TUESDAY, MARCH 7, 2023
Sisyphus, Carlson and Trump: How do misconceptions arise? We're talking about the kinds of misconceptions which can be quite destructive.
Before we cite a recent personal experience, consider one part of Paul Krugman's column in today's New York Times.
In the column, Krugman is describing what it's like to live in New York City. Midway through, he cites one part of Donald J. Trump's crackpot speech to CPAC:
KRUGMAN (3/7/23): What about crime? There’s a widespread perception that New York [City] is a dangerous place. In his speech Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Donald Trump asserted that “killings are taking place at a number like nobody’s ever seen, right in Manhattan.” Yet the reality is that New York is one of the safest places in America. No doubt, New Yorkers themselves were greatly upset by a surge in the crime rate during the pandemic, but this surge may be ebbing, with murders in particular down to their lowest level since 2019.
"There’s a widespread perception that New York [City} is a dangerous place," Krugman correctly says. Then he quotes a crackpot part of Trump's crackpot speech—a crackpot passage which will give many people that (generally) false impression.
As Krugman correctly notes, that impression does exist! Over the weekend, we visited a lifelong resident of New York City who now lives in the Hudson Valley. In passing, she relayed the impression that Gotham has become a much more dangerous place. She specifically mentioned the many killings.
We didn't have the specific numbers, but we said, to this lifelong New Yorker's street-smart surprise, that homicides were way, way down in Gotham compared to the 1990s, when she and her husband were out and about in their city's streets.
And then, sure enough! In Sunday morning's New York Times, Linda Qiu fact-checked Trump's lunatic assertion:
WHAT MR. TRUMP SAID:
“Killings are taking place at a number like nobody’s ever seen, right in Manhattan.”
False. Murders declined in New York by about 11 percent from 488 homicides in 2021 to 433 homicides last year. It was the lowest level since 2019, according to the city’s Police Department...
Those numbers also pale in comparison to the height of crime in New York in the 1980s and 1990s, when Mr. Trump was a mainstay of the city and when it regularly recorded more than 1,500 murders annually. Homicides peaked in 1990 at 2,245.
Last year, homicides in Gotham were roughly one fifth what they'd been in 1990! That said, one native New Yorker had no idea—and there was our disordered former president, engaged in the sort of disordered behavior which is now his disordered trademark.
Last night, things got worse when Tucker Carlson was allowed to go on the air. He was starting his exposition of what he has supposedly learned about the events of January 6 from those 44,000 hours of videotape.
All in all, the dissembling was general. As we imagined trying to fact-check Carlson's rolling collection of misstatements, we thought of the way Sisyphus famously labored under his irreducible load.
As always, there were leaps of logic and fractured facts, mixed with the O'Donnell-like claim that everyone has constantly been "lying."
Sweeping claims were made, with all attempts at sourcing withheld. Indeed, if it weren't for the total absence of sourcing, there would have been no sourcing at all!
In all honesty, it's virtually impossible to fact check such an array of fake, fudged, phony statements. If you have the stomach for it, it's relatively easy to make an array of bogus claims. It takes a major effort to correct or address such a collection of groaners.
As always, there was a bit of a hint of a germ of truth to a few of Carlson's complaints. On the whole, we were left wondering, as we've wondered in the past, about what kind of intellectual or emotional breakdown might perhaps begin to explain where this lost boy has gone.
You can't really fact check such work! The waves of misstatements keep rolling in. By the time one misstatement has been addressed, six others have washed ashore.
Meanwhile, our highest end journalists still refuse to deal with the obvious fact that something seems to be "wrong" with people like Carlson and Trump.
Over at The Atlantic, Tom Nichols recently tried to address this point. We'd have to say that he tried and he failed—in the end, that his courage abandoned him.
These people simply aren't up to the challenge of coming to terms with the current state of play within our failing pseudo-discourse. Tomorrow, with Sisyphus wearily trudging along, we plan to take you to Nichols' piece and show you where he lost his nerve concerning this existential problem.
Is something wrong with Tucker Carlson? Dangerous though the question may be, it's time that top "journalists" asked.
UPDATE / At long last: "At long last," at least half a dozen Republican senators are condemning what Carlson did last night. Also, Senator Schumer.
Yahoo's breaking report is here. It offers plenty of quotes.