Against Historical Cherry-Picking

By Daniel Tippens

Early in his presidency, Donald Trump passed his first executive order pertaining to immigration, preventing travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the United State for 90 days. At the same time, Trump has been laying on some heavy rhetoric about deporting illegal aliens from the United States.

Many were quick to draw a historical analogy between these policies and those of Nazi Germany. Hitler ordered both the prevention of non-Germans from coming into the Reich and the deportation of all non-Germans who had arrived on or after August 2, 1914. Those who pointed this out wanted, in some form or another, to suggest that we are moving in the direction of Nazi Germany, in some relevant and important sense.

Jason Stanley recently authored an article in The Stone in The New York Times, in which he observes that Donald Trump is intent on deporting all “criminal aliens,” and the way he has pushed this policy is by speaking of many illegals as rapists or “poisonous snakes.” Following these observations, he says:

It is worth noting that this tactic of dehumanization — referring to humans as animals — has historically been used to foment hatred and violence against chosen groups. In the lead up to the Rwandan genocide, for instance, Tutsis were regularly described as snakes.

Of course, an even more recent example of the same kind of argument came when Trump fired James Comey, the director of the FBI. Given that Comey was investigating possible ties between Trump and Russia, political pundits quickly jumped on the opportunity to draw an analogy with Richard Nixon’s decision to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor leading the investigation into Nixon’s involvement in the cover up of the Watergate break-ins. Given that Nixon did this to obstruct justice, we can infer that Trump had the same intentions.

The kind of argument being made in all of these cases — historical analogy — is roughly the same. One draws an analogy between an action or policy made by the president (or politician) and a policy or action made by an historical figure, and then makes some inference about what is going to happen, a heinous motive that the president harbors, or a claim about how the country is being run today.

While I only chose three examples, due to their prominence in the media, arguments of this kind have been appearing in the public sphere since Trump was elected. Academics, politicians, and commentators alike employ them to push their positions.  They are easy to make, but in my view, they also are typically specious.

Take the first case: Trump’s immigration ban and deportation rhetoric. Of course it is true that Hitler had somewhat similar policies, at least in the sense of expelling large amounts of non-Germans and preventing outsiders from entering the country. However, there are significant differences between the two. First, determining who was German and non-German was tied to a highly promoted eugenics program, involving an explicit attempt to “purify” the fatherland of all people who weren’t a part of the genetically superior Aryan race. In addition to their immigration and deportation policies, Germany was beginning to enact forced sterilization techniques as a way to promote this goal. Second, these policies and attitudes arose as a result, in part, of the bitter resentment that the Germans felt toward the Allies, who had forced them to sign the Treaty of Versailles.

Differences also abound with regard to the Saturday Night Massacre and the Comey firing. NYU Law professor Richard Epstein, troubled by the narrative being pushed that relieving Comey of his duty is similar to the Nixon scandal, wrote an article in Vox pointing out the large differences between the cases. For example, unlike special prosecutor Archibald Cox, Comey deserved to be fired, given his handling of the Clinton email investigation, treating the investigation with “kid gloves,” and deciding to announce a second investigation into Clinton during the presidential race. Additionally, just prior to being fired, Cox had issued a subpoena for some recordings of conversations that had occurred in the Oval Office, and Nixon was refusing to comply. In other words, the evidence was compellingly mounting up against Nixon leading up to Cox’s firing. No similar amount of evidence has come to light against Trump.

In light of all of these factors, it seems that simply pointing out that Nixon also fired the person charged with investigating him says very little about whether Trump is similarly guilty and attempting to obstruct justice. The fact that Trump’s immigration and deportation policies are somewhat similar to Nazi Germany’s loses its predictive capacity, since an analogy is only as useful as the overall similarity between the two relata.

After pointing out all of the contextual differences between current policies and their historical “analogues,” it begins to look like those who use these kinds of arguments are typically engaging in a kind of historical cherry-picking. They are looking through history to find a loose similarity between something a bad person did (Hitler, Nixon) and something our current president is doing, which ends up also having the rhetorical force of an ad hominem argument — Hitler enacted these kinds of policies and so has Trump. Therefore, Trump must be like one of the most heinous people in history.

To be clear, I am not taking Trump’s side here. I think his immigration ban was deeply concerning, his rhetoric against undocumented immigrants alarming, and his firing of Comey at least questionable, even if it was deserved (why did he wait until now to fire him?). But I also think that these kind of ad hominems disguised in historicity, if used frequently enough, can actually cause some problems.

