FUNDAMENTAL DISCOURSE: Chairman Thompson's first remark!

FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 2022

The instincts of our own tribe: The January 6 committee has launched. More such presentations will follow.

To what extent will this committee's efforts affect the way the events in question are viewed by the public? That, of course, remains to be seen, and it won't necessarily be easy to measure.

That said:

All across our blue tribe's dial, Liz Cheney's presentation last night has been widely praised. Bennie Thompson's presentation has largely been ignored.

Before we're done, we'll offer a weary provisional complaint about one of Chairman Thompson's early remarks. But first, consider an instructive portion of Cheney's presentation involving former attorney general William Barr.

At several points, Cheney played videotape of Barr's deposition before the committee. Vast amounts of human history are captured in these remarks:

CHENEY (6/9/22): Attorney General Barr also told President Trump that his allegations about Dominion voting machines were groundless:

BARR (videotape): I saw absolutely zero basis for the allegations, but they were made in such a sensational way that they obviously were influencing a lot of people, members of the public, that there was this systemic corruption in the system and that their votes didn’t count, and that these machines, controlled by somebody else, were actually determining it, which was complete nonsense. And it was being laid out there. And I told him that it was crazy stuff and they were wasting their time on that and that it was doing great, great disservice to the country.

CHENEY: But President Trump persisted, repeating the false Dominion allegations in public at least a dozen more times even after his Attorney General told him they were “complete nonsense.”

Barr told Trump that his allegations were, in fact, "complete nonsense." Despite such counsel, Trump persisted with his "sensational" claims. 

We're struck by the larger portrait lodged in Barr's remarks. 

According to Barr, there was "absolutely zero basis" for Trump's bogus allegations. Unfortunately, those unfounded claims were being made "in a sensational way" by a major national leader.

Result? Although the allegations were "complete nonsense"—"crazy stuff"— the allegations "obviously were influencing a lot of people, members of the public." 

Because of Trump's unfounded claims, those citizens came to believe "that there was this systemic corruption in the system and that their votes didn’t count." So it went as a crazy public figure persuaded—misinformed, misled—many millions of regular people.

We regular people are always subject to a possible lack of discernment. Years ago, Plato described a similar situation in his own Athens, during the classical age.

Athens was caught in a very difficult time. Scapegoats were being sought, and scapegoats were being found. 

Regular people were swept away by the public excitement. In the Seventh Letter, Plato described what happened. 

In his portrait, Plato described some of the fundamentals of human public discourse:

PLATO: The existing constitution, which was subject to widespread criticism, was overthrown...and a Committee of Thirty given supreme power. As it happened, some of them were friends and relations of mine, and they at once invited me to join them, as if it were the natural thing for me to do. 

My feelings were what were to be expected in a young man: I thought they were going to reform society and rule justly, and so I watched their proceedings with deep interest. I found that they soon made the earlier regime look like a golden age. Among other things they tried to incriminate my old friend Socrates, whom I should not hesitate to call the most upright man then living, by sending him, with others, to arrest a fellow-citizen, and bring him forcibly to execution; Socrates refused, and risked everything rather than make himself a party to their wickedness. When I saw all this, and other things as bad, I was disgusted and withdrew from the wickedness of the times.

Athens' democracy was soon restored, but Socrates was brought to trial on “a monstrous charge.” The execution of Socrates finished off the young Plato as well. 

“The more closely I studied the politicians and the laws and customs of the day, and the older I grew, the more difficult it seemed to me to govern rightly,” he would later recall. “Nothing could be done without trustworthy friends and supporters; and these were difficult to come by in an age which had abandoned its traditional moral code but found it impossibly hard to create a new one.”

In the period as described by Plato, regular people were swept up in a wave of unfounded blame and accusation. Plato himself made an early misjudgment concerning the intentions of his friends and relations. 

His friends and relations were soon driving an era of false accusation. The accusations were even directed at Socrates, "the most upright man then living."

In Plato's view, regular people showed poor discernment as this nightmare grew. "When I saw all this, and other things as bad," he wrote, "I was disgusted and withdrew from the wickedness of the times."

