No, the storm will not change politics in Texas

This is what Texas wants.

  1. Texas knew about this risk and did nothing to prevent it. A similar storm in 2011 should have changed the industry or the regulators or even the public’s mind, but nothing changed.
  2. The politicians who are responsible and the political parties they represent will shift any blame. This has already begun. They will blame the Green New Deal. They will blame socialism. They will say that government regulation caused the failure to modernize, insulate, or to prepare. We will hear stories that no one could have predicted this so why spend money on it? None of the politicians will take responsibility for the past decisions nor take responsibility to fix it for the future.
  3. Even if change is attempted, it will be diluted in details and bogged down in committees. Much will be said, but little will be done. This is intentional in a state where the weakest and most vulnerable live a precarious existence.[i] Increased taxes are needed but no one wants them.
  4. Once the immediate problems are fixed where water and power are restored people will be distracted and pre-occupied with more important issues. Soon the attention will focus on whatever it is that occupies the public instead of the public infrastructure. When the warm weather arrives, people will turn their attention to other things and the storm its effects will be forgotten. Hook ‘em Horns!
  5. This is Texas. We are not going to let anyone tell us how to live. We know best. As former governor Rick Perry said during the storm. “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business” [ii]
  6. Enough will be done to placate the public so that they can move on with their lives. People will be told they should not litigate the past. If they want a positive future, they need to stop pointing fingers and assigning blame. They need to support their government and stop complaining.
  7. There is no desire to change because those that benefit from the status quo see no need to change. They have survived the storm and they see no need for any change to a system that has worked and will continue to work once it is fixed.

The status quo to resist change is powerful in Texas. What you face is a situation where the powerful elite who are insulated from these events will only do enough to placate the public and ensure the problem is diluted, deferred, and diverted onto others to avoid the serious requirements for change. If Texas had wanted a different outcome, they could have voted for it or they could have argued for it in 2011 but they didn’t.

Perhaps 2021 will be a point where something changes. I doubt it. The storm will not be a factor in 2022 or in 2024 because the status quo is too powerful in Texas.


[i] https://www.governing.com/archive/gov-maternal-infant-mortality-pregnant-women-texas.html

see also those who need health care coverage https://stateofreform.com/news/texas/2019/08/new-report-finds-texas-ranks-in-the-bottom-percentage-for-health-care-coverage/

and the elderly https://familiesforbettercare.com/index.php/news/bottom-10-texas

[ii] Former Governor Rick Perry summed it up https://www.republicanleader.gov/whats-up-in-texas/

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Donate — Life After Hate

https://www.lifeafterhate.org/donate

In this age of increased political polarisation, we can feel that we are powerless to change what is happening to society around us. When someone we know or love gets caught up in the polarisation, such as espousing racist beliefs or showing an interest in racist organisations, especially around White Supremacy it can be difficult to know what to do.

One thing you can do is donate to an organisation, like Life after Hate, to help rescue those who have been seduced by the anger and hatred.

If you have the resources, even a one time donation of $5 can help.

You may think you can’t do anything about what is happening and those who benefit from this hatred and chaos want you to continue to think that, but you can act by either promoting the work of groups like Life after Hate or making a donation.

As citizens, it is our duty to contribute to the common good of this great country. Let’s change America for the better by working to reduce the anger and disarm the hate.

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Is Trump our first female president?

My essay is inspired by Toni Morrison’s claim that Bill Clinton was the first black President[i] and Adrienne Rich’s essay Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying (1975).[ii] I came to her work to understand Donald’s Trump lying. We often believe that politicians lie, but the reality is that they don’t lie very often because they know they can get caught and punished by a loss of credibility, trust, and ultimately voter confidence. Trump is different, though, in that he lies and his lying is not simply political; it is apparently pathological for it infuses all aspects of his life.

To understand why he lies, I turned to Rich’s Notes as she provides an insight into lying and from there, I developed the question as to whether Trump is the first female President.

Rich begins with the observation that a man is known by his honour. If he gives his word that something is true, then it is true for it is guaranteed by his honour.

The old, male idea of honour. A man’s “word” sufficed – to other men – without guarantee

Trump’s word is rarely, if ever, good so he is a man without honour since he cannot be trusted without a guarantee. Trump rarely keeps his word except when it suits his interests or he forced to keep it. Yet, it is not simply his own behaviour that is problematic for what he does through his lies is that he ensures that the people who serve him are also without honour. They either enable his lies or they, in turn, are compromised by his lies. If you work for Trump, you never know if you are being lied to now or in the past. More to the point, you cannot be certain that once their lie is discovered, that they will tell you the truth. When you work for Trump, the problem is that any future statement you make is most likely followed up with the unspoken question “Are you lying now?”

In contrast to a man’s honour, Rich points out, that a woman’s honour has a different relationship with the truth and lying. Women, as she explains, are prized for their loyalty or fidelity not for their honesty.

Honesty in women has not been considered important. We have been depicted as generically whimsical, deceitful, subtle, vacillating. And we have been rewarded for lying.

In a similar way, Trump has been rewarded for his lying as they help him to succeed or at least sustain his appearance of success. His promises to pay suppliers. His promises to business associates. His promises to his wives. His promises to girlfriends. His promises to relatives. His promises to the court. None of these have been kept except under extreme duress such as the court enforcement. In all these matters, Trump does not consider honesty important but he does consider loyalty from others important. He believes that they should put that loyalty beyond obedience to truth or the law.

Trump’s demand for loyalty means that he must come before others so that his feelings are what is important. The same self-centredness emerges with his lies. As Rich points out the liar is only concerned with their feelings.

But the liar is concerned with her own feelings.

However, it is more than protecting his feelings for as Rich explains, the liar lies to retain control of the relationship. A liar cannot have a relationship without manipulation which explains Trump’s relationships since manipulates others to suit his purposes. What we find is that for Trump, there is no such thing as unconditional love. Instead, all his relationships are conditional or transactional so that he can retain control.

The liar lives in fear of losing control. She cannot even desire a relationship without manipulation, since to be vulnerable to another person means for her the loss of control.

To love someone unconditionally would be to accept a loss of control, to trust them, to put them before yourself. For Trump, he cannot love someone else as much as he loves himself and that creates a life of loneliness. Despite his claims of popularity or many friends, Trump, lacks the intimacy of friendship created in mutual vulnerability or shared trust. Instead, what he lives is a life of loneliness sustained by a transactional manipulation of other people.

The liar has many friends, and leads an existence of great loneliness.

What helps the liar function, though is that they never have to confront their lies or when they are confronted, they escape with a form of amnesia. Rich describes this amnesia in a way that could be a form of self “gas lighting” since it helps the liar control the other party but serves another function; it helps the liar avoid their own sub-conscious awareness of the lie. This type of amnesia emerges when Trump says he does not know someone or cannot remember who they are.

The liar often suffers from amnesia. Amnesia is the silence of the unconscious.

For Trump, though, lying is a way of life so his unconscious is dead to him. He has no self-reflection or inner life that allows him to consider his conscience since he does not want the truth that an inner spiritual life requires.

To lie habitually, as a way of life, is to lost contact with the unconscious. It is like taking sleeping pills, which confer sleep but blot out dreaming. The unconscious wants truth. It ceases to speak to those who want something else more than truth

Honesty, though, requires that the speaker express and accept complexity within reality. Instead, the liar avoids complexity so they lie to simplify the world to serve their purposes.

