American Babel strikes again!


Fox News [HEART] Viktor Shokin: Within the modern context, what does it mean to live in a Babel?

Consider what happened on Fox & Friends this very morning. First, though, consider what happened on Fox Report with Jon Scott this past Sunday night.

Fox Report is the Fox News Channel's 6 p.m. Sunday night program. At a general matter, Scott is supposed to be one of the channel's straight news anchors rather than one of its "opinion" journalists.

At one point, Scott interviewed Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ) about the scheduled deposition of Hunter Biden. Van Drew sits on the House Judiciary Committee. Before long, he was telling Scott this:

VAN DREW (12/10/23): You know, any president can have a kid that's not so good. That's not the issue. The issue is that President Joe Biden was part of so many things that Hunter Biden was doing. We know he was on the phone calls with Burisma...

We know that when Burisma, which is a corrupt energy agency, was complaining about being investigated by Viktor Shokin, who is a prosecutor in Ukraine, because it's a Ukrainian company, that the president found out about it, he was on the phone call, and he went to Ukraine and said, "Cut it out, get rid of that prosecutor or you're not getting any money." And Ukraine did get rid of the prosecutor.

That's the official Fox News story concerning Viktor Shokin. Viewers of the Fox News Channel are fed that pleasing scandal story pretty much around the clock. 

According to that scandal story, Shokin was investigating Burisma, a corrupt company which had put Hunter Biden on its board of directors. In the Fox News version of this tale, Joe Biden went to Ukraine to get Shokin fired in order to protect the business interests of his son.

(You'll note that, as Van Drew told the story, a viewer might have received the impression that Biden went to Ukraine to get Shokin fired when he was president. In fact, Biden did play a role in getting Shokin fired, but this happened when he was vice president—when he wasn't running events.)

In the Fox News version of this story, Shokin was a crusading prosecutor who was on Burisma's tail. In the version of the story told everywhere else in the world, the entire western alliance wanted Shokin fired because he was a corrupt prosecutor who was failing to tackle corruption in Ukraine.

The story as told by Fox News (and by Trump) has been fact-checked a million times over the past many years. For example, here's part of an analysis in which challenged Candidate Donald J. Trump in October 2020, late in that year's Biden-Trump campaign:

Trump Revives False Narrative on Biden and Ukraine

At a campaign rally in Iowa, President Donald Trump cited an unsubstantiated news report to revive a widely debunked false narrative about Joe Biden’s work in Ukraine on behalf of the Obama administration. 

As we have reported more than once last year, Biden traveled to Kyiv as vice president and warned Ukraine’s then-president, Petro Poroshenko, that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees until Ukraine removed its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, who was widely viewed as corrupt.

At the time, the international community and anti-corruption advocates in Ukraine were also calling for Shokin to be removed from office for his failure to aggressively prosecute corruption.

But Trump has repeatedly distorted the facts about Biden’s work in Ukraine to baselessly accuse his Democratic rival of seeking Shokin’s removal to help his son, Hunter, who at the time was a board member of a Ukraine gas company called Burisma. He left the board in 2019.

The report continues from there. That said:

According to FactCheck's Eugene Kiely, Trump had again repeated "a widely debunked false narrative," a bogus claim the fact-check site had already corrected "more than once."

(Kiely included links to three earlier fact-checks of the widely debunked, bogus story.)

In Kiely's accurate telling, Biden went to Ukraine as Barack Obama's vice president. (Presumably, this would mean that Biden wouldn't have had the authority to stop funding for Ukraine on his own.)

Why was (Vice President) Biden seeking to get Shokin removed from office? Also according to Kiely, "the international community and anti-corruption advocates in Ukraine were also calling for Shokin to be removed from office for his failure to aggressively prosecute corruption."

The international community wanted Shokin out because he was refusing to tackle corruption! That's the way this story is told everywhere in the inhabited world, except on the Fox News Channel and within that channel's orbit.

A Babel takes shape in this manner:

People who watch the Fox News Channel hear the Van Drew account of this story night after night after night. 

They also hear it many mornings! This very morning, Van Drew appeared on Fox & Friends First and rattled his prattle about the firing of Shokin all over again.