We thought of Plato's ancient account as we watched Barr's videotaped statement. In our view, Barr was describing a situation in which a major public figure has swept millions of people away in a raft of crazy misstatements.

In our view, that public figure seems to be (severely) mentally ill, or perhaps severely impaired in the cognitive realm. Plainly, he didn't and doesn't seem that way to the tens of millions of people who support him and believe the various things he says.

Is it possible that Donald J. Trump really is (severely) mentally ill? The giants of our upper-end press corps have steadfastly refused to ask medical experts to discuss this rather obvious question.

Instead, they join hands in their dueling cable covens and recite their dueling tribal narratives. You could see them engaged in this practice all last night, and on into this morning.

Regarding Thompson's opening statement, we'll only tell you this:

Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) is a good, decent person. Also, he's a deeply experienced public servant. 

That said, people who are good and decent won't always have perfect judgment. We were amazed when Chairman Thompson opened the hearing like this:

THOMPSON (6/9/22): I am Bennie Thompson, chairman of the January 6th, 2021 Committee. I was born, raised and still live in Bolton, Mississippi, a town with a population of 521, which is midway between Jackson and Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Mississippi River. 

I am from a part of the country where people justified the actions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan and lynching. I’m reminded of that dark history as I hear voices today try and justify the actions of the insurrectionists on January 6th, 2021. 

Over the next few weeks, hopefully you will get to know the other members, my colleagues up here, and me. We represent a diversity of communities from all over the United States—rural areas and cities, east coast, west coast, and the heartland.

Chairman Thompson says he hears voices today. For ourselves, we heard TV sets clicking off across the nation as he began last evening's presentation with that look into the past.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Our own tribe's political instincts are sometimes remarkably poor.

People are praising Cheney today, Thompson not so much. In closing, we'll ask this about that:

Bennie Thompson is good and decent. Were we just imagining things when we heard TV sets clicking off?

More to come: Our own blue tribe's long-standing and more recent instincts


  1. How convenient to blame an elderly black man for the many Republicans who have turned off their TV sets and refused to listen to the evidence presented at the hearing. Thompsen's comparison to the civil war and its aftermath is apt because this is the strongest attack on democracy since that period, when the South seceded from the untion. The people who are the focus of this hearing have committed crimes against our democracy. Thompson told the truth and set the tone by not "sugar-coating" what was done by the President and his co-conspirators.

    It is outrageous that Somerby should place the willingness of Republicans to watch the hearing at the feet of Thompson like that -- but this is hardly the most outrageous thing Somerby has said recently, as he hauls his bigotry baggage out of his tired old closet.

    Everyone knows that many Republicans have already decided not to listen, following the lead of Fox News and the Republican leadership. Pinning this on an elderly black man on the committee, as if anything he said motivated their decision, makes Somerby scum. It is another lie. The format was that each person testifying discussed their motives for cooperating with the hearing. Officer Edwards talked about her Marine grandfather's injury in Korea and her duty to country and to uphold his tradition of sacrifice with her own actions. The film producer who happened to be shooting a documentary and captured the Proud Boys on film, made it clear that he was there under subpoena, required to testify. Cheney talked about her oath to the Constitution, not to any man or any political party. And Thompson talked about the history he lived in his small town as the law was flouted by racists after the Civil War, much as Trump has fouted the law and again threatened our democracy.

    I believe that Somerby may have turned off his own TV set. He clearly didn't pay attention to or recognize what the speakers were saying. His own knee-jerk reaction to being lectured by a black man made him incapable of hearing the testimony. I have no doubt there are other racists who will feel the same way, That doesn't make it the wrong choice for Thompson or the committee -- and who gives a fuck who is praising Cheney? That wasn't why she was there either.

    1. A lifelong Progressive, but can't help noticing Liz Cheney is hot.

    2. Sexualizing a woman is a way to diminish her and detract from her competence.

  2. "Did Donald J. Trump know that violence was being planned for the march on the Capitol?
    Had he approved of some such violent attack? Had the violence been part of his plan?"

    1. Yes.
    2. Yes
    3. Yes

    But there was more too.