This is why the effort to speak honestly is so important. Lies are usually attempts to make everything simpler – for the liar – than it really is, or ought to be.

We can see this in the way that Trump will lie about complex events or issues since that allows him to simplify them so he can understand and manage them as a pretext to controlling them to his ends.

Rich is prescient in helping us to understand why Trump has never been in love.

An honourable human relationship – that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” – is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in so doing we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us

Trump lies to others because he is only faithful to himself. He has cheated on his wives and he has cheated on his mistresses when cheating on his wives. He does not have an honourable relationship with anyone since that would require him to tell the truth to someone else or even to himself. He might think he is telling the truth, as when he said he would probably date his daughter if she wasn’t his daughter, but even that truth is simply a lie about his responsibility as a father since he avoids having to consider what such a thought means for him as a man or a father.

More than anything, though, Trump is haunted by fear. To keep that fear at bay, he lies. His lies, mask his fear of inadequacy that he cannot live up to his father’s image or reputation as a “real man”. Even though he is President of the United States it is apparent he cannot shake that feeling of inadequacy, a void he is desperate to fill with lies and performative spectacles.

The liar is afraid.

What is this particular fear that possesses the liar?

She is afraid that her own truths are not good enough.

She is afraid, not so much of prison guards or bosses, but of something unnamed within her.

The liar fears the void.

The fear grows from an emptiness that can never be filled no matter his success, an emptiness that keeps him from being able to enjoy who he is, what he is, and why he is. Instead, he seeks to fill that physical emptiness with the junk food and the spiritual or emotional emptiness with lies that allow him to forget for a time. The cheering crowds, the positive press statements, the grand spectacles are never enough because they do not love him for who he is but for what he means for them. It is the cost of his transactional emotional life. His lies deny the fear so that he can remain in control or at least the appearance of control to himself.

Every time he is confronted in a lie, he lies again to escape. If his inaugural wasn’t the largest, then it was because

“Someone told me it was.”

“That is what they are saying.”

“People are saying it was the largest.”

Rich understands this void for a woman confronts it in her dishonesty as her lies become a way to retain some control over herself, her relationships, and her situation.

The liar in her terror wants to fill up the void, with anything. Her lies are a denial of her fear; a way of maintaining control.

What is as consistent as his lying is his fear of and avoidance of confrontation over his lies so that he must deny that he lied, or say he forgot, he cannot remember, or he is protecting someone else. He never admits to his lies or what he lies about because he must hide how he feels.

The liar may resist confrontation, denying that she lied. Or she may use other language: forgetfulness, privacy, the protection of someone else.

Trump’s lies make him less interesting, less surprising, and less full of possibilities. He is not an inventive man who creates a greater good beyond himself for others to enjoy. In this way, his political leadership becomes the antithesis of decent politics. What makes decent politics possible is honesty, truthfulness, and honour for they provide the foundation from which something larger can be created, the exciting possibility of people coming together in a complex relationship. However, these virtues do not occur spontaneously nor do they remain unaided for once created they need to be sustained, defended, and renewed. For politics relies on honour since a man must give his word and mean it just as a woman must be faithful that is be honourable and, in this relationship, both must be truthful with each other for from that relationship a larger community can be created.

Truthfulness, honour, is not something which springs ablaze of itself. It has to be created between people.

This is true in political situations. The quality and depth of the politics evolving from a group depends in very large part on their understanding of honour.

What Trump destroys with his lies are the decency and honour needed for decent politics since his lies undermine trust and honour. The possibilities for trust between people are what Trump removes as his lies make honesty meaningless. How can you be honest in a relationship based on a transactional emotional world sustained and driven by lies? In such an environment, complex relationships from which a group can develop become impossible. Aristotle famously argued for the importance of political friendship as the basis for political society. Within that friendship, we have the trust, honour, truthfulness, and a shared intimacy. Yet, that is what Trump lacks but also what Trump requires as a basis for loyalty. You cannot be friends with others and remain loyal to Trump; it is how he corrupts those around him and the Republican Party since political friendships are impossible. Those within his political orbit are compromised, morally deformed, by their attempts to justify his behaviour or avoid his displeasure.

Trump does everything he can short of physical violence to destroy the possibilities between people to develop those complex relationships based on trust, honour, and truthfulness. We see how he attacks those who speak up or those who might show allegiance to people who have resisted him. Instead of a life of surprising possibilities created by friendship, the liar’s life is dreary and repetitious which requires them to seek stimulus from novelties, audiences, and ceremonies to replace the friendships that contain the possibility of complex relationships of love. Without those external stimuli, the liar returns to the constant dramas of the next lie but the liar and their lies cease to be interesting to anyone except the liar since the behaviour is simply repeated. In such a cycle, human possibilities cannot flourish with the liar or those he manipulates or controls through his lies as neither he nor they can live beyond the lie in a realm of trust or truth.

Rich captures the difference between the drabness of the liar’s life and the exciting alchemy of a people living honestly.

The possibilities that exist between two people, or among a group of people, are a kind of alchemy. They are the most interesting thing in life. The liar is someone who keeps losing sight of these possibilities. When relationships are determined by manipulation, by the need for control, they may possess a dreary, bickering kind of drama, but they cease to be interesting. They are repetitious; the shock of human possibilities has ceased to reverberate through them.

What we find isn’t so much that Trump kills everything he touches[iii] so much as he drains it of meaning. Through his lies he drains people, events, and places of the possibility of being interesting or full of possibilities. Trump isn’t so much a female president for he lacks loyalty or even a male president[iv] since he lacks honour, but he must be considered our first eunuch president simply incapable of any lasting achievement beyond the performative spectacle of his lies.

[i] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1998/10/05/comment-6543

[ii] http://www.oregoncampuscompact.org/uploads/1/3/0/4/13042698/women_and_honor_-_some_notes_on_lying__adrienne_rich_.pdf

[iii] https://www.npr.org/2018/08/07/635978021/in-everything-trump-touches-dies-few-are-spared?t=1593279963212

[iv] https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/donald-trump-the-most-unmanly-president/612031/

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How the documentary Hoaxed manipulated Black Lives Matter.

The film Hoaxed claims to be a documentary that tells the truth about the media and fake news. One part of the film looks at how the media covers racial violence. The directors and Mr Cernovich, though, want to look at how the news distorts coverage since the media focuses on violence by whites on blacks and they argue the media under report violence of blacks against whites. To demonstrate this claim, they enlist the help of Hawk Newsome the President of the Black Lives Movement of greater New York.

We see him in the trailer so his part in the movie, which is from 1h44 to 1h55 is central to the film. The film appears to treat Mr Newsome sympathetically as he has time to explain why Black Lives Matters is important and he could reach a wider audience. A wider audience that is not filtered by traditional media reporting. However, the film used Mr Newsome’s appearance and edited a key sequence of the film for their purposes.

In the trailer Mr Newsome is surprised by a story that he has never heard of. To understand that scene and his surprise we need more context than the film provides. In this the film violates an important rule of documentaries because it edits the scene to fit the film maker’s agenda instead of letting the character or the topic explain itself.

The scene, in question, occurs at 1h50. Mr Newsome raises the point that when you hear about a black victim they are villainized as you hear about their criminal record, or if they were an alcoholic or had a drug problem. By contrast, he argues that a white victim is described as victimized.