First, there is a concern about a boy crying “wolf!” too many times. I certainly think that, when done with care and attention, historical arguments like the ones above can be extremely informative and helpful. But if we throw around historical analogy arguments in large quantities, with a clear ad hominem rhetorical undertone and in a cherry-picking manner, which results in predictions or inferences that rarely pan out, we will cause the arguments to lose their force in general. This is a phenomenon that happens frequently with words. Just take a look at how liberals use the word ‘racist’ and ‘bigot’ so flippantly that these labels, which were once powerful accusations, have lost much of their significance. If you take a look at conservative media outlets, they now openly laugh at liberals who call all manner of seemingly trivial things “racist” and all sorts of innocuous-seeming people “bigots.” When people who disagree with liberals on many social policies now have this accusation launched at them, it causes them merely to flinch and not recoil and reconsider. Using morally charged accusations far too frequently,and in an expansive manner can drain the force from the words, and the same can be true of historical arguments, when not used responsibly. Funny enough, John Stuart Mill argued in On Liberty that one reason why free speech is so important is so that ideas remain alive to individuals. The thought was that when people continue to discuss issues throughout history without restraint, the ideas, with all their nuance, remain entrenched, which seems like a good thing. Unfortunately, irresponsible discussion and use of arguments can have the opposite effect — an erosion of rhetorical and argumentative efficacy.

But even if these arguments don’t lose their potency, and we come to give them a good deal of weight, they can all too easily become tools for opponents to use against us as well. Given that history is so expansive, if one digs deeply enough they can always manage to cherry-pick a “historical analogy” with almost any policy you can imagine. It shouldn’t take much effort for white supremacists or alt-right writers to find historical cases where immigrants with radicalized ideologies did some damage when allowed to immigrate into a country. When they realize this, they will certainly jump on the “appeal to history” bandwagon and begin rooting their heinous propositions in flimsy historical “analogues.”

What I propose, then, is that we essentially leave the historical arguments to historians, who have the expertise to actually make informed predictions and arguments with all of the relevant historical context in mind. Otherwise, we risk crying “wolf!”, or worse, supplying wolves with tooth sharpeners.

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37 Comments »

  1. Dan,
    One of the problems with dealing with Trump (who is one of the most heinous politicians in American history), is that he is a daily – sometimes hourly – train wreck of mixed messages, self-contradictions, unforeseen consequences triggered by an impulsive, amateurish narcissist with delusions of grandeur who has no sense of the responsibilities of his office or its attendant requirements to think, act, and talk in the public interest

    The events of the past 48 hours have pretty much mooted your whole discussion of the Comey affair.

    Trump has loosely admitted that ‘the Russian thing” was part of his decision; we know now that he demanded an oath of loyalty from Comey which he did not get, was furious when Comey publicly dismissed Trump’s conspiracy theory about Obama surveillance. He has made a veiled threat to Comey to shut him up. His public statements and tweets have completely contradicted White House press releases. And now the Assistant AG has appointed a real special prosecutor, only informing the White House after the fact (and we can guess why).

    At the time of Watergate, I was only a little younger than you are now. The reason it is risky to compare this affair with Watergate is because this is far worse than Watergate, even if no illegality is discovered, and far more dangerous, especially if no illegality is discovered. Nixon was a curious political animal; despite all his dirty tricks, including willingness to instigate felonies, he had a very traditional belief that there was something about the Constitution and its checks and balances worth preserving. Trump shares no such sentiment. And the Congressional Republicans are now so committed to him that it will be hard for them to pull away in order to perform the investigations necessary – into the Comey affair, into Trump’s relationships with Russia, into Trump’s ongoing involvement with his international business interests, into his nepotistic appointments of friends and family members, into his taxes, etc., etc.

    So I don’t see impeachment on the near horizon. But it is just the lack of Congressional investigations that announces a real Constitutional crisis here. Nixon finally admitted, however under pressure, that the President is not above the law. Trump doesn’t understand that, and has always acted as though law is merely some imposition of ritual to be gotten around. And if he’s allowed to get away with it, what is the status of the rule of law then?

    No one is more pessimistic about the trajectory of American politics since WWII than I. However there is fine but important distinction between pessimism and cynicism. Cynics eventually come to the self-serving conclusion, “it was ever thus.” Pessimists admit that present events, having different contexts and different social pressures than those of the past, are indeed new. They’re just a little worse than what came before; and we can look forward to even greater horrors down the road.

    Like

  2. Dan,
    One of the problems with dealing with Trump (who is one of the most heinous politicians in American history), is that he is a daily – sometimes hourly – train wreck of mixed messages, self-contradictions, unforeseen consequences triggered by an impulsive, amateurish narcissist with delusions of grandeur who has no sense of the responsibilities of his office or its attendant requirements to think, act, and talk in the public interest

    The events of the past 48 hours have pretty much mooted your whole discussion of the Comey affair.