    The 1/6 hearing is presenting a clear, solid, convincing case against Trump and his supporters, connecting the Big Lie to the riot and attempt to subvert election results. They began by showing that Trump didn't believe his own lies and neither did other Republicans, that the goal was to stay in power, and that the 1/6 riot was an essential part of the plan.

    None of the presenters were partisan. There was a cop whose duty was to her job, Cheney whose duty was to the constitution (not party or president), and a small-town African American house member from Mississippi, whose duty is also to the constitution and the people. In their remarks, they stressed the damage done to our process, to democracy, not partisan politics.

    Key points:

    1. The Proud Boys and Oath Keepers coordinated with each other, meeting before the riot.
    2. The Proud Boys planned their attack before the rally even started, walking the grounds at 10 am and deciding where to breech the building, then leaving to have lunch, returning to the Capitol Building before Trump finished his speech and asked the crowd to head there.
    3. The Oath Keepers mobilized a fast resonse plan by placing additional weapons in quickly accessible locations, to be available if Trump were to invoke martial law via the Insurrection Act. They did this in advance of the riot.
    4. Before the riot, Trump attempted to replace the Acting Attorney General with Clark, a stooge who would go along with his plan to overturn the election results, but was opposed by the threatened resignation of DOJ staff en masse. Jared dismissed those threats as whining on the part of lawyers.
    5. There was no evidence supporting the Big Lie about election fraud, Trump lost his court cases and that should have ended his opposition to the transfer of power to Biden.

    Fox News not only didn't show the hearing but they used the entire period (without commercials) for counter-programming to address the hearing's content. In this way, they are actively supporting Trump and his Republican supporters.

    Quite a few pundits and commentators, Somerby included, have attempted to undercut the hearing with their own prebuttals and predictions of failure. Kevin Drum should be ashamed of what he wrote, but it seems unlikely that these pseudo-moderates and Republicans will understand that they are on the wrong side of this issue. The media's efforts to critique the hearing (which is in defense of democracy) as beneficial or harmful to Democratic midterm results, is despicable because it treats this hearing as a partisan ploy and not the defense of government that it should be regarded as. It is akin to pretending that the war to end slavery was just a ploy to get Republicans reelected. Those who watched the hearing will understand the stupidity of framing the hearing as the media did yesterday, handicapping it as part of the horse race midterms instead of an attempt to preserve democracy by revealing those who are its enemies, still hiding in their government offices.

  3. "I am from a part of the country where people justified the actions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan and lynching. I’m reminded of that dark history as I hear voices today try and justify the actions of the insurrectionists on January 6th, 2021. "

    I am reminded of that history too, as I hear Somerby attempt to shift the blame for ignoring what happened away from Republicans and onto Bennie Thompson's shoulders, using this as an excuse to evade their own responsibility and culpability for echoing lies and working to overthrow a valid election.

    Somerby's message today seems to be "careful, let's not offend any Republicans by referring to their past willingness to believe in slavery, white supremacy, and to misuse government processes to achieve their own ends -- maintenance of white power." Are today's motives for trying to hold onto illegitimate power really any different than those of Thompson's past?

    The Republicans were never going to listen anyway. They know what they did. It is the rest of us who need to be told, in an authoritative way, so that we will understand what is happening when those guys start going to jail.

  4. Somerby's over-concern for the fee-fees of the right-wingers is noted. For myself, I was shocked by what happened to Officer Edwards as she tried to maintain order. I had not known previously about the cold-blooded planning of the Proud Boys, before the rally started and before Trump spoke. The size of the crowds during the riot also surprised me. I didn't know previously that Barr had so directly told Trump and his family that they were wrong about the election, that it was "nonsense." That leaves Trump with no excuse for continuing to promote that lie.

    Somerby won't know about this, having turned off his TV set, just as he closed his mind before the hearing, pretending to know what would and would not be discussed. Somerby may as well join the party over at Fox, since he is unprepared to listen.

    Don't let all that garbage about Plato and Socrates fool you. Somerby is a partisan working for the right. He has nothing to say to liberals and he is certainly not liberal himself. Just as he begged the Democrats not to impeach Trump, he is now pleading for Trump to be let off the hook, by calling him mentally ill. But mental illness is no excuse for crime and certainly no excuse for attempting to dismantle our democracy in order to keep his personal power. There will be no testimony about mental illness because it is irrelevant to what happened.