“The first thing you hear when a cop kills someone of color, is their criminal history, if they alcoholic, they were a woman beater, they were who knows. When a black person is killed, they’re villainized. And when a white person is killed, they are victimized. Villainized an victimized and that is the media.”

At this point in the scene, the cameraman hands him a mobile phone and asks:

“Did you hear the inverse situation of the complaints against the media in terms of interracial crimes like the Dylan Root Shooting in Charleston and then there was the shooting in Tennessee that was like a black man shot up a church and so people were saying oh that the Charleston shooting got this big media coverage, that shooting got nothing because it was the inverse.”

“How do you respond to that?”

On the screen we see what appears to be an image, a screenshot, of a news story but the source is not identified.[i]

Mr Newsome is being presented something for the first time. He knows about the Charleston shooting but he is unaware of the Tennessee shooting. The film plants the idea that the Charleston shooting had more coverage than the Tennessee shooting because it was white on black violence.

Mr Newsome reacts as we would expect; he has not heard of it and cannot understand why he has not heard of it despite having three to four thousand Facebook friends who might have drawn his attention to it.

“I don’t understand why I have heard of this. Like, what’s unbelievable. I don’t understand why I never heard of that story. And what’s more amazing to me is I have over, I don’t know three to four thousand friends on Facebook. I have never seen that story published. It is interesting to me.”

What is unstated is that white on black violence is prioritised over black on white violence. The film suggests that these events are equivalent and worthy of the same coverage. Moreover, it suggests that the Tennessee Church shooting had less coverage because it does not fit the preferred media narrative of white on black violence.

Mr. Newsome reads from the phone and an image of what he is reading appears on the screen. It says that the initial report of the event shows that the shooter, Mr. Sampson did attend the church on occasion, but that is not mentioned in the film nor does Mr Newsome notice it.

“And church members told investigators that Samson had attended services a year or two ago. “1hr51m22s

Instead, he and the film makers focus on the sentence that reads

“All of the victims in Nashville were white, but it is not clear whether Samson specifically targeted them based on their race.”

Mr Newsome is surprised as would anyone else who is unaware of the context for each shooting. The film would convince an uninformed audience that the Tennessee shooting was not covered because of the black on white violence and the shootings are similar. However, the context and outcome for each shooting explains the difference in coverage and the film does not explore that difference because that would undermine its narrative which is more important than the truth. In this manipulative scene, the film does exactly what it accuses the media of doing. It distorts the issue, creates a false equivalence, and leads the viewer to the wrong conclusion about black on white violence. The only thing that links the shootings is that they were at a church and the second shooting was in response to the first. After that, the comparisons fade.

Here is a comparison chart that explains why they had different coverage.

  Charleston[ii] Tennessee[iii] Notes
Shooter Dylan Storm Root Emanuel Kidega Samson  
Location

/congregation

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church/ African American Church Burnette Chapel shooting/ Mixed Congregation The Charleston Church is a symbol of the civil rights movement including the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Known to victim or location No Yes. He had attended the church few times but had not attended for over a year.  
Casualties 9 Dead

1 Injured

1 Dead

9 injured

Charleston was the largest Church Shooting ever to occur up to that date.
Affiliation or ideology Online manifesto/statement White supremacist Some interest in black supremacist figures and groups like  
Reason White Supremacism and desire to kill black people and start a race war. Revenge for Charleston Shooting  
Context No mass shootings in the month before or after with a high death toll or higher profile target location.[iv] One week after this shooting the largest mass shooting and murder in US history occurs in Las Vegas with 59 people killed and 869 injured with 413 by gunfire.

A month later the largest church shooting occurs in Texas with the Sutherland Springs church shooting where 27 are killed including shooter and unborn child and 20 are wounded.[v]

 

 

At the time the article was written Samson’s motive was unknown so it would have been irresponsible to speculate. By contrast, Root was explicit in his motive before, during, and after the shooting. He was a white supremacist who wanted to start a race war by killing African Americans. He was attacking African Americans at a place symbolic of the Civil Rights movement, a target with a significant political and racial profile. At that point, the Charleston Church Shooting was the deadliest church shooting in the country’s history. To put it mildly, it was an unprecedented event. Unprecedented events against a high-profile target for a racist motive will gain a lot of attention and there was no other event before or after it to dilute the coverage.

By contrast, the Tennessee shooting’s target, context, or outcome would not draw the same attention. The shooter attended the church, the church is not a political or racial symbol in the community or the nation. The shooter did not want to start a race war, but he wanted revenge. In all aspects it is not an unprecedented event as it is does not eclipse the Charleston shooting in deaths or in the wider context of racial politics. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, one week later it is overshadowed by the largest mass murder in American history as the Las Vegas shooting claims 59 lives and leaves 869 people injured. The mass murder story gets global attention for weeks. Then a month after the Burnette Chapel shooting, the worst church shooting in American history occurs in Sutherland Springs and draws national attention for weeks.[vi] Yet this context is not provided by Mr Cernovich or the movie and it is not given to Mr Newsome so he can understand why he has not heard of the Burnette Chapel shooting.

What makes this particularly manipulative is what happens next.

The documentary shifts to Mr. Cernovich who claims that the media will not report it because it would mean that whites might start to think they “Hey, this could happen to me” that they might get shot by a black person and therefore they might sit down with black people to find common cause with them. Mr Cernovich then claims the media do not want that as the media do not care about white lives or black lives, they just want the show to go on, which is ironic given that is exactly what his documentary is doing with this scene.

“Now, in my view, the media doesn’t want to give attention to white people who are shot because white people might say, oh that could happen to me too. Maybe I ought to talk to these Black Lives Matters people. Maybe we can find common cause. The media does not care about black lives. They don’t care about white lives. They care about the show. And a Black Lives Matter leader who was reasonable and nuanced, and wanted to talk about both rights and responsibilities, would resonate with the people. And that would be very frustration for the media. They don’t want people to resonate.”

Except none of what he says is true nor does he provide any evidence. He wants his audience to believe that the reason why there is disparity between whites and blacks or why African Americans continue to struggle for their civil rights is because of the media. He does this without evidence that black on white violence occurs as often or to the same intensity as white on black violence. He has no evidence for his claims except for his beliefs about the media. The reality that white on black violence is much more common than black on white violence. They are not equivalent. Moreover, the media do report on groups who seek to reduce violence and create racial harmony, but that doesn’t suit his narrative. Instead, he wants to push the narrative that the media wants whites and blacks to kill each other. In this, he acts in bad faith.

Mr Newsome, however, is acting in good faith. He acts in the belief that the film will show the Black Lives Matters movement to a larger audience. What is not clear is whether he would have been aware that he would be used as a foil for the film to claim that black on white violence is not covered as much as white on black violence. Moreover, it is not clear whether he understood that the filmmakers were linking Black Lives Matters message to the Alt-Right movement. The film uses his surprise, which features in the trailer, as an important hook for the film, just as they use him, and by extension, the Black Lives Matter movement to create a false narrative about the media, about media coverage of black on white violence. When they equate the Burnette Chapel shooting with the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting, we find that the film makers and Mr Cernovich have created a fake news narrative to achieve their goal which is to indoctrinate not document and to deceive not to discern.

If Mr Cernovich and the directors were interested in the Black Lives Message, why did they manipulate them in this way?

