in stolen children in the basement of pizza parlors" or "Putin is our friend and he likes Trump so we will all be safer electing Trump again" because "Trump understands guys like us and mocks those ridiculous academics." Just like Somerby does.

  6. "we need a new language which returns us to older understandings."

    Were the old understandings about race helpful ones? I don't see any evidence that this is true, but this is what Somerby is claiming.

    Then Somerby confuses the issue by saying:

    ""Race is too much with us," Curran and Gates say at one point. Within our tribe, we'd say that's plainly true. For the record, your lizard is already rising to tell you that this simply can't be the case."

    What Somerby means is that talking about race is too much with us, not that dividing people up into groups based on race, and acting accordingly, is too much with us. It would be clearer to differentiate by saying that racism is too much with us, but talking about race is needed to eliminate racism, which is the liberal position.

    And where is that jargon that Somerby thinks made the article too academicky (not a real word -- it would be sufficient to say simply too academic). But Somerby must mock, so mock he does.

    And why is the liberal position automatically the lizard brain position? Special question for AC/MA: Do liberals mock their own positions by calling themselves lizard brains? You might reply that Somerby is just being a curmudgeon except that he doesn't call right wing positions lizard brained, ever. He hasn't even called Bill Maher a lizard brain. If he is a curmudgeon, he is not an equal opportunity curmudgeon. He has an axe to grind and he grinds it exclusively on liberals.

  7. Maybe Somerby genuinely doesn't understand that:

    1. When academics say that race doesn't exist except as a social construct, they are criticizing the race-based prejudices of the old days and holding that people are diverse but there is no pattern of race-based difference biologically, only socially based on skin color, hair texture, and facial features.

    2. A substantial portion of our populace has absorbed racial ideas via their participation in our culture. Our culture is based on an economic system of exploitation of people from Africa who were brought here to be slaves. Ideas about racial inferiority were created to justify the enslavement of dark skinned people to the financial benefit of our early nation. That economic exploitation has continued via lower wages and mistreatment of black people despite the elimination of chattal slavery, replaced by wage slavery and Jim Crow laws, and then subsequently by a grossly unequal distribution of wealth benefitting white people, and bureaucratic systems to keep that inequality in place. Segregation, voting discrimination, educational inequity and job discrimination are parts of the current system.

    3. We need to explicitly talk about and acknowledge this if we are to change it. The civil rights movement was a start and it has moved many black people into the middle class, but it is far from done because of the obstacles that remain to enabling black people to fully participate in our society.

    4. Somerby efforts to prevent people from discussing race, on the grounds that it doesn't exist, are unhelpful. His pretense that talking about race is bad because it emphasizes a divide between white and black people is misguided because it permits him to ignore the ongoing existence of discriminatory institutions in our society under the misconception that civil rights have been achieved and discrimination is gone.

    5. Any actual focus on the remaining inequities must be aggressively resisted because it provides the evidence that Somerby's assertion that race is done cannot be correct while discrimination still exists. That is why Somerby works so hard to portray black police shootings as justified, black experience of discrimination as trivial or manufactured grievances, and the lack of black political representation as bogus because there are too few blacks in our country to complain about lack of opportunity.

    This is going to be a long, unpleasant week. Especially when he starts out giving his own arguments before fairly stating the case being made by Gates & Curren. He puts his own opinion out there first, to put his thumb on the scales, not trusting the reader to decide between two points of view, both expressed at the same time for them to compare. He has to cut down Curren & Gates, calling them too academicky, before we get any chance to hear their side of things.

    But Somerby fights dirty. That's because he thinks so poorly of his readers (who accept anything they hear) that he cannot trust us to make up our own minds after a fair presentation of competing ideas. Whatta guy!

    Has anyone noticed that this is authoritarian thinking, not democratic thinking? Has anyone noticed that Somerby implicitly considers us all saps? He used to tell us we were being conned and refer to us as rubes. Now he is the perpetrator of an attempted con, and he still thinks we are rubes. I wonder if this is how he thought about his classes and his standup audiences? It would explain a lot about his career trajectory.

  8. I sometimes fear that
    people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress
    worn by grotesques and monsters
    as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis.
    Fascism arrives as your friend.
    It will restore your honour,
    make you feel proud,
    protect your house,
    give you a job,
    clean up the neighbourhood,
    remind you of how great you once were,
    clear out the venal and the corrupt,
    remove anything you feel is unlike you…

    It doesn’t walk in saying,
    “Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution.”