    If Somerby had any compassion for the mentally ill, he wouldn't keep using their problems as a shield to excuse the wrongdoing of Republicans, mass shooters and vigilantes such as Rittenhouse. Trump is not ill -- he is evil, a sociopath (which is not an illness) and a criminal -- by training and by inclination. No one today excuses Hitler for being mentally ill. No one should excuse Trump either, on that basis. He knows what he is doing and he does it because it benefits him. That is wrong, but it is not a symptom of an illness.

    Who defends sociopaths like Hitler and Trump? Somerby does, and it is unclear why. Whatever his reasons, it is clear that Plato and Socrates wouldn't approve of his sophistry.


  5. Hey, dear Bob, dominion-schmominion, barr-schmarr -- everyone knows the election was stolen.

    We all know it because 51 former "intelligence" officials told us so, in a letter.

    And of course you, dear Bob, know it too, so calm down, relax, and enjoy the glorious reign of Mafia Joe, one of your own perfectly mentally capable tribesman -- the most mentally capable member of your tribe, in fact. Oh, yeah.

    1. Whatever his flaws, Biden didn’t subvert democracy and is not the subject of the 1/6 hearing.

    2. No, he did not subvert democracy.

      Indeed, he glorifies democracy every times he shits into his diaper!

    3. "everyone knows the election was stolen"

      Putting that phrase in the same sentence as the name of someone WHO DOES NOT "know" that (but actually has said the opposite), how much insanity does it take to type a sentence like that?

      1/3 of Republicans don't even believe it.

      But don't let facts get in the way of partisan hackery!

    4. Mao is exactly the kind of fascist Somerby thinks we should respect.

    5. 3/3 of Republicans don’t believe the election was stolen.
      Not coincidentally the same 3/3 who only care about bigotry and white supremacy.

    6. What would Mao know about intelligence? What intelligence people? People who are right wing hacks? The courts threw out every case alleging irregularities. But there are many Republicans who have committed vote fraud..

    7. Mao, here you are at your Geobbelsian worst. "We all know . . ." is pure rhetorical BS. You sound like that Shaman (the shirtless guy with the horns - you'd know who I mean if you watched last night).. Trump's goebbelson, total BS campaign that the election was stolen is vile. Out of curiosity, though, how is it that this letter signed by these 51 "former 'intelligence' officials" "prove" that the election was stolen. Does the letter say that, and provide evidence? If not, how does it prove anything of the kind.


    8. Apart from common sense, reliably triggered dembots is the undeniable proof, dear triggered dembot.

    9. He is definitely not a dembot.

      I love this logic too, say something crazy, when it's inevitably called out as such - that reaction proves the logic was correct? Bulletproof!

    10. Mao, Your Goebbelsian word salad response is no surprise, "Common sense" is your proof? - quite Orwellian. Needless to say, you got a "dembot " in there to.

    11. Anon 1:07 & 2:50 - I'm a registered Democrat for more than 50 years - I don't know if that makes me a "dembot" -

    12. Why would you want to be a dembot? Mao uses the word as a derogatory term. No one here can check anything you say about yourself in real life. If you want to be considered a Democrat, try behaving like one. It is a waste of your time to argue with Mao. He is just a troll.

    13. Yes, dear dembot: common sense and your tribe's comically frenzied reaction.

      We're terribly sorry if our reasoning is not up to your dembot standards.

      ...could you do more ranting and raving, please? We love it when you get unhinged.

    14. Mao you darling Trumpbot, it's just so "triggering" when you achieve such a state of pure disingenuousness. But what reasoning? I haven't seen any; just disingenuous gibberish, and inane posturing about me being unhinged.

    15. anon 3:22, I didn't say I wanted to be a "dembot" - just asked if I "was" one. I don't want to be considered a "Democrat" I am registered as one. You just have to take my word for it.