 

[i] The source appears to be the Associated Press as several outlets carried this texted and many carried variations on it with some editing it for emphasis or adding extra details. See for example,

https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/u-s-world/note-in-tennessee-church-shooting-refers-to-revenge-for-dylan-roof-massacre-ap-sources (retrieved 16 May 2020)  See also https://www.foxnews.com/us/ap-sources-note-in-church-shooting-refers-to-roof-shooting (retrieved 16 May 2020)

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charleston_church_shooting (retrieved 16 May 2020)

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burnette_Chapel_shooting (retrieved 16 May 2020)

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mass_shootings_in_the_United_States#2015 (retrieved 16 May 2020)

[v] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mass_shootings_in_the_United_States#2017 (retrieved 16 May 2020)

[vi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sutherland_Springs_church_shooting (retrieved 16 May 2020)

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Initial review or thoughts on the documentary Hoaxed.

Arrogant, resentful people believe deception works.

–Jordan Peterson, minute 94, Hoaxed (2019).

Know thyself.

–Delphic Oracle

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”

―Soren Kierkegaard

The documentary Hoaxed is not worth your time or your money. It is more a 128-minute work to whitewash Mike Cernovich’s reputation as an Alt-Right member[i], troll and bad faith actor than it is to document fake news as a media phenomenon. What I found was that it was in part disingenuous, incomplete, and seriously flawed as a documentary since it provided no insight nor new understanding as its rehashed events to gaslight an unsuspecting or credulous audience about Mr Cernovich and the alt-right.

These are my initial thoughts to be followed by a more detailed commentary in a few days.

First, it fails as a documentary from a technical point as well as from intent because it does not tell us anything new. It rehashes things from two or three years ago without offering insight, analysis or an alternative view, which for a controversial topic like “fake news”, is a bare minimum for a decent or honest documentary. Without some attempt to provide a context or insight into the topic beyond the preferred view of the speakers, it becomes a self-indulgent exercise akin to a video diary where the speakers just provide their own views unopposed or without any context which would suggest that there is a different understanding to the reality it describes. What we get is perhaps a film that offers higher production values than the usual Mike Cernovich podcast or YouTube offering with the added benefit of a few academics as guests who seem out of place. The academics, unsurprisingly, are the most coherent, cogent, and thoughtful of the many speakers throughout the documentary in large part because they speak from expertise grounded in research and training, which gives them a sense of self-awareness.

Second, Mr Cernovich and most of the other speakers lack the self-awareness born of having to test their thoughts against a research literature and an informed community. To a surprising degree, most of the speakers lack self-knowledge for what they are saying within the context of the documentary. Moreover, those with self-knowledge, the academics and the leader of Black Lives Matters movement, do so because they act in good faith with the film and how they understand the world. The other speakers don’t.

Third, there were many assertions that relied on bald unsubstantiated claims that are never tested even when there is clear evidence to the contrary. For example, Mr Cernovich makes the following egregious claim around the film’s 95 to 96-minute mark.

The context is coverage of the 2017 Congressional baseball shooting, which occurred on 14 June 2017

Mr Cernovich says the following:

“There was a shooting by a Bernie Sanders supporter and pro antifa person at a congressional baseball practice. Called the Scalise shooting now.[ii] And the mainstream media acted like they really care. Oh, they really cared. No, the people know. The people watch them laugh when they were asked about violence. They know the media wants more shootings.

They want people to get shot because they act as a propaganda arm for antifa, which is a domestic terrorist group, under investigation by the FBI, and they laugh at violence against people they don’t agree with politically.”

It is a bald, unsubstantiated claim to say the media want people to get shot, that they laugh at violence, and they are a propaganda arm for antifa. Mr Cernovich offered no evidence for this claim.

It seems horrific for Mr Cernovich to claim that American media wants American politicians to get shot and does not care about shootings. More to the point, he claims “they laugh at violence against people they don’t agree with politically.” Such a claim is clearly one from a bad faith actor because it is a view so out of touch with reality as to appear to be from someone with a warped sense of the world, politics, media, and America.

The reason it is a bad faith claim is that Mr Cernovich has not considered that his claim must include himself since, as a self- professed journalist he too is part of the media just as Fox News is. Once Mr Cernovich begins to qualify his remarks, which he will once he has to explain them or defend them, his equivocations will show he was not acting in good faith.

In the film, the directors and Mr Cernovich attempt to contextualise his outrageous claims with an earlier scene that covers Mr Cernovich’s video from his visit to the White House Press Briefing Room on 1 May 2017. This is before the Congressional Baseball Shooting. In minutes 91 and 92 of the film, he presents this visit[iii] and claims that the media present laughed at his demands that they cover antifa violence as much as they cover violence by Trump supporters and that they demand that Democrat politicians, like Bernie Sanders, be required to disavow antifa violence in the way that President Trump had been asked to disavow violence by his supporters. In minute 92, he then claims in the film that they laughed at him which is what he wanted them to do.

Mr Cernovich’s claims when investigated are not substantiated.

On the surface, it appears that what he claims has merit because there is laughter at the beginning of his video. However, if you look at footage of the event from other sources, such as CSPAN or other outlets[iv], it does not appear to be as he claims. First, it is not clear that the laughter at the start is aimed at him or another person who shouted a question. Second, it is not clear whether they are laughing at him and the sound of his voice, which some commentators have described as whiny and lispy[v], or simply his appearance at the White House Press briefing. It does not appear that they were laughing at his questions since the laughter was before his questions could be heard clearly as most people tended to ignore him. One person did engage him which seemed to be something garbled but sounded like they were saying they were there to question the Republican President and not the Democrats so until one of them is President it would not make sense.[vi]

Basic research reveals that what Mr Cernovich described is not accurate.

Leaving these points aside, which are enough to call into question his claim that they were laughing at his demands that they condemn violence and condemn the antifa, his substantive point which is an attempt to equivalate President Trump supporters and antifa with the Democratic Party is not sustainable. First, antifa is an anticapitalistic, socialist, anti-fascist group, that does not organise public events nor are they affiliated with any political party nor do they have the patronage of the Democratic Party or a Democrat in an elected office. Second, the White House Press Corp focuses on the President and the White House so a fringe group like antifa, even though important to Mr Cernovich, are not going to attract their attention unless President Trump or the White House focus on it. To expect them to do otherwise is specious if not dishonest in that their job is the White House and President Trump not the Democrats or a fringe political group.[vii] Third, the White House Press Corp are not the media, they are a subset of a subset within the media at best since there is a small number of reporters across world who are part of the White House Press Corps. Fourth, the people present are under no obligation to explain themselves or their organisation’s editorial policies to Mr Cernovich especially in that location and under those circumstances. To believe they should be borders on juvenile or sophomoric behaviour. Fifth, after Charlottesville in August 2017, the media has condemned antifa violence as much as they have condemned Neo-Nazi violence.[viii] Sixth, the Democrats including Bernie Sanders have condemned antifa violence.[ix] Senator Sanders condemned violence[x] on 24 April 2017 a week before Mr Cernovich’s question at the White House Press briefing, thus, disproving his claim that Senator Sanders had not disavowed violence. However, Mr Cernovich at the time nor in the film prepared a year later, considers these points or the alternative meaning of the event which suggests he lacks self-knowledge or the willingness and perhaps the ability to reflect on events. It appears he believes there can be only way to understand an event, his way, and no other. In this, he is acting in bad faith as a person and as a documentarian.

Was this a documentary or was it something else?