In the present day, a Babel takes form in this manner:

People who watch the Fox News Channel hear this story again and again. They have no way to know or suspect that the story, as repeatedly told on Fox, has been widely debunked as bogus.

Red tribals hear the story one way; blue tribals hear it the other. This is the very essence of a modern political Babel.

As far as we know, the Fox News version of this story is howlingly, stupidly wrong. That said, we're all citizens of a Babel when our two large tribes of news consumers persistently hear contradictory accounts of the same basic events.

Van Drew was at it again this morning--and as Scott had done on Sunday night, the persistently furious Todd Piro let him prattle on. This happened much less frequently in the long-gone Crossfire-era days, when cable news channels were much more likely to feature pairs or panels of guests with opposing affiliations and viewpoints.

Today, red tribe voters hear the red tribe version of Shokin's firing. Blue tribe viewers hear the blue tribe account of this matter, or they may hear nothing at all. The nation's major mainstream news orgs tend to let such disorder go.

Can a large modern nation expect to function in a Babel of this type? We'll guess that the answer is no.

Final housekeeping point: Google is crowded with fact-checks of this matter. They never get cited on Fox. People who watch the red tribe channel don't know that the fact-checks exist.

Does Van Drew know that the fact-checks exist? We can't say that we know the answer to that.


  1. Somerby does his thing, puts his thumb on the scale; omitted from today’s post: Republicans wrote a letter to Obama requesting that he push to have Shokin ousted.


  2. "That's the way this story is told everywhere in the inhabited world, except on the Fox News Channel and within that channel's orbit."

    It's not surprising that inside your silo (the only "inhabited world" you know) you only hear this version of the story, Bob.

    Others, however, could read something like this, for example:

    1. Let''s stay on topic.
      What did the State Department say about Liz Magill?

    2. Read the linked piece, it’s an opinion essay so full of speculation and misleading claims that’s it’s nothing more than a joke.

      It weaponizes normal diplomatic rhetoric, and ignores the fact that the Obama administration’s push for Shokin’s ouster was largely a function of internal Ukrainian pressure, international pressure, and pressure from Republicans who wrote a letter to Obama calling for Shokin to be ousted.

      In reality, Shokin was being criticized for avoiding investigating corruption, specifically including Burisma.

      If you want to engage in good faith discourse, it’s disqualifying to use sources like the NY Post, which is nothing more than a right wing partisan gossip rag.

    3. I smell my fingers, and I make claims.
      I am Corby.

    4. @4:34 Get help. This has gone on too long and people are tired of it.

    5. Attacking Biden as corrupt for Shokin’s dismissal has been exposed as a false accusation. Worse, it was Republicans that were pushing for his removal.

    6. @4:54 PM
      Please do not use words if you don't know their meanings.

      help /hĕlp/
      intransitive verb

      To give assistance to (someone); make it easier for (someone) to do something; aid.
      "She helped me with my project. I helped her find her book."
      To give material or financial aid to.
      "help the homeless."
      To wait on, as in a store or restaurant.
      "Please help the customer in aisle 20."

      I am Corby.

    7. 3:06,

      Let’s see if I understand the theory: No one saw anything corrupt about Shokin until Biden, acting from corrupt personal motives, unilaterally decided in late 2015 to get him fired.

      Shortly thereafter, 3 Republican senators urged reforms in Shokin’s office, and various European nations also agreed to pretend Shokin was corrupt. As Biden twisted US policy in service to his personal corruption, Obama sat idly by. As did the State Department.

      Then in 2019 when Trump tried to extract a commitment from Ukraine to investigate the stark corruption outlined above, Ukraine refused, even though they badly wanted the military aid Trump was holding hostage.

      And rather than bother to keep his nefarious actions secret, Biden publicly bragged about exactly what he’d done in a foreign policy speech, just to underline his own villainy.

      Do I have that right?

    8. Hector - You forgot to include Biden's evil cackle as he twisted the end of his black mustache.

    9. One can't help but wonder about the reasons behind Hunter's appointment to that board. It certainly seems like a classic case of nepotism. (Hunter and associates made 20 million when his dad was VP.) Not that it is illegal but it doesn't help us when we try to frame Trump as a corrupt sleazebag.