    16. Thanks. Twas nice, dear dembot, but could you inform us of our 'disingenuousness' with more passion, please.

  6. Very good responses here. I’m a bit surprised Bob didn’t go to the use of Ivanka as a possible flaw in the presentation, it does smack of “gotcha” a bit, and her significance is dubious anyway.
    The old Howler MIGHT have noted one of
    the great vanished elements in the Trump catastrophe, that he played the same bullshit
    Games with the 2016. A few noted that lying
    about the results of the election had dangerous
    potential harm, but it all passed in a news
    cycle. But it was all their for BARR to see,
    and he went to do his dirty work for him
    anyway. 2020 just showed that even a
    slimeball like Barr can have SOME
    As to the Trump is nuts and it’s the
    Press’s fault for not pointing it out….
    Who knows where Bob is going with
    that. I doubt he knows.

  7. After the Barr video, Chaney said Trump had started the 'Big Lie.' She did not have to go there. Despite Barr and other people close to Trump saying that he lost the election, Trump wrongly could still believe that he won. His actions make slightly more sense if he believes the election was stolen. Trump's grandiose personality might not have let him understand that he lost and is deeply aggrieved. Chaney could have diced it this way instead of the big lie. I don't think the coup depends on Trump lying or being mistaken.

    1. Whether Trump believed it or not, the collusion of others who did not believe it makes it a Big Lie. But this overlooks that Trump has admitted on several occasions that he knows the election was not stolen. The supposition that he is blinded by his ego is not consistent with the facts, including a great deal of subterfuge.

      When a person holds a delusion, he or she is surprised when others don't hold the same belief. They keep returning to the same fixed belief and have to be retold, over and over that something else happened. Trump doesn't behave that way -- he acts like someone trying to put across a con, not someone repeatedly confronted by an unexpected reality.

      For example, according to reports of those close to him, Trump never expected to win in 2016 and was surprised by the outcome. That is entirely inconsistent with the idea that he couldn't accept that Hillary won the popular vote, when he talked about voter fraud shortly thereafter. That his ego would grow so much in such a short time makes no sense. Further, he would be a much less effective con artist if he believed his own lies.

    2. 12:32: Ah, the George Costanza defense: it’s not a lie if you believe it.

      Trump has always operated this way. Ego, bullshitting, none of that should get him off the hook. Mental illness? No one knows the true state of Trump’s mind.

      I do know that the average criminal defendant doesn’t get to plead “but I really, really thought that money in the bank was mine. I didn’t know it belonged to somebody else.”

      Or “my ego was just too big to allow me to believe that the money was not mine.”

      How many times will Trump slide through? How many times will Somerby claim that Trump is both a “sociopath” and too mentally ill to know right from wrong? Because those two things are incompatible.

      What is clear is that Trump wanted to hold onto power by any means he could, if that meant bullying, bullshitting, and, yes, lying.

      Sociopaths lie, you see. It’s kind of a characteristic of being a sociopath.

    3. If you believed genuinely that there was voter fraud in an election you won, wouldn't you investigate those illegal aliens voting in CA? Trump never did that.

      The key fact that shows that Trump knows he lost is that he focused his efforts to find corruption on the swing states where he might question the result and produce a victory for himself, not on the states where Democratic cheating might have been most evident (Warnock & Ossof's victories). He never challenged or looked at down-ballot races, where you might expect inconsistencies. The kind of fraud being alleged is the giveaway that he was trying to find votes for himself to overturn the election, not trying to find actual fraud. Finally, there is no way to spin what he said to Raffensberger about finding him votes in GA. Of course he knew he was telling a lie.

    4. On 2016, he said this is rigged, but I will accept the results if I win. He then failed to live up to those pathetic standards. That is why Bill Maher and others were able to predict his reaction to 2020. The only question was how far he would take it. He has said other elections were fixed when he didn’t like the outcome. He
      had openly cheated at golf his whole
      life until sycophants just treated it as
      a joke.

    5. Remember, Trump also tried to gaslight a global pandemic, like it was some common New York Times political reporter.

    6. If Trump is culpable, it does not matter whether he believed the election was a fraud or not. Many people believe that it was a fraud. If they had not clicked off before, we lost them here. If he ‘knows he lost,’ those clips should be shown at the hearing. Otherwise, is evidence that he is delusional enough? Just calling it the big lie does not help.