    Trump has loosely admitted that ‘the Russian thing” was part of his decision; we know now that he demanded an oath of loyalty from Comey which he did not get, was furious when Comey publicly dismissed Trump’s conspiracy theory about Obama surveillance. He has made a veiled threat to Comey to shut him up. His public statements and tweets have completely contradicted White House press releases. And now the Assistant AG has appointed a real special prosecutor, only informing the White House after the fact (and we can guess why).

    At the time of Watergate, I was only a little younger than you are now. The reason it is risky to compare this affair with Watergate is because this is far worse than Watergate, even if no illegality is discovered, and far more dangerous, especially if no illegality is discovered. Nixon was a curious political animal; despite all his dirty tricks, including willingness to instigate felonies, he had a very traditional belief that there was something about the Constitution and its checks and balances worth preserving. Trump shares no such sentiment. And the Congressional Republicans are now so committed to him that it will be hard for them to pull away in order to perform the investigations necessary – into the Comey affair, into Trump’s relationships with Russia, into Trump’s ongoing involvement with his international business interests, into his nepotistic appointments of friends and family members, into his taxes, etc., etc.

    So I don’t see impeachment on the near horizon. But it is just the lack of Congressional investigations that announces a real Constitutional crisis here. Nixon finally admitted, however under pressure, that the President is not above the law. Trump doesn’t understand that, and has always acted as though law is merely some imposition of ritual to be gotten around. And if he’s allowed to get away with it, what is the status of the rule of law then?

    No one is more pessimistic about the trajectory of American politics since WWII than I. However there is fine but important distinction between pessimism and cynicism. Cynics eventually come to the self-serving conclusion, “it was ever thus.” Pessimists admit that present events, having different contexts and different social pressures than those of the past, are indeed new. They’re just a little worse than what came before; and we can look forward to even greater horrors down the road.

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  3. Dan-T,
    nice essay with your usual stylistic flair.

    Well argued accusations with substance can stand on their own merit. When someone needs to make historical analogies it is a good indicator that substance is lacking or the argument is weak.

    It is just another variation of the ‘fake news’ phenomenon. This phenomenon also goes under the names of ‘counter-knowledge’, ‘pseudo-knowledge’, ‘pseudo-history’, ‘pseudo-medicine’ and ‘pseudo-science’. Damian Thompson has written a good overview of the subject in his book ‘Counterknowledge’. I came up against the problem when I researched supposed quotes by Plato about music. It turns out that many of the quotes are mis-attributed.

    Another variation is the ‘silencing’ movement on the nation’s campuses where certain points of view are suppressed. We are unwilling to listen to other points of view. Clickbait headlines that flagrantly mislead is another example. The plague of plagiarism is also related to this problem as is the falsification, cherry picking or slanting of research results. Our respect for the truth has been lost.

    What’s going on? Why is this happening? We are better educated than ever before. We have better access to to reliable sources of facts. So why then do we so readily pervert knowledge and so readily believe the perversions?

    Conservatives say this is a liberal phenomenon and liberals say this is a conservative phenomenon. Look carefully and all are equally to blame. Anthony Giddens says this is characteristic of late modernity(he rejects the term ‘post modernism’, with good reason), which is a most depressing claim.

    The following factors worked together to undermine the truth:

    1) Relativism.
    While religion held sway there was a general belief in absolute truth, anchored in an absolute God outside time or space. Reject this belief and things become relative. Morals and facts become relative. Consequentialism becomes the dominant value system.The laws of nature stop being laws and instead are merely descriptions. In such a world, where or what is the truth? As Einstein put it, in another context, truth is relative to the observer’s frame of reference but today we all inhabit different frames of reference.

    2) Authority.
    The great majority of our knowledge is received knowledge. We accept it on the authority of the person imparting the knowledge. But late modernity has led us to question authoritative sources of knowledge. Each person now becomes his own authority on which sources of knowledge he will trust. He has become the pastiche man, assembling knowledge at will according according to his own authoritative judgement, which is always questionable.

    3) Scepticism.
    Out of the enlightenment grew a culture of scepticism. We subjected everything to questioning. What began as a healthy corrective manifestation quickly became malignant as it destroyed our beliefs in absolute truth and our beliefs in reliable authority. Curiosity, which had been the guiding light of Western culture, was now replaced by corrosive scepticism. Worse still, it unleashed a multi-polar world of partisanship where so-called ‘truth’ became a rhetorical instrument.

    4) Intellectual shallowness.
    Pithy rhetorical barbs, soundbites and clickbait became substitutes for careful thought. We abandoned research and welcomed instead confirmation bias as we sought out support for our own prejudices. The vast plethora of information available to us today makes it easy for us to select only confirming instances.

    5) Virtual reinforcement.
    In the days of the real village square we were forced to deal with other points of view and our own points of view were subjected to real scrutiny. Today we can escape from this scrutiny by choosing a virtual village square of like minded people. Our bigotry, prejudices and biases are reinforced and indeed amplified. We are shielded from the corrective influences of other points of view.