    -poem by Michael Rosen

    1. Good poem. But he forgot to mention how 'em modern fascists will be endlessly blabbering about evils of racism, horrors of global warming and not wearing masks, and ordinary people being fascists.

    2. Everything you list is the opposite of what Rosen describes as how fascism arrives. How then can you call this a "good poem" when you believe fascism is something entirely different than Rosen does?

    3. Yes, many ordinary people are facists. Have you been asleep the last 5 years, or, more likely, you approve,
      And no, they are not Democrats.

    4. "How then can you call this a "good poem""

      We call it a good poem, because we completely agree that fascism doesn't arrive as a re-run of the Nazis.

      We completely agree that fascism arrives as your friend.

      Moreover, in fact fascism arrives as anti-fascism.

    5. Rosen doesn't say that fascism arrives as anti-fascism. You said that.

    6. Mao feels read like a book doesn't he

    7. "Yes, many ordinary people are facists [sic]."

      Incidentally, Georgi Dimitrov famously defined fascism as "the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic, and most imperialist elements of finance capital".

      So, why wouldn't you take a closer look at your tribe's sponsors, including Thy Lord Soros...

    8. It will be interesting once we get voting rights passed to see which party still fights with big money.

      With any luck neither party will. But I don't want Mao to lose his job.

      Be right back going to cash my Soros check which is totally a real thing I do.

    9. Notice how Mao picked one billionaire to criticize, the one associated with Republican conspiracy theories, out of many to choose from.

      That's the agenda of fascism and he's spinning like a frisbee.

      He can't do a systemic analysis of capitalism, he can only whine about Soros, because his intention isn't really to critique capitalism. We don't really know what his intentions are but they seem rotten.

    10. "We don't really know what his intentions are..."

      His intentions are whatever the establishment tells him they are.

  9. This is what Gates & Curran meant when they were talking about a new language for discussing race:

    "To be fair, we really can’t blame this student for being confused. To varying degrees, we have all inherited a muddled understanding of race, ancestry and phenotype from the Enlightenment, an era when European savants freed themselves from biblical explanations of the species and claimed the right to tell all of humankind — particularly Africans and people of African descent — who we supposedly are. But if we don’t disentangle these concepts, we may miss the great promise of using genetics to push back against a very long and sad history of the misuse of science for pernicious purposes."

    Somerby warps that back into his idea of discussing race, ignoring the confusion added by modern science and discussions of genetics and DNA, and relating it solely to his idea that talking about race creates divisions among people over racism.

  10. This is what Gates & Curran said and it has nothing to do with what Somerby has been saying about race:

    "The multitude of population clusters, regions and genetic groups reflected in DNA tests counters existing narratives that try to reduce the astonishing variety of the human community to the four or five socially constructed races of man about which prior generations of students learned in biology class.

    That’s why, as historians who study race, we believe that we’re once again entering a new era. If, throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, science put an enormous amount of effort into dividing the human species into separate categories, 21st-century genetic analysis promises to reveal just how meaningless those categories are — and how connected we’ve been all along.

    At a time when our society is deeply divided and when a surge of antisemitic, anti-Asian, Islamophobic and anti-Black racism threatens the social fabric, it feels urgent that we develop new language for discussing the relationship between identity, ancestry, history and science. DNA analysis could help create that language by offering more nuanced ways of looking at individual origins and a more unifying narrative about our shared heritage"

    1. This should knock white supremacism out of the water, but it is also ahistorical, in the sense that it ignores the systemic racism built into our society that hinges on skin color. Race may be a social construct, but racism is real and it affects people no matter what the science, and it needs to be dealt with. Somerby may argue that we should stop talking about race because it isn't a thing any more, but we still need to root out the causes of disadvantage that keep people with dark skin from participating fully in our society.

      Saying that racism has no scientific basis is fine, but we still need to eliminate it and that means we still need to talk about it and, more importantly, keep doing something about it.

    2. Racism is not outmoded scientific thought, it has always been a power trip that is pretending to be science, in the same way Scientology is. It always was a means of getting profit first, never a rigorous discipline.

    3. It has always been unclear if racism serves capitalism, or capitalism serves racism.

      One tribe thinks these are suboptimal and destructive notions.

      The other tribe relishes in these notions like a pig in mud.

      These are the two tribes of America.