As you can see, this is one of the many unsubstantiated or disputable claims in the documentary which rob it of having any chance of providing an insight into fake news since it only present a partial or biased view. There is no balance in the film. You get the queasy feeling that you are watching an indoctrination film designed to groom the audience. A documentary would have had a narrator to provide context or balance failing that regular comments by media academics or media professionals who could explain how the media works would have indicated it was a documentary. A basic understanding of the media starts with the challenge that any news organisation must prioritize coverage, based on available resources, within severe time constraints against a hyper competitive media market. Most importantly, it has deal with the public attention which is limited as well as changing hourly. Without these limited interventions, it fails as a documentary.

What we find, instead, is that Hoaxed is a resentful screed which covers the same tired topics of any fringe group resentful, disgruntled, and disappointed with the status quo. The targets are the same: the left, the media, the lack of coverage for topics they believe the media should cover or don’t cover enough, the unfairness of what they do and so forth.

Mr Molyneux does not understand Plato.

In a strange twist, the film ends with a bizarre attempt to suggest that the film was some sort of educational project or attempt to enlighten the audience as if they have been brought the truth. Stefan Molyneux an avowed white nationalist talks about Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Mr Molyneux has a clumsy, crude, and confused understanding of Plato and the allegory. He wants us to believe this film leads us on a path to enlightenment and thinking. It doesn’t. Mr Molyneux does not understand Plato and his account provides an incorrect analysis that the Cave represents the City since it misses out essential issues or basic points for anyone who has read the passage in Plato. For example, it leaves out the puppet masters[xi] who create the shadows and who have access to the sun or knowledge of the Good yet remain in the cave. He leaves out the difference between the fire and the sun, as well as ignoring the central point that there are no politics in the cave as it is not a political community nor it a simulacrum of one. Finally, the philosopher does not return for political reasons. To put it bluntly, Mr Molyneux is not supported by any serious Plato scholar or any honest reading of Plato’s Republic so he is misleading his audience.

Plato’s cave is about the philosopher and not the city.

The Allegory of the Cave is about the philosopher’s soul, it does not have a political message since the philosopher rejects politics and the people chained in the cave are not in a political environment, but you would not get that as Mr Molyneux, speaking in a theatrical voice, attempts to present himself as letting the audience in on some deep truth that will liberate them. In near hushed tones, he ends the film by invoking the claim that the truth has been revealed to them so they can begin thinking. Mr Molyneux says in minutes 121 to 122 regarding the philosopher who has seen the sun and understands the Good.

“He says, I must share this with the people below, with my friends, my companions, my compatriots chained in the cave. So, he takes a last look to drink the glory of everything that he sees and then with excitement, with joy, with anticipation, he turns back down into the cave.”

This is simply wrong. Plato does not write this. No one is a friend in the cave as they are chained facing forward unable to turn their heads and unaware of anyone else.[xii] There is no dialogue in the cave and therefore no community and without a community there is no politics. The philosopher must be compelled to return to the cave just as he was compelled to leave it[xiii] so we find compulsion central to the Allegory of the Cave. The philosopher does not return to the cave with excitement, joy or anticipation. Instead, he would do anything to avoid returning to the cave.

“I think that he would choose to endure anything rather than such a life.”[xiv] Plato’s Republic 516e

Mr Molyneux is misinforming his audience and distorting Plato’s work to serve his purposes. He also leaves out that when the returning philosopher tries to tell the chained inhabitants of their predicament that they would, if they were not chained, kill him.

And if it were possible to lay hands on and to kill the man who tried to release them and lead them up, would they not kill him2?” “They certainly would,” he said. 517a Plato’s Republic [xv]

He also leaves out that when the philosopher does return to the cave, he is blinded by the darkness[xvi] just as he was blinded by the light on the exit and it takes the philosopher a long time to adjust his eyes to the cave which leaves him appearing ridiculous to the inhabitants. Instead, he suggest that the cave is the reality manufactured by the media to tell you what to think and he suggests that the main speakers within the documentary, Alex Jones, Anthony Scaramucci, Cassie Jaye, James O’Keefe, Mike Cernovich, Scott Adams, an anonymous internet troll named “Myron Gaines” to name a few, are the philosophers who have come back to the cave to wrestle the lies from the minds of those stuck in the cave. This is a nonsensical reading of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

A philosopher as described by Plato’s Socrates is as rare as hen’s teeth.

The path by which one becomes a philosopher is not started by watching this video or buying some self-help book from Mr Cernovich or Mr Molyneux. A philosopher will have a lifetime of study dedicated to the Good and the pursuit of wisdom done through dialogue and conversation, not political goals such as those promoted by Mr Cernovich or Mr Molyneux, for them to make the journey in their soul. A philosopher lives for discussion and dialogues within individuals they do not participate in harangues or speeches to an unresponsive audience. To put it bluntly, the philosopher begins or lives in a state of wonder or bewilderment always asking questions search for the truth.

None of the people in this film are philosophers or are even close to being philosophers. At best, one of them, Professor Peterson might speak philosophically and have a sense of what the Good means but that does not make him a philosopher returning to the cave to liberate us. Instead, they are people like Mr Molyneux or Mr Cernovich who believe they know what the truth is and they will force you to listen to it.

To a credulous or uninformed audience Molyneux’s analysis might appear revolutionary, insightful, or empowering like “Wow, man, I have learned so much that it all makes sense that I have freed my mind and now I can think and fight to free others.” However, Professor Peterson disabuses anyone of that belief when he says in minute 98.

“You live out the falsifications and, uh, the world hits you.”

If you follow Mr Molyneux or Mr Cernovich, you will be living out a falsification and reality will bite you the ass.

Save your time and money and avoid this movie.

Save your money, by a decent copy of Plato’s Gorgias, Phaedrus, and Sophist as well as Cicero’s Orator and Aristotle’s Rhetoric to understand what rhetoric is, how it works, and what it relates to the truth in a political setting. You will be better served by that education than anything you would learn from this film. You will not find any education or enlightenment in this film and you will have wasted two hours watching as you become less informed. In the end, you are in the dark wondering why you or anyone else listens to the bad faith clowns on the screen.

[i] This article explores how Mr Cernovich has been trying to distance himself from the alt-Right even as he continues to parrot their views. https://www.mediamatters.org/maga-trolls/new-right-brought-you-former-allies-alt-right However, he has worked with alt-Right figures such as Charles C Johnson and in this film with Stefan Molyneux. https://www.thedailybeast.com/mike-cernovich-chuck-johnson-alt-right-hyped-anti-schumer-forgery-that-plagiarized-conyers-complaint

[ii] It is referred to as the 2017 Congressional baseball shooting because Rep Scalise was not the target as the shooter targeted Republicans not him specifically on the baseball field.  By contrast Gabby Giffords the representative from Arizona was shot in an attempted assassination to which Mr Cernovich is silent and which demonstrates the hollowness of his claims about the media or Democrats. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Tucson_shooting

[iii] https://twitter.com/Cernovich/status/1055220427100803072?s=20

[iv] See for example this footage of the incident from Media Matters. https://www.mediamatters.org/maga-trolls/heres-what-happened-when-trump-white-house-gave-alt-right-troll-access-press-room here is one that shows the laughter comes before his questions are understood. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2QySs3CNu8

[v] https://theslot.jezebel.com/mike-cernovich-has-a-whiny-dork-voice-1794814445 see also https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/31/trolls-for-trump