    The combined effects of relativism, decline of authority, scepticism, intellectual shallowness and virtual reinforcement is fatally undermining that extraordinary intellectual adventure that began with Plato and Aristotle. Today Brad Pitt is more valued than either Plato or Aristotle. Virtue is something we discard with eager haste at puberty when we begin our lifelong pursuit of pleasure, aided by suitable doses of ‘recreational’ drugs. Truth is measured by ‘likes’ and curiosity is spoon-fed to us in the echo chamber that is our Facebook feed.

    In this kind of world, who is to say that false historical analogies are being used? In this world there are no false or true historical analogies, only effective historical analogies, where ‘effective’ means we momentarily enjoyed the schadenfreude of blackening our opponent’s eye.

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  4. Dan,
    One of the problems with dealing with Trump (who is one of the most heinous politicians in American history), is that he is a daily – sometimes hourly – train wreck of mixed messages, self-contradictions, unforeseen consequences triggered by an impulsive, amateurish narcissist with delusions of grandeur who has no sense of the responsibilities of his office or its attendant requirements to think, act, and talk in the public interest

    The events of the past 48 hours have mooted much of your discussion of the Comey affair.

    Trump has loosely admitted that ‘the Russian thing” was part of his decision; we know now that he demanded an oath of loyalty from Comey which he did not get, was furious when Comey publicly dismissed Trump’s conspiracy theory about Obama surveillance. He has made a veiled threat to Comey to shut him up. His public statements and tweets have completely contradicted White House press releases. And now the assistant AG has appointed a real special prosecutor, only informing the White House after the fact (and we can guess why).

    At the time of Watergate, I was only a little younger than you are now. The reason it is risky to compare this affair with Watergate is because this is far worse than Watergate, even if no illegality is discovered, and far more dangerous, especially if no illegality is discovered. Nixon was a curious political animal; despite all his dirty tricks, including willingness to instigate felonies, he had a very traditional belief that there was something about the Constitution and its checks and balances worth preserving. Trump shares no such sentiment. And the Congressional Republicans are now so committed to him that it will be hard for them to pull away in order to perform the investigations necessary – into the Comey affair, into Trump’s relationships with Russia, into Trump’s ongoing involvement with his international business interests, into his nepotistic appointments of friends and family members, into his taxes, etc., etc.

    So I don’t see impeachment on the near horizon. But it is just the lack of Congressional investigations that announces a real Constitutional crisis here. Nixon finally admitted, however under pressure, that the President is not above the law. Trump doesn’t understand that, and has always acted as though law is merely some imposition of ritual to be gotten around. And if he’s allowed to get away with it, what is the status of the rule of law then?

    No one is more pessimistic about the trajectory of American politics since WWII than I. However there is fine but important distinction between pessimism and cynicism. Cynics eventually come to the self-serving conclusion, “it was ever thus.” Pessimists admit that present events, having different contexts and different social pressures than those of the past, are indeed new. They’re just a little worse than what came before; and we can look forward to even greater horrors down the road.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I do agree about the Nazi analogies – a rhetorical trope too easy to fall into (and even I, who should be more aware, fall into it). It’s worth an essay of its own.

    Like

  6. Nicely written and to the point.

    “But I also think that these kind of ad hominems disguised in historicity, if used frequently enough, can actually cause some problems.”

    You’re right, they are ad hominem arguments; the actual history element is of no real interest to the users of these sorts of arguments.

    Your main argument seems to be that our opponents 1) see this; 2) will be encouraged to use similar methods.

    My feeling is that most people realize the nature of the situation; and also that it has gone too far to be reversed by appeals to reason by academics or anyone else. Virtually everyone is seen to be pushing an agenda. And more often than not – even in the case of academics, or journalists working for (previously) respected outlets – they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Lucy and theslightlyblackervegetable,

    I’m glad the essay resonated with you, these kinds of historical arguments have bothered me for some time, because they are particularly effective on the general population. The veneer of historicity makes them sound scholarly and sophisticated, when they really aren’t.

    Hi labnut,

    I completely agree that accusations should be able to stand on their own merit. Like I said in the essay, I am okay with historical arguments when they are thorough enough. But when one simply makes a claim and then cherry picks a historical analogue (most evident I think it the Stanley quote), it becomes a clear instance of rhetoric.

    I also pretty much agree with your cultural diagnosis. Interestingly, I was just visiting Dan K in missouri and had the (amazing) opportunity to attend his classes, where he was outlining some of Alasdair MacIntyre’s “After Virtue,” which discusses a lot of similar themes to the ones you listed.