  11. First, it's President Trump. The title should not be changed to protect the guilty. The CPAC comments that Bob notes I saw more than once on TV, and I don't watch a lot of Rightwing outlets... Maybe Bob finds this "surprising," but if they were trying to bury these statements at MSNBC, they didn't try very hard.

  12. Second, it is very difficult to believe Bob, going to bat for President Trump again, found these comments surprising. After praising the man he was trying to enrich himself with on the Moscow Trump tower deal and likely other ways, Trump will always throw in a disclaimer about how tough he is on him, how he will nuke Russia if they get out of line (thereby justifying Putin's current atrocities in terms of international ethics). He ignored are own NSA and CIA and called them crooks and traitors for reporting Putin's attempts to sway American voters. After these wretched threats, he will go back to saying he likes and respects Putin. Bob knows all this.

    1. Bob is not "going to bat" for Trump. He is saying that an objective media would point out the change in Trump's position. What keeps you from seeeing this difference?

    2. As I explained at some length, I don't see any change in Trump's position on the invasion. He stated no position previously except that he thinks Putin is smart, and he reaffirmed that in his recent statement. He made no prior statement about the invasion and thus cannot have flipped.

      He always does this. Trump said nothing whatsoever about the incursion into the Capitol building, only about the rioters, who he said positive things about. About Charlottesville, he made no statement whatsoever about the "Unite the right" march itself or white supremacism, only about the good people on both sides. You cannot change a position without first stating that position, which Trump didn't do. After 9/11, Trump said nothing about the attack on the twin towers -- he said now his own building would be tallest. Trump never made statements about being sad about how many people died of covid. He never said anything about the wildfires in the West. He doesn't make statements about such things, and this invasion of Ukraine was no different.

      Trump never said anything about the invasion at all, pro or con. He praised Putin for being a genuis by getting so much real estate for $2 in sanctions. He didn't say a single thing about the invasion itself. You can't change a position without first stating one.

      What keeps you from understanding this? And when Somerby puts words in his mouth that Trump didn't say, claiming that Trump flipped and that his so-called flip was being ignored, he is wanting to help Trump by emphasizing that he finally said the right thing, except that Trump never flipped. He belatedly said what he should have said immediately, when he was too busy praising Putin to worry about the people of Ukraine.

      An objective media reports what happened. Somerby makes up shit and you believe him. The media did its job correctly, reporting what Pence said about Trump. There is no requirement for an objective media to whitewash Trump's previous failure to respond to a global crisis appropriately instead of by praising the wrongdoer. And no requirement for an objective media to join Somerby in pretending that Trump flipped when he didn't flip at all -- he came to the table late and with too little to impress anyone. Pence was right and Somerby is wrong about Trump's response to Ukraine.

    3. The media's job is not to be a bullhorn for politicians, or would be politicians. Trump's "thoughts" on Ukraine are not newsworthy because 1) it is obviously performative rhetoric - the media are not Trump's personal pr firm, 2) Trump is not saying anything insightful or important - it is barely above looking up and saying the sky looks blue.

      Having said that, Somerby is so wrapped up in his tiny world he is unaware that this was widely covered among the Left media, not as Somerby wants - a sober acknowledgment of Trump Saying Something Important, but as a way to laugh at Trump, and be amazed by his strange hypocrisy.

      We explain why it is not newsworthy, Somerby on the other hand, states it is a newsworthy shift, but offers no reason why it is newsworthy, and while it is not a shift, as others have pointed out, a shift in any of Trump's position would never be newsworthy, since the context is well established that Trump is a self serving buffoon. But Somerby's big bugaboo is context...wait who is the buffoon?

  13. Thirdly, this week will will see William Barr enriching himself off public service by promoting a book. He is pretty forthcoming about the events that led to his resignation. The only way to excuse (and we must watch how far Bob will go down this road) President Trump is The Mad King approach, that he somehow actually believed he had won. We will see many people trying to sell the notion that this nonsense excuses all.
    In any event, Barr was asked if he would vote for President Trump again. After noting he would prefer another candidate, Barr's answer was "yes." His reason was the evil of the Democrats left him no choice. One wonders if Bob, as he does with President Trump, would simply say "he mas mental problems" and excuse all.

    1. What is your source for the claim Bob says Trump has mental problems and excuses all?

  14. "But Trump's assessment of Russia's attack represented a basic change in the positioning of the former president—and perhaps in the basic positioning of the wider pro-Trump world. "

    Bob the rube. Down the rabbit hole.