[vi] Here is the incident as captured by CSPAN. https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4868564/user-clip-cernovich-clip

[vii] If we track the term antifa it does not rank very high on the Google search which also suggests that it is not high in the public’s consciousness except for specific events when it does enter the public domain. https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?cat=16&date=2016-04-11%202017-12-12&geo=US&q=antifa

[viii] https://fair.org/home/in-month-after-charlottesville-papers-spent-as-much-time-condemning-anti-nazis-as-nazis/

[ix] In August 2017 Nancy Pelosi condemned antifa violence. https://www.denverpost.com/2017/08/30/nancy-pelosi-denver-violent-antifa-activists-should-be-prosecuted-dont-represent-democrats/  See also https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/08/30/pelosi-condemns-violent-actions-of-antifa-protesters/  In 2016 Bernie Sanders condemned political violence aimed at Donald Trump. https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/bernie-sanders-condemns-violent-protests-san-jose/story?id=39602627

[x] https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/apr/24/bernie-sanders-slams-berkeley-activists-attempts-t/

[xi] See Plato’s Republic 514e http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0168%3Abook%3D7%3Asection%3D514b

[xii] See 515a and515b. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0168%3Abook%3D7%3Asection%3D515a

[xiii] See 515c “When one was freed from his fetters and compelled to stand up suddenly and turn his head around and walk and to lift up his eyes to the light…” http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0168%3Abook%3D7%3Asection%3D515c   See also 515e “And if,” said I, “someone should drag him thence by force up the ascent1 which is rough and steep, and not let him go before he had drawn him out into the light of the sun,…” http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0168%3Abook%3D7%3Asection%3D515e

[xiv] http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0168%3Abook%3D7%3Asection%3D516e

[xv] http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0168%3Abook%3D7%3Asection%3D517a

[xvi] See 516e “ “And consider this also,” said I, “if such a one should go down again and take his old place would he not get his eyes full1 of darkness, thus suddenly coming out of the sunlight?” “He would indeed……” http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0168%3Abook%3D7%3Asection%3D516e

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Was 9/11 a state and local issue? Asking for a Coronavirus — Media Meditations

The President and Jared Kushner have indicated that any shortages in ventilators or medical equipment is the fault and responsibility of state and local authorities.[1] They want the public to believe that it is not their fault that there is a shortage. Kushner has gone so far as to say that the federal stockpile is […]

via Was 9/11 a state and local issue? Asking for a Coronavirus — Media Meditations

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America is not ready for what’s coming with the Covid-19.

First, America lacks the tests to understand the scale, scope or severity of the outbreak. The incubation period is up to 14 days which means it has spread widely in America. News reports indicate that 35 states have infected residents. Beyond the spread of the disease, America still does not know its severity or its scope so that even if the testing starts this week, it will be months before enough people get tested to understand whether the outbreak has stabilized.

Second, most adult Americans have underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to Covid-19. Many Americans are obese[i]. Many suffer from high blood pressure.[ii] A large percentage have some sort of cardiovascular disease.[iii] Beyond those conditions, we find that many Americans have diabetes or have a combination of all the above and more. We can see this medical vulnerability in the fact that 66% of adult Americans take some sort of prescription medicine for a chronic condition[iv]. The consequences are that nearly all adult Americans are at a higher risk of mortality from Covid-19 based on available evidence regarding mortality.[v]

Third, Americans have poor diets.[vi] Despite having some of the best farmland in the world and some of the most advanced agriculture, Americans eat a poor diet of highly processed food that is high in salt, saturated fats and a variety of chemical and pharmaceutical additives. Americans eat a lot of meat that is fed steroids[vii] and antibiotics.[viii] Although the steroids and antibiotics used in animal feed are not considered a threat to human health, only China and the United States use them to such a large degree.[ix]

Fourth, it appears that the American healthcare system, at a bureaucratic level, is not well designed for pandemics or epidemics. The early stages show that the CDC limited the testing and where testing was to be done it had to be approved by a doctor. The testing system meant that there was a bottleneck as people had to go to a doctor to get tested and the tests were not available. Even with the roll out of more tests, it will be weeks before enough people can be tested to know the outbreak’s scale, scope and severity. By that time, it will have spread farther and deeper into communities.

A related issue is how Americans use their healthcare system which really means how they use health insurance. Many people will not seek treatment for two main reasons. First, they fear that they cannot take time off for work as many do not have paid sick leave or fear that taking medical leave will put their job at risk.[x] If they must self-isolate, they will worry they may not have a job when they come back or that they cannot afford to go that long without paid work especially if they work in the “gig economy”. Americans who do get symptoms may not go for treatment for fear that they cannot afford it. People will have seen the stories that a private Covid-19 test cost $3000 so they will balk at the possible expense. Even if they have health insurance, they know that they will have to pay the “co-pay” and that may vary depending on the plan and the coverage.[xi] this will influence their premiums and eligibility. By contrast, people in other countries with national health care systems can seek treatment or have treatment come to them without fear of the costs so they are less likely to hide their illness or avoid being tested.

A final problem for Americans is the misinformation that is promoted within social media. Many Americans believe that it is no worse than regular flu. Others believe that a vaccine will soon arrive. For some, they believe that it is a disease that only affects the elderly and the infirm. What America needs are leaders who will face reality, describe that reality, and respond to that reality no matter the effect on their ego, their election chances, or the financial markets. Such leaders will provide a consistent and clear message from all levels of the government. They would also demonstrate and explain why the country needs to listen to and follow expert advice. Yet, those are two areas where Americans are least prepared. They have become habituated to the discordant messages from Washington DC and they have been encouraged to distrust experts.

America is reaping what it has sown.

The grim reality is that America is not ready for Covid-19. The scale of what is already present suggests that it will soon surpass Italy and Iran for the most cases and deaths. If we consider that the disease is already in 35 states before any meaningful testing has occurred, it is likely that once America starts to test it will find it has over 10,000 cases and 1000 deaths. I would not be surprised to see those numbers before the end of March.

America could have been ready for this outbreak, but it lacked the leader with the vision to act decisively. Instead, it had a leader and a government focused on appearances and symbolic acts. America does not need a better medical system; it needs better leaders who will put the public interest before their personal interests and put the common good before the financial good. If you survive Covid-19 you can vote to change who leads this country.

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity_in_the_United_States

[ii] https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_319587.pdf

[iii] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190131084238.htm

[iv] https://hpi.georgetown.edu/rxdrugs/

[v] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-age-sex-demographics/

[vi] https://consumer.healthday.com/encyclopedia/weight-control-39/obesity-health-news-505/what-s-wrong-with-the-american-diet-644659.html

[vii] https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/product-safety-information/steroid-hormone-implants-used-growth-food-producing-animals It is worth considering that many countries ban American foods for steroids and other additives. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/these-american-meat-produ_b_5153275?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAMZqtEFa6-FJPBJ_sxLM5l2RtzYDZ6EuC05namwa5kZCziLQb9ySGoMVSMAZAuf4WFk7KRsNf8YjGTCNV4J7TwnGw3QLvKrIOkp99HQYtq09KGoZG29Hf2L7tlM249r0MBLW8pFrduZL3iO85VFh34nbUNao4cxtOIXbJROt7vBA

[viii] https://article.images.consumerreports.org/prod/content/dam/CRO%20Images%202019/Health/10October/Chain_Reaction_V_Report_October_2019

[ix] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323639

[x] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-37353742

[xi] https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/09/what-you-need-to-know-about-coronavirus-and-your-health-insurance.html

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Has Donald Trump’s Thabo Mbeki moment arrived?