    Hi EJ,

    I’m sure you’re right about my discussion of Comey being rendered moot over recent events. I haven’t had the chance to keep up with them over the past few days, so I’ll take your word for it until I am able to catch up.

    Interestingly though, if you are right that in fact things are even *worse* than watergate, then there is another danger to making these historical arguments — you can actually inadvertently make a situation seem *better* than it really is.

    Hi Mark,

    Glad you liked the essay. You might be right that most people have noticed something fishy about historical analogies, and if so that’s a relief. But I suppose I’m not entirely convinced considering these arguments just continue to pop up. And, like with a lot of social justice rhetoric, when things continually pop up (like accusations of racism and bigotry), it suggests there is still a decent population of people still buying into it. I hope you’re right though.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dan-T,
    I was just visiting Dan K in missouri and had the (amazing) opportunity to attend his classes

    You lucky person! I so much wish that I could have that opportunity.

    Like

  9. I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole that is called Trump. EJ and DB can do that with more emotional conviction than I can summon 🙂

    But there are so many interesting aspects to this beyond Trump. At play here is the concept that the future is not what it used to be and nor will it be.

    That marvellous writer, Robert Graves(I Claudius; Claudius the God), said in 1937:

    The human mind has reached the end of temporal progress: the future is not what it used to be, and people talk with less and less progenitive self-precipitation into the future, and behave with more and more fatally decisive immediacy. The future, that is, contains nothing but scientific development. It is an involuntary spending and manipulation of physical forces, empty of consciousness: it no longer matters.

    That was a remarkably prescient thing to write in 1937. The future is(or should be!) something that beckons us, laden with possibility and hope. It is the beacon that gives order and direction to the present. We, humankind, have been gifted with the God-like capacity to study the past and consider the future. No other species has this capacity and it has lifted us out of the mire of the present that enslaves all other species.

    Until now, that is. Our state in the present is subject to the great contending forces of stupefaction, satisfaction, suffering and hope. Suffering is the force that propels us into the future as we endeavour to escape suffering by creating a better future. Hope inspires us to believe in the possibilities of the future. Satisfaction, however, traps us in the present and drains the force from the future. Stupefaction is the helplessness induced by the absence of hope.

    Today we are increasingly trapped by the twin forces of stupefaction and satisfaction, and, as Robert Graves says, ‘we behave with more and more fatally decisive immediacy‘.

    Why should this be? My first answer is that satisfaction is a drug that anaesthetises our drive to create a better future. Robert Graves answer – “The future, that is, contains nothing but scientific development. It is an involuntary spending and manipulation of physical forces, empty of consciousness: it no longer matters.“. Graves is forecasting a value free future, one that is free of wonder, and is not tinged by the sacred. Satisfaction then inevitably dominates,and, freed from the directive force of values, becomes stupefaction.

    Robert Graves was a minor war poet who influenced Siegfried Sassoon. The novel Regeneration, by Pat Barker, is well worth reading and gives more background.

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  10. Hi Dan, I’ll start by saying I share your annoyance with this, and agree with what you’ve argued. So complete support on the general argument. However, I see some limitations or problems with applying this to the current situation…

    1) It seems odd to make this argument using criticism of Trump by his opponents as your sole examples. The guy himself (and his spokespeople) have used this technique repeatedly, some more questionable than what you laid out here, and from before he ever entered the office…

    2) Following from the previous, if I accept your thesis, then it would seem to argue that it was Trump and Co in fact who supplied the tooth-sharpeners and you are now criticising his opposition for using them. I admit that Trump-Hitler comparisons were being made pretty early on, but that was seen on both sides… plus add in the inaccurate spectre of communism and socialism against Clinton. This of course does not constitute an argument it should continue, just suggesting the limited target (and suggesting “we” could face the same thing from “them”) appears a bit of blaming the victim.

    3) In some cases the comparisons may be relevant, even if not down to minute details, or as EJ has suggested might not go far enough. While it should be left to historians to say whether something is what Nixon did (for example), I still think it is fair game to say something like this appears to be an attempt by the president to shut down an investigation into himself (and his campaign) which is the kind of thing that Nixon did. That would not be ahistorical, and it would seem apt since they are both presidents and we don’t like the idea of presidents acting as if they are above the law. If one is going for a comparison, that one seems natural. I mean, it’s not like we don’t like interference from the executive because Nixon did it, we dislike Nixon because he used executive power to interfere. In that generic sense, even Republicans at this point are making the obvious parallels to Watergate.

    4) This may very well be trying to close the door after the horses have bolted. It’s a thing that’s going on across all sides and seems to be pretty popular. You might get some on the left to stop… maybe… but I don’t see Trump and Co giving up a trick that has been proven to work.