    7. Many people believe that it was a fraud.

      Because trump and his political co-conspirators keep telling them there was fraud for the past 2 years. Most people don't have the capability to investigate the Big Lie. People like me keep an open mind and wait to see what the evidence is. Unfortunately the republican party understands their base are too stupid to use logic and have been trained to accept any bullshit shoved down their skulls. They are reprogrammable meatheads, and Donald J Chickenshit knows it for a fact.

    8. They did that. They showed his campaign manager telling him he was going to lose and Bill Barr telling him that the idea of fraud was nonsense. His own daughter said he lost. All his court cases lost. There is no way he didn't know he lost. The hearing also described his plan for overturning the election. He is not delusional -- he is trying to stay in power by executing a coup. Recall that Trump loves dictators and doesn't believe in democracy, He tried to become a strongman and it didn't work because our democracy has safeguards not present in other countries, including a free press. Trump's stacking of the Supreme Court is no accident -- it is in support of the machinations to stay in power -- but it didn't work because he couldn't coerce his vice president into becoming a traitor.

    9. Anom at 1251, Apparently you were born yesterday. I’m glad you survived the fall off the Turnip Truck.

    10. Right wingers only care about dominance and hierarchy, I doubt many, if any, believe the Big Lie, they just appreciate how it can be used as a weapon to obtain the dominance they are so desperate for.

      This is what happened with abortion, which had wide support among Republicans (Roe being decided upon by the Republicans in the Supreme Court), but once they discovered anti choice was an effective weapon towards gaining dominance, they had no compunction changing their tune.

      Right wingers have a smaller frontal cortex and larger amygdala, most likely caused by unresolved childhood trauma. This is the root of their undying need for dominance.

      As a Leftist, aside from some kind of revolution or civil war, my only choice is to support the Democratic Party - lesser evil, and harm reduction are notions I have to live with, and I have the maturity to see their benefit. Increasingly, Dems do want progress, are electing more progressive candidates.

  8. Here is the way an actual Democrat responds to Bennie Thompson's opening remarks:

    "I loved Representative Bennie Thompson's opening statement. To me, it was excellent because he spoke of his hometown, and state, in a personal way that i think will resonate with the viewing public. There are a lot of people in the United States who are not interested in the minutiae of politics. To be frank, i was one of those people for a very long time, i always voted, i just did not pay as much attention as i should have. I am still learning.

    His mini history lesson was spectacular, just wonderful. It is a gift to be able to speak to so many people in such a way as to make complex issues easy to digest, and that is just what he did with his opening statement. (In my opinion) He also provided a concise overview of what was to come moving forward, and I am very glad that he is the Chair of the committee."

    Somerby's imagined TV sets clicking off are the way a Republican responds. More evidence that Somerby is no liberal. It would be nice if Republicans listened, even to old black men from the South, but that isn't the way Fox News has raised them to behave.


    2. The republican party is in the midst of a purge as we speak. Liz Cheney is getting run out of office and will not survive the primary contest against a true blood MAGAT. Same thing happening all over the country. Republican congressional leaders are promising retaliation and revenge against democrats once they gain control of the House and Senate.

      So what the fuck is TDH talking about?

    3. Neither do you FDR. Back off on the hostility.

  9. Trump is corrupt, not mentally ill.

    All the evidence points to this.

    Somerby is a sad lost soul with a darkness that is chilling.

  10. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. said they did find vulnerabilities in the Dominion machines. They said, "While these vulnerabilities present risks that should be mitigated as soon as possible, CISA has no evidence that these vulnerabilities have been exploited in any elections," However, we all know that absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.

    1. All investigations said that any fraud could not have affected the election outcome. You are talking about something different.

    2. Fair point, @8:54. You are correct/

      However, my point was that Trump's intuition turned out to pretty accurate. These machines did have some problems, even though no problems had yet been discovered when Trump made his statement.

    3. No, Trump had no technical understanding of the machines. He grasped at any suggestion. The so-called problems were insignificant by your own description. In computer terms, a risk is a possibility. It doesn’t mean the machines were compromised. Trump is an idiot and had no special intuition.