Donald Trump comments about coronavirus have sowed doubt and confusion within the public. He has suggested that there are mild cases and that people could return to work in such a condition or recover from it without realising that they had it. He has also suggested that a vaccine will be developed soon as well as suggested that the outbreak will disappear with the warm weather.

His comments run counter to the scientific evidence which informs the public health statements from his advisers as well as the government institutions, like Center for Disease Control. In this manner, Trump has been politicising the coronavirus issue by suggesting that it is a hoax promoted by the Democratic Party to weaken his presidency. Yet, the issue is whether his leadership, expressed by his comments, is undermining the response to the coronavirus outbreak by distorting the pandemic’s scale, scope, and severity within the United States and the world.

His statesmanship bears an uncanny resemblance to Thabo Mbeki’s approach to the AIDS crisis when his leadership exacerbated the AIDS crisis in South Africa. Mbeki rejected scientific evidence that showed the AIDS virus was not responsible for AIDS but that a weakened immune system brought on by poverty and malnourishment was the cause. Mbeki rejected the scientific evidence for political reasons as he had politicized the AIDS crisis for his own purposes. In a similar way, we see Trump politicizing the coronavirus. The federal government could take a decisive lead on the issue with blunt appraisals regarding the pandemic’s scale, scope and severity, but that would require the President to put public safety before politics. Instead, Trump has sown doubt, confusion, and uncertainty. In doing so, he has made the crisis worse because the public are unprepared to understand that the pandemic will get much worse before it gets better.

Were the president to show decisive leadership he would explain why the test kits are not available, when they will be available as they are the first step in understanding the outbreak’s scale, scope, and severity. Instead, he has focused on the Democrats, his own hunches about the cases as well as the disease’s morality rate, which serve his purposes but not the public’s. However, this would require Trump to display talents and characteristics he has never shown previously.

South Africa’s leaders politicized the AIDS crisis and made it worse. It appears Trump is doing the same withe coronavirus. Americans deserve better leadership in a crisis, but it will not get it so long as Trump is president.

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Did Sarah Sanders lie to the Special Counsel?

To serve Trump, Sarah Sanders lied repeatedly about James Comey having lost the confidence of the rank and file FBI. Despite her claim that it was a “slip of the tongue” utter in the “heat of the moment”, it was, in fact, a lie she repeated on successive days *even though she knew it has no basis in fact*. She might have believed that she could never be caught in her lie because she believed that only she would be able to verify it. What she failed to understand was that severity of her lie, a direct attack on the FBI’s integrity by the White House’s Deputy Press Secretary, would guarantee that someone would take the time to verify her claim. Before we consider whether she lied to the Special Counsel, we need to understand what she said.

When Sarah Sanders claimed on more than one occasion that Comey had lost the confidence of the rank and file FBI agents, she probably thought no one could verify her claims. She also believed that her claim, it was a “slip of the tongue” would be an acceptable defence.  The first “slip of the tongue” occurred on 10 May 2017. (I’ve emphasized key passages.)

Q    What gives you such confidence that the rank and file within the Bureau lost faith in the FBI Director?  There’s a special agent who is inside, who wrote us, who said:  “The vast majority of the Bureau is in favor of Director Comey.  This is a total shock.  This is not supposed to happen.  The real losers here are 20,000 front-line people in the organization because they lost the only guy working here in the past 15 years who actually cared about them.”

So what’s your response to these rank-and-file FBI agents who disagree with your contention that they lost faith in Director Comey?

SANDERS:  Look, we’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.  In fact, the President will be meeting with Acting Director McCabe later today to discuss that very thing — the morale at the FBI — as well as make an offer to go directly to the FBI if he feels that that’s necessary and appropriate.  And we’ll certainly provide further information on that meeting for you guys. [Emphasis added] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/daily-press-briefing-principal-deputy-press-secretary-sarah-sanders-051017/

The section on Andrew McCabe is highlighted because the following day 11 May 2017 we find that Andrew McCabe had not confirmed the President’s claim nor Sarah Sanders’ claim.

On 11 May 2017 she repeated the claim about countless FBI members which undermines her statement that it was a “slip of the tongue” said in the “heat of the moment”. Unless her tongue slips daily and she has heats of the moment daily? The next day, knowing that her first comment was a “slip of the tongue”, she must have known that it had no basis in fact so she expanded on the lie.

Q    Sarah, you said from the podium yesterday that Director Comey had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI.  On Capitol Hill today, the Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe directly contradicted that.  What led you and the White House to believe that he had lost the confidence of the rank and file of the FBI when the Acting Director says it’s exactly the opposite? [Emphasis added].

    1. SANDERS: Well, I can speak to my own personal experience. I’ve heard from countless members of the FBI that are grateful and thankful for the President’s decision.  And I think that we may have to agree to disagree.  I’m sure that there are some people that are disappointed, but I certainly heard from a large number of individuals — and that’s just myself — and I don’t even know that many people in the FBI.

And in response to a follow up question, which mentions the previous day’s claims.

Q    And one last question, just to follow up on the FBI thing.  And I’m not trying to be overly combative here, but you said now today, and I think you said again yesterday, that you personally have talked to countless FBI officials, employees, since this happened.

SANDERS: Correct.

Q    I mean, really?  So are we talking —

SANDERS: Between like email, text messages — absolutely.

Q    Like 50?

SANDERS: Yes.

Q    Sixty, seventy?

SANDERS: Look, we’re not going to get into a numbers game. I mean, I have heard from a large number of individuals that work at the FBI that said that they’re very happy with the President’s decision.  I mean, I don’t know what I else I can say. [Emphasis added.]

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/press-briefing-principal-deputy-press-secretary-sarah-sanders-homeland-security-advisor-tom-bossert-051117/

What is clear from the statements is the only thing true about the above is that she does not know many people in the FBI. If she did, she would know that as a rule they are discrete because their jobs rely on their ability to be discrete, professional, dispassionate, and above all honest. J. Edgar Hoover may have had his flaws but he ensured his agents acted with utmost integrity and probity. The contrast with the Trump Administration could not be greater. The two institutions are the antithesis of each other.

For the White House’s Deputy Press Secretary to claim that “countless” or at least 50 FBI employees through email and text messages told her they were unhappy or that they had lost confidence in Director Comey was a direct attack on the FBI’s integrity. By her public statement, she was undermining the FBI’s integrity. Her lie was attacking the country’s preeminent law enforcement agency and the key agency for investigating Federal crimes such as those that might have been committed by the Trump Administration and its “friends”.

She obviously did not know many FBI employees or understand the Agency since her claim was going to draw intense scrutiny within the FBI. Aside from the attack on the FBI’s integrity, it would raise alarm bells. Why? First, there are very few FBI agents who are going to be in contact, occasional contact, or even social contact with the Deputy Press Secretary. The two institutions do not mingle and FBI agents, while not avoiding the White House, know to keep it at an arm’s length because the ease with which they can become politicized no matter who is in the White House. Second, FBI agents are discrete. They are not going to be sending emails and text messages to Sarah Sanders bitching and moaning about the Director *even if they are not happy*. There might be one, but “countless” or at least “50” is bordering on the impossible.