    5) I think the problem runs deeper… along the lines I argue in the essay on rhetoric that I (re)submitted. I’m not going to expand on that here, but your general argument (which I do agree with) makes an assumption about many in US society, which might not be true.

    So, liked it and agree in general… we should be raising our game in the way you say… but had some issues with the specifics.

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  11. Hi Labnut, I agreed strongly with some of your analysis, and disagreed strongly with other parts. If you are interested in a more detailed reply from me about this, please let me know.

    Hi Mark,

    “My feeling is that most people realize the nature of the situation; and also that it has gone too far to be reversed by appeals to reason by academics or anyone else. Virtually everyone is seen to be pushing an agenda. And more often than not – even in the case of academics, or journalists working for (previously) respected outlets – they are.”

    The only difference I would have is wondering if most people (we’re talking across the whole population) actually realize the nature of the situation. Many may think this is normal (these arguments are equally valid) or just do not care what’s going on, other than if it works. But that is a minor quibble in the scheme of things you just laid out.

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  12. I feel I have to differ 😉 The point of Godwin’s Law is that the Nazi’s did so many things that it is always possible to find a relevant analogy. Consider for example that there were even anti-smoking Nazis, long before the rest of the world caught up.

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  13. Hi DB,
    by all means reply. I expected that my comments would provoke a strong reply from you 🙂

    By now you might have noticed that I see the world in terms of causes and effects. Whenever someone presents effects I immediately ask what are the causes, the immediate, systematic and root causes.

    Let me use a colourful analogy since the essay talks about analogies. Jimmy walks into the house sporting a shiner and blood is dripping from a large cut. How do we react?

    1) Outrage.
    How dare Johnny, from the house next door, bully my Jimmy in such a cruel way? He did not deserve it!

    2) Blame.
    Johnny is a nasty little thug and the neighbour just lets him run wild.

    3) Escalation.
    Charge next door and exchange angry accusations.

    4) Quick fix.
    Apply plasters, ice and plentiful consolation.

    5) Conduct an inquiry
    Understand what really happened? Who did what to who? What was the history? What were the circumstances? Who do we believe and why?

    6) Take perspective
    Does it really matter? Why? What does it signify? What is the longer term outlook?

    7) Determine systematic causes
    What circumstances made this event more likely to occur? How may we remove or mitigate the systematic causes?

    8) Find root causes
    What is the deep underlying cause that triggers this event? Is there more than one? How may we remove or mitigate the root causes?

    As my list shows, when confronted with troubling events, we have a full range of responses available. Which do we choose? Outrage, blame and escalation are seldom useful. A thoughtful approach examines all eight responses and after mature consideration, selects those that are useful and appropriate.

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  14. Dan.
    “there is another danger to making these historical arguments — you can actually inadvertently make a situation seem *better* than it really is.”
    Absolutely.

    However, we now have a monster in the White House. He needs to be gone. Any rhetoric which will help accomplish that is useful.

    Your reliance (hope?) for a rational politics is misguided. That’s not what politics about.

    To Mark’s point (because his previous posts evidence that he trusts right wing ‘news’ sites that are widely debunked by more reliable sources): The media has a responsibility to report the facts; but they also now have a responsibility to defend the Constitutional government of the United States. Foreigners like Mark and labnut may not care about that. We Americans most assuredly do and (on a deep and important level), don’t really care what foreigners have to say on the matter.

    The media has every responsibility to reveal the reasons why the nutcase in the White House needs to be removed from office. Foreigners can take the piss on the matter, and so what?

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  15. Or let’s talk about the bizarre corrupt politics of South Africa, which would not be the case had apartheid never happened, crippling an entire race in their own homeland; or the corrupt politics of Australia and New Zealand, with their histories of racism and brutality toward the largely Celtic working classes. Or the Caribbean islands reduced to servitude by the loving English empire. Yes, let’s talk about history and politics.

    America was the result of the first great anti-colonial revolution. That is our legacy, whatever the mistakes since. We will either realize that promise, or we will crumble, and betray it.

    Right now, the latter seems likely. IF that’s the case, then this is really the China Century, and you will all have to deal with that. (which I believe, but I am writing generously here for different perspectives on the matter…)

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  16. I’m sorry for seeming testy about comments by Mark and labnut; but being foreigners, they seem to want to reduce American politics to some form of reasoning. That is really unjust to those of us in America who have to live with politics, and really shortsighted. Politics is always first and primarily a matter of perceived interest. We are never getting a ‘rational politics’ free of emotional commitments to perceived self- interest; thus we will never get a political discourse free of discourse. The brighter lights in journalism try to reduce this as much as possible; but the notion that we can be (or have ever been, or could be) free of it. is nonsense.

    Fox News introduced bias in the media without any but lip service to objectivity. Now anything is reasonable – including tearing down the worst President in American history.