      The other side doesn't rationalize and forgive it the way we do.

    10. (Presumably, this would mean that Biden wouldn't have had the authority to stop funding for Ukraine on his own.)"

      Here is Biden bragging playing hardball by withholding the billion loan guarantee unless they fire Shokin.

    11. With Obama’s backing.

    12. Huh?

      Hunter Biden was hired within his field of expertise and then paid for his work. He and his associates did not make $20 million when Biden was VP, that aside, was he supposed to become a monk?

      Right wingers are jealous because Hunter doesn’t have an undersized penis, and his wife is hot. Grow up, losers, it’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion of the ocean - at least that’s your only hope.

      Any job Hunter got you could claim was nepotism, it’s an empty and meaningless accusation.

      Trump isn’t being framed, he engaged in illegal activity and is being prosecuted in court.

      Trump supporters ignore all his corruption and illegality.

      Obama had Biden “play hardball” with Ukraine because he was getting pressured by Ukrainians, Europe, and even Republicans to push for Shokin to be ousted.

      Biden’s “bragging” is a bit performative because there was already an internal inclination within Ukraine to dismiss Shokin, which they did.

      All your claims are false and nonsense.


    13. "Hunter Biden was hired within his field of expertise..."

      Yes. To smoke crack and to fuck whores.
      And to smell his fingers.

      I am Corby.


    14. "As Biden twisted US policy in service to his personal corruption, Obama sat idly by. As did the State Department."

      First of all, Biden didn't twist any US policy. He just got one chief prosecutor, in a third-world client state, fired, to be immediately replaced by another. Big fucking deal.

      And aside from that, why not? Does it seem impossible to you because, let's see, inside your head Obama and his whole administration were so incredibly ethical and intolerant to corruption?
      Is that it?

    15. It doesn't make sense that Hunter would be hired by oligarchs from the exact same countries where his father was acting as chief diplomat. Hunter and Joe were traveling to these countries together on Air Force Two and we're supposed to think that as a coincidence Hunter was hired for his "expertise"? Hunter and his associates drummed up 20 million of business and then it all drops off when his father is no longer VP? But there's no connection?

      It may not be illegal or impeachable but it's sleazy and unethical. The other side doesn't rationalize it in the way we do. That is the point. Not being honest about it makes us come across as hypocritical.

    16. And for the record, we ARE hypocritical about that and many other things.

    17. Hmm. Sorry, but how can it not be illegal? No quid pro quo?

      Are those oligarchs stupid, to pay millions of dollars for nothing?

    18. Oligarchs are buying Hunter's painting for half-million a piece, for their artistic value. This is how talented he is. And good-looking. Ethical and with American interests at heart.

      I am Corby.

    19. It may be illegal it may not be. One needs conclusive proof to call it illegal.

    20. 8:22

      Why do you do that Corby bullshit?

    21. 8:22,
      Which leads to the Million Dollar Question.
      How is it that Hunter Biden isn't a Supreme Court justice?

    22. Courts need conclusive proof. People don't. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it's a fucking duck.

    23. It may be a quid pro quo but why would it have to be? Why could it not just be a sweetheart deal for a spoiled, idiotic, crack addict rich kid?

      Frenzied, evangelical Democrats said the same thing about Russiagate, courts need conclusive proof, people don't. And they were all totally wrong.

    24. "Why could it not just be a sweetheart deal for a spoiled, idiotic, crack addict rich kid?"

      What does it mean? Why would Mykola Zlochevsky (for example) pay millions to a crackhead, who is just a useless crackhead?

      The Russiagate was an obvious nonsense and bullshit right from the beginning. Right from the Alfa Bank story.
      No, wait, even before that, from the DNC server/CrowdStrike story, where the hackers left words "Felix Edmundovich" in cyrillic on the server - ha-ha.

    25. Seriously. The idea that it would take Russian interference to jack-up Republican voters to get out and vote for Trump's bigotry is so ridiculous, it could only come from our corporate (mainstream) media trying to bury the lead.*

      * that Republican voters were jazzed-up by Trump's bigotry. Period.

    26. Once the media made the collective decision to disappear the open bigotry of Republican voters as the reason Trump was elected President in 2016, stories like Russiagate were inevitable.