When she made that claim, she ensured it would guarantee a forensic analysis to determine its veracity. It would guarantee a forensic analysis because it was the one part of her claim that could be verified. That opportunity arose in the Special Counsel’s investigation.

Had Sarah Sanders left her claim vague, she might have gotten away with it. Even then it would be doubtful because the Special Counsel would ask her to verify the claims by naming the FBI agents or producing the evidence for her claim. At that point, she could either refuse to name them or claim she forgot who they were. Instead, she did something that ensured she would be caught in her lie, which showed she had no understanding of how the FBI works or how damaging he lie was and why it would be taken so seriously. She claimed she had received emails and text messages showing that FBI employees had lost confidence in Director Comey. When she did this, she had said something that could be verified.

The Special Counsel would be able to scan her electronic communications and those of the FBI to see if there had been any emails between her and any FBI agent. If someone had sent her an email or a text message, it would have been found either on the White House system or the FBI system. From a basic records management perspective various federal laws ensure that email and text messages within the White House and the FBI are retained.[1] Even if Trump White House staffers may believe those laws do not apply to them[2], the FBI employees know their communications are subject to these laws and the additional monitoring by FBI counter intelligence surveillance as well as the FBI’s internal audit functions.

When the Special Counsel’s investigators interviewed Sarah Sanders, they probably had verified her claims. They knew they were false because there was no evidence for them. Under the penalty of the law, she told the truth—her statements had no basis in fact.

“Sanders told this office that her reference to hearing from ‘countless members of the FBI’ was a ‘slip of the tongue.’ She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made ‘in the heat of the moment’ that was not founded on anything.” (Vol. II, page 72) https://viewfromll2.files.wordpress.com/2019/04/mueller-report.pdf

Curiously, the Special Counsel’s report is based on her May 10th statement and does not mention the May 11th Press Briefing where she repeated the claim about FBI employees contacting her and expanded it to say at least 50 FBI employees had contacted her. If her first statement was a slip of the tongue, then to repeat it and expand on it, knowing that the previous day was a “slip of the tongue” means that the second day could not be a “slip of the tongue” said in the “heat of the moment.” If that was the case she could have simply said “I stand by what I said yesterday, we need to move on” or even what she did say too late “I mean, I don’t know what I else I can say”. Instead, she repeated it and expanded on it.

Perhaps, the Special Counsel will revisit her statement regarding her claim that it was a “slip of the tongue” said in the “heat of the moment” to see if she is eligible for a perjury charge. If it was really a slip of the tongue on the 10th of May then why did she expand on it on the 11th of May insisting that at least 50 FBI employees had contacted her by email and text? She intended her claim that at least 50 FBI employees had contacted and was not an intended statement not said in the “heat of the moment” or a “slip of the tongue.”

What is clear is that Sarah Sanders lied to the Press. She attacked the integrity of the FBI. Above all, she lied to the Public. What remains to be seen is whether the Special Counsel decides if she lied to his investigators. If she has, then she could face something worse than having to resign. She could face a criminal sanction for perjury.

[1] https://www.archives.gov/records-mgmt/toolkit/fbi/rma-current-state.html and https://www.voanews.com/a/us-justice-department-suggests-fbi-text-message-retention-improvements/4783420.html and https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/02/white-house-secret-messages/516792/

[2] https://people.com/politics/white-house-aides-tape-documents-trump-rips-up/ and https://www.politico.com/story/2018/06/10/trump-papers-filing-system-635164 and https://splinternews.com/the-white-house-made-an-entire-office-tape-trumps-paper-1826720913

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Trump and Judgement at Nuremberg

The film Judgement at Nuremberg (1961) is a powerful historical courtroom drama based loosely on the trial of the Nazi Judges. The film focuses on Spencer Tracy as Judge Dan Haywood a rock-ribbed Republican who, while not the first choice for the job, is determined to do his duty and deliver justice in the trial of four German judges. Even though the trials are set in 1948 and the prominent Nazi leaders have been executed, they are on trial for crimes against humanity and for supporting the Nazi regime’s atrocity. In their role, they aided and abetted the regime.

Although this is a fictionalized account, it presents a compelling story of the Nuremberg trials and provides lessons for how we understand America and the Trump administration in the wake of the Mueller report. On a superficial level we can say that Mueller is like Judge Haywood diligently doing his duty despite the potential temptations and pitfalls that await (Marlene Dietrich plays her role wonderfully) as well as the various political pressures that emerge during the trial. At a critical point, the geopolitical tensions of the time come to the surface as the Berlin Blockade causes Haywood’s superiors and some colleagues to suggest that it would be expedient to show leniency to the defendants as the Germans are needed in the conflict that would become the Cold War.

The judges are defended by a brilliant defence attorney Rolfe played by Maximillian Schnell. For Trump, that role would not be played by one person (sorry Rudy Giuliani) instead it would fall on the whole constellation of defenders. In many ways, there is a strong parallel to how Trump and his defenders behaved and Rolfe’s defence tactics and methods. Rolfe explains that whatever the Nazis did about racism and eugenics, the Americans had done similar terrible things. In this we can hear echoes of Trump’s defence of Putin (“You think our country’s so innocent….”).  What is particularly poignant, especially in the age where Trump supporters enjoy how he mocks the weak, vulnerable, and the defenceless, is when Rolfe neutralizes the testimony of a feeble-minded man, Rudolph Petersen played brilliantly by Montgomery Clift (cast against type), who was testifying to being sterilized. One can almost hear the Trump supporters respond “Womp, Womp” or “Fuck your Feelings” when Petersen leaves the witness chair.

The main lesson, though, to draw from the film regarding Trump, his administration, and America is the final scene. In that scene, one of the judges, played by Burt Lancaster seeks to find some common ground with judge Haywood after he sentenced all the defendants to life in prison.

Lancaster says “By all that is right in this world, your verdict was a just one.” He then tries to avoid responsibility for the Holocaust by saying “I never knew that it would come to that.” Haywood response is perhaps the best summary for the Trump supporters. “Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you sentenced a man to death you knew to be innocent.”

We might think this is the moment we waited for when the Nazi judges were sentenced and justice served. In an important sense, justice was served and we can feel vindicated by the judgement and the movie. Yet, the scene, and the film, like Trump and his administration with the Mueller report, does not end there. Instead, as Haywood walks down the prison corridor away from Lancaster’s cell, we see text on the screen. It explains that even though 99 defendants were sentenced to prison terms at the Nuremberg trials that took place in the American Zone, all were freed by the time the film was released in 1961.

Despite having been found guilty of crimes against humanity, these men were free within a few years. Now one can argue that the key Nazis were all dead so justice had been served. The same could be said for the Mueller report. There are people in prison for crimes and what the Mueller report did not do is indict the president. In this, the Mueller report may have rendered an important judgement yet, it remains to be seen whether there are any meaningful consequences and whether those consequences are long lasting. In the end, the question of consequences and whether they can be escaped or must be endured are not legal questions but political questions. As political questions, they come back to the power of the pardon as well as what the public are willing to tolerate. What we have seen so far suggests that the public are wiling to endure and accept a lot more than the political pundits, commentators thought they would or should tolerate or accept.

The Mueller Report like the Judgement at Nuremberg forces us to consider what price is to be paid for decent politics and whether that price is worth paying. That is the open question for both works.

 

 

 

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