    By all means, let journalists do that! He puts his foot in his mouth daily; let him choke on it.

    No, he’s not another Hitler. Another Mussolini? – Yes. And the last time I saw that bastard, he was strung upside down from a bridge beam.

    War is not politics by another means; the opposite is true: politics is war by another means. Don’t like that? Don’t get involved in politics.

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  17. Hi EJ,
    Strong feelings indeed. That is the nature of politics.

    We Americans … don’t really care what foreigners have to say on the matter.
    Foreigners can take the piss on the matter, and so what?

    Quite naturally you feel more strongly than we do, since it touches you in a way that it does not touch us. But that might in fact give us an advantage. Our absence of emotional involvement might give us a better perspective. But on the other hand we may be less well informed. On the one hand this, on the other hand that…., the mantra of a good philosopher.

    And this is a philosophy web site which implies certain norms of conduct, mainly that of thoughtful seeking of understanding.

    Or let’s talk about the bizarre corrupt politics of South Africa

    Sadly I must assure you that it is much worse than you think.

    … which would not be the case had apartheid never happened

    After a promising start you are in danger of losing the plot. This will make a good discussion for another time.

    … crippling an entire race in their own homeland;

    More of the same. As it happens, I have pretty good evidence that it is not the case. I look forward to a good discussion on a more suitable occasion.

    …by the loving English empire.

    Taking your remarks in total I get the impression that you have elected the British as the villains of the piece, which is a popular US meme. Reality is considerably more nuanced than that and I believe I can make a good case in support of the British, which is truly a funny thing to hear from a South African 🙂 They are certainly not knights in shining armour but nor do I think they are the neighbourhood skollies(a colourful SA term for a vicious thug). That term might be more suitable for another large nation 🙂

    …then this is really the China Century

    It is for sure. I worked in Shanghai for some time and saw for myself what was happening. You have no idea what is coming your way!

    All this is interesting stuff but I am not inclined to get hot under the collar about it, though I think it would form the basis of a jolly good discussion. My hot collar is reserved for religious matters {grin}. Should we hijack Dan-T’s essay? On balance I think not. That would be rather discourteous. Our time is better used considering the arguments he made and I think his fine essay deserves our close attention.

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  18. EJ,
    I’m sorry for seeming testy about comments by Mark and labnut;

    Don’t worry; all is instantly forgiven and forgotten. Politics arouses passions. Or is it the other way around?

    but being foreigners, they seem to want to reduce American politics to some form of reasoning.

    Er, no. First a disclaimer. Mark is a real philosopher, the genuine article, and I am a wannabe, pseudo, pale imitation of a Chinese rip-off of a philosopher, who flounders in the world of real philosophers. Given those disclaimers, philosophy, in my book at least, is the quest for understanding. Reasoning is one of the tools for arriving at understanding. But then, what does a software engineer know?

    That is really unjust to those of us in America who have to live with politics, and really shortsighted.

    I will never apologise for seeking understanding, no matter how unjust and short sighted it may seem, though I may seek forgiveness.

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  19. Modern politics is full of bad arguments, dodgy historical analogies being just one of many species of bad argument. The harder problem is whether there can be any good arguments in modern political discourse. Alasdair MacIntyre gets mentioned in the comments above. The quote below from “After Virtue” goes to the point at issue:

    Modern politics is civil war carried on by other means, and Bakke was an engagement whose antecedents were at Gettysburg and Shiloh. The truth on this matter was set out by Adam Ferguson: ‘We are not to expect that the laws of any country are to be framed as so many lessons of morality . . .. Laws, whether civil or political, are expedients of policy to adjust the pretensions of parties. and secure the peace of society. The expedient is accommodated to special circumstances …’ (Principles of Moral and Political Science ii. 144). The nature of any society therefore is not to be deciphered from its laws alone, but from those understood as an index of its conflicts. What our laws show is the extent and degree to which conflict has to be suppressed. (After Virtue, 253f)

    If this is all so, and (as MacIntyre thinks) has been so for a couple of centuries in modern societies (not just the US), then it seems futile to complain about the bad arguments of politician X or Y. Instead, the onus is on those of us who think or hope it is not entirely so to show what a good political argument would look like. MacIntyre’s underlying thesis is that good arguments are possible only in genuine communities. As he sees it, we don’t live in such communities.

    Against MacIntyre, I prefer the view of Bernard Crick in his “In Defence of Politics” (1962), in which I think he shows that what we call “politics” is a rare and delicate invention, threatened from various directions, in which messy disagreement and debate about the ends of society can take place and can shape public decisions. The alternative to badly argued politics is no politics, as is the case in many societies. But there is lots to indicate that MacIntyre is right.