    27. If it wasn't for villainous maser-mind, Vladamir Putin, Republican voters would never choose a bigot like Trump to be President.

    28. Russiagate only looked like a plausible reason for Trump's 2016 election victory in comparison to even more ridiculous ideas, like Republican voters "economic anxiety".

    29. "Why would Mykola Zlochevsky (for example) pay millions to a crackhead, who is just a useless crackhead?"

      As a favor to their powerful father.

    30. "As a favor to their powerful father." (This is common. No quid pro quo, just a favor among hyper elites.)

    31. Isn't that the same reason Leonard Leo gifts millions to a layabout, like Clarence Thomas?

    32. So, Mykola Zlochevsky, who is not any "hyper elite" by any stretch of imagination, but just a corrupt Ukrainian businessman), would pay millions as a favor to the American vice-president, at the time when the US fully owns Ukraine, -- without expecting any favors in return. Is that it?

      I don't think this would qualify as a "reasonable doubt". But of course your mileage may vary.

    33. The Roberts Court already decided there is no illegality unless it says "This is a bribe" on the check memo.

    34. 10:08

      Yes, that's true that he is not hyper elite - but he is an oligarch and worth hundreds of millions of dollars which would put him in the top .05 percent of Americans even - so you know what I mean?

      But that is not exactly it. It's that it's not politically relevant unless there is conclusive evidence. Which there may be. I'm not saying it's not a quid pro quo. I'm just not going to be all Russiagate and jump to conclusions without seeing conclusive evidence. Your milage may vary. I respect your position.

    35. I wouldn't say it's "not politically relevant". Despite all deep state's efforts to hush it up (they even impeached Trump and nearly ruined Giuliani for pursuing it), it's still present in the political discourse.
      Alive & kicking. Bob writes about it. Congress investigates.

    36. Yes that is good. It's complete and total sleaze for sure. President Biden has lied about it over and over again.

    37. 6:56,

      "Biden didn't twist any US policy. He just got one chief prosecutor, in a third-world client state, fired, to be immediately replaced by another."

      Our policy at that time was urging Ukraine to clean up its corruption, so getting a prosecutor fired for sleazy reasons would have been a twisting of that policy.

      In addition, we would have to have coerced European allies to call for Shokin's firing, thus introducing the sleazy element into our relations with them.

      "Obama and his whole administration were so incredibly ethical and intolerant to corruption?
      Is that it?"

      Yes. Not all presidents are sleazeballs.

    38. @Hector
      Sadly, you speak like a brainwashed fool, whose understanding of politics, politicians, and geopolitics is one of a 10 y.o. child.

      For that matter, why don't you shorten your "argument" to this: "Joe Biden is a good decent person who would never get engaged in influence peddling. I just know it, end of story."

    39. I know you are but what am I?

      Get back to me when you have an actual argument.

  3. "Does Van Drew know that the fact-checks exist? We can't say that we know the answer to that."

    Van Drew was the source of the various interviews Somerby mentions today. Van Drew is a member of the House of Representatives, so he is paid to know the truth about foreign relations. Instead he makes the rounds reporting propaganda against Hunter Biden (and indirectly Joe Biden) in support of Trump's campaign.

    Somerby should be asking whether this is the actual job of a House member. Somerby is correct to blame FOX, but he would be more correct to point at Van Drew, who is campaigning by misinforming the public, which is not what a House member should be doing.

    When will Somerby call out the Republicans who do this? Somerby's pretense that Van Drew might not know what he's saying is an insult to Van Drew and to reader intelligence here at his blog. This is Somerby's way of covering for these guys who are engaged in wrongdoing.

    1. Stefanik is just as bad as Van Drew. They are trying to get Trump reelected and trying to advance conservative talking points. Just like Somerby is doing.

  4. Bob, Fox didn’t just dream up this “fake news”.

    They did have help.

    1. Read the executive summary including “page four”, nothing there supports the false allegation Somerby references of Biden unilaterally having Shokin fired in order to benefit his son.

      The linked document is an old partisan Republican propaganda piece - it’s from 9/2020, released shortly before the election where Biden defeated Trump to become our current president, and as such has long since been debunked. Amazingly some of the Senators involved in the document were the same ones calling to oust Shokin back when Obama was the president, but interestingly did a 180 when Trump became the president.

      Yes, the fake news on Fox is not always internally generated, it is done in partnership with the Republican Party, in essence they are one and the same, good on you for pointing that obvious and pernicious coupling out.

  5. You can jump to the synopsis on page four.

  6. It might be instructive for students on campuses to understand that you don't throw around a word like genocide. Some of the students have been chanting about global intifada. That means uprising, yes, but when you call it global and attach it to the Gaza war, you are supporting the idea of bringing Hamas-like terrorist attacks to the rest of the world. No one needs that, so why are students calling for it? It would be a good idea for someone to explain to them how their words are heard by others beyond their peer group.

    Pro-Palestinian groups apply the word genocide to themselves, as a description of what they think Israel is trying to do to them by denying them their claimed land. They have changed the meaning to refer to eliminating the culture of their people and not to killing, and they do not think that what Hamas has been doing to Israelis and Jews which does involve killing is encompassed by the word genocide. The protesters do not see that wiping out Israel by destroying the country (from the river to the sea) is genocide, perhaps more than simply denying land to a people who have a controversial claim to that land. These differences in understanding are what the university professors perhaps meant by "context". But allowing the students to mistakenly believe that their understanding of these word meanings are the only possible or correct ones, is doing them a disservice. Further, the failure to point out to these students how they have been propagandized and are being used by others to promote a Palestinian agenda, is also failure to serve the educational needs of those students.

    Somerby's fixation on Babel does nothing to clarify any situation currently in the news. I suspect that is because he has his own agenda and it has nothing to do with understanding truth or even understanding each other. Somerby presents his own point of view as if it were obvious and there could be no other opinion, all while calling for blue tribe members to understand others better. This sudden suspension of tentative language when Somerby is advancing certain views (but not at other times) leads me to think Somerby's main purpose here to propagandize, not to discuss anything in an open manner. Like Fox, Somerby dishes out his own disinformation, in the guise of empty analysis. It is heavy-handed and not particularly subtle.

    1. Your last paragraph is fine, the rest is inaccurate, as has been pointed out repeatedly and backed by evidence.

      Your inability to move off from the false narrative you cling to, even in the face of credible and coherent counterpoints is…interesting.

    2. I am repeating what was told to me by pro-Palestinians using the word genocide. If you disagree, you can take it up with them.

      Are you seriously suggesting that those using the word genocide think the Israelis are trying to eradicate all Palestinians? If so, there are more efficient ways to do that, as the Germans demonstrated in WWII.

    3. It’s reasonable, based on their own rhetoric and actions, to view Netanyahu and his right wing admin as captive to a notion of causing a genocide of Palestinians.

      From Wikipedia on defining genocide: In 1948, the United Nations Genocide Convention defined genocide as any of five "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group". These five acts were: killing members of the group, causing them serious bodily or mental harm, imposing living conditions intended to destroy the group, preventing births, and forcibly transferring children out of the group. Victims are targeted because of their real or perceived membership of a group, not randomly.

      What Israel is perpetrating in Gaza right now is easily defined as a genocide. It’s also a war crime. It’s also perpetuating a cycle of violence. It’s immoral and should not be occurring.

      Students are not calling for violence, they are calling for the end of violence, and the end of Israel oppressing Palestinians. It’s not the students that need to gain understanding, but those that are misrepresenting criticism of Israel with false narratives.

      It’s not directly related to the specific focus here, but it’s an interesting fact to keep in mind: current Palestinians are genetically more closely related by a mile to the original Jewish inhabitants of the area, than most Jews in Israel, who are primarily of European descent.

    4. The Palestinians have the means to do what exactly? The West Bank is being whittled away by settlers whose activities have been labeled terrorist by no less than the IDF, and the apartheid practices levied against the Palestinians in Gaza that have been condemned throughout western Europe and elsewhere are to be resisted in what effective way by the Palestinians? Student protests are rooted in an understanding of this dynamic and although unpopular by right wing standards, have legitimacy that has nothing to do with them being "propagandized".
      5:33 sounds like the same rube who argued yesterday that Viet Nam protesters did so out of peer pressure.

    5. The Palestinians have means to participate in peace talks. If they don’t like Hamas, they can resist them just as they resist Israel.

    6. All students & young people make a lot of choices out of peer pressure. Calling someone a rube doesn’t change that.

    7. 9:50 Attempting to dismiss the positions of others by ascribing them to impressionable minds that are propagandized or bow to peer pressure is to likewise open yourself up to the charge that your views are shaped by inaccurate and biased renditions of reality that you have chosen. It is in essence an ad hominem argument. So since you would like to impugn these students, let's ask: were you academically gifted enough to enroll in Harvard, MIT or U. Penn? If not, why do you consider your powers of reasoning superior to theirs? Go ahead and tell us why you think that your IQ, intellectual prowess, and ability to process information sets you apart from the most distinguished young adults in this country. And if you are, in fact, the commenter that stated yesterday that the Viet Nam war protests were the product of peer pressure, there is no need to even try to explain yourself here, having failed so miserably yesterday.

    8. I was there. Were you?

    9. I was there, that’s how I know you weren’t.

      Sit down and shut the fuck up.

    10. I wasn’t there.

    11. 12:18 if your “there” was Viet Nam , my “there” was here protesting against your getting shot or killed for a useless war, or worse case, protesting your carpet bombing of villages of innocent people.

  7. Babel is not something that "strikes". It is the condition that exists because different people speak different languages. It isn't a virus like covid that infects people when they hold different views from each other. Somerby's metaphor just doesn't work.

    1. One counterpoint to Somerby’s silly Babel notions, although a bit surface-level, is that humans have the ability to translate other languages, so that different and disparate cohorts can in fact share and distribute knowledge.

      Indeed, behavioral scientists now recognize that while we exist as unique individuals in a material sense, our minds exist as part of an entangled network of all the other minds we encounter.

      Bonus thought: Generally culture is about the ‘distribution of knowledge’, but more specifically, a significant portion of American culture can also reasonably be seen as ‘taking credit for things others have done’.

  8. "People who watch the red tribe channel don't know that the fact-checks exist.

    Does Van Drew know that the fact-checks exist? We can't say that we know the answer to that."

    I suspect that conservatives know that fact-checks exist but consider them biased too. They ignore them as "fake news" just like they ignore the news on the networks they don't watch. This is motivated ignorance, not accidental. If they don't know, it is because they don't want to know.

    With conservatives, it isn't that they are convinced that Trump tells the truth or that his minions have good arguments. How would anyone be convinced by anything Guiliani ever said? It is because they are siding with the power represented by the right. They think they are on the winning side and will get benefits from allying with them. It is self-interest.

    That's why talking about Trump supporters in terms of what they know or believe makes no sense at all. It is about what they want. This whole Babe metaphor is incredibly stupid and annoying. It only illustrates that Somerby is engaging in misdirection and talking about the wrong things. And why? Is he stupid or does he have ulterior motives?

  9. "Extra Bonus Quote of the Day
    December 13, 2023 at 5:38 pm EST By Taegan Goddard (Political Wire)

    “I want to give James Comer some credit. Because after 50,000 pages of depositions and secret hearings and closed hearings, I think if we give him enough time, he’s gonna prove that Hunter Biden is Joe Biden’s son.”

    — Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), on the House floor."

    1. Good one, and also underlines the fact that Biden and the blue tribe in general represent parents that actually love and care for their children. This is the fact that causes much of the Republicans’ consternation.

  10. Republicans are bacteriums.

  11. The PM of Israel is dictating our foreign policy and publicly humiliating the President on a regular basis. Further, Moses is now Speaker of the House, 2nd in line to the presidency. I thought this was a Christian nation.

  12. Babel is in Iraq, about 85 km south of Baghdad. It’s an archeological site, much visited by tourists. There’s no tower.

    I am Korbi.

  13. I see the House of Reps is opening an impeachment inquiry of Joe Biden. Will they set-up a toll-free number, where people can call-in to give them some ideas on what they can charge Biden with?
    Either way, this should be hilarious. Basically, the Keystone Kops of the 21st Century.

  14. The economy is pretty good.