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  20. Society is riven by conflicting interests and the resolution of conflicting interests is called politics. For this reason politics have been an enduring feature of human life for all known history. It is not a recent phenomenon.

    Conflicting interests demand resolution and they are resolved, by no other than conflict, pure and simple. Any pretence that reason resolves the matter is a form of posturing. Sometimes we mask this conflict with terms like ‘discussion’, ‘agreement’ or ‘consensus’ but look deeper and you see the threat of conflict or the masked hand of conflict.

    It has always been thus but over time the nature of the conflict has changed. The club, the sword, or its later equivalents were the instruments of the conflict, and a big sword was the finest argument. But big swords have big costs, direct and indirect, and so over time we have learned to change the nature of the conflict until we arrived at the system we have today. However it is still conflict by other means.

    The key change is that we have replaced physical conflict(for the most part) with symbolic conflict. The symbolic conflict takes place in a virtual arena, instead of a physical arena, is regulated by agreed norms, instead of the spilling of blood and has some form of arbiter. In law it is called the adversarial system but the term can be more generally used. We have several kinds of virtual arena where we conduct symbolic conflict, or enact the adversarial system. Deliberative assemblies such as parliament are one kind of virtual arena. The law courts are another virtual arena. There is a larger virtual arena called the court of public opinion and here the adversaries are the public media. Look carefully and you will see many other virtual arenas for symbolic conflict resolution.

    These are all adversarial systems for resolving conflict in virtual arenas that replace physical conflict with symbolic conflict. For all its defects, it is the greatest achievement of our species. But it goes deeper than that. Symbolic conflict, or the adversarial system, is our finest means of arriving at an approximation of the truth. The clash of contending parties, each producing the best version of their ‘truth’ is a purifying force. It is our best means of arriving at the ‘truth’ and we see this most clearly in the law courts. The clash of conflicting arguments, with all their emotional content, misleading or false facts, advanced with all our skill and rhetorical force, for our own selfish, partisan interests, despite our inherent devious duplicity, is what brings us towards the truth. We have no better system.

    Replacing physical conflict with symbolic conflict has made humanity humane and enabled us to find truth(in some limited sense). It is called the adversarial system and is practised everywhere in a modern society. Facts and rational arguments are just some of the weapons used in the conflict.

    For us, nature is no longer red in tooth and claw, it is instead red in pen and word. 🙂

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  21. Hi EJ, you are right… and wrong… about politics. I see several issues raised in this thread (now again with Alan’s reply), that I address in a revamped essay (originally a lighthearted response to your position on rhetoric) still waiting to be reviewed.

    It seems to me the issues of rhetoric, argument, and politics are becoming tangled up, as well as a conflation between specific cases as they are and inherent natures of things.

    “However, we now have a monster in the White House. He needs to be gone. Any rhetoric which will help accomplish that is useful.”
    …and… “The media has every responsibility to reveal the reasons why the nutcase in the White House needs to be removed from office. ” …seem to be conflicting statements. Or anyway, if the former is true, the latter is meaningless.

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  22. labnut,
    you are quite right. and again I apologize, to both you and Mark. I wrote those last comments shortly after hearing about Trumjp boasting to the Russians that firing Comey had effectively ended the Russia investigation (more evidence of Trump’s utter lack of understanding of how the American system works.

    You (and Mark) are quite right to seek understanding here. But please remember that some of us in America are living through a real crisis here. For me, news about Trump’s repeated savaging of political and legal norms is like watching my mother getting raped.

    Nonetheless, though my comments were too much and too brittle, I did reach a a point I was trying to think about in response to Dan’s article. Getting back to a theme of mine, the important question here is whether certain rhetorical arguments and usages can be used effectively, and certain arguments not.

    That leads to my final reflections here – the Nazi comparisons, besides being too much are highly ineffective. Further, it detracts from an important problem worth investigation, the differing strains of fascism that permeate modern politics (hence my throwaway line about Mussolini).

    But the Watergate analogy, while weak rhetoric (again over-used), I think is really being used heuristically. I think many in the media are trying to find a framework for understanding the legal and political problems that we’re facing here right now.It may be mistaken to think the past can be used to determine events in the present, but unfortunately history is all that we know that can provide keys to understanding the present.

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  23. Hi Labnut, I don’t want to totally derail the thread so I will try to keep this brief and to the point, and hopefully within the scope of the essay. I was with your reply right up until it started into the list of factors undercutting “truth”.

    The account of relativism you set out is not accurate for physics, much less ethics… or politics. Indeed it seems somewhat (self-)contradictory. That relativism means there are frames of reference does not undercut the valuing of facts or the existence of truths, it only makes *some* facts and *some* truths contingent to specific frameworks. And it certainly does not undercut the validity or functional reality of judgments (as opposed to mere descriptions). If it were so corrosive, that it could lead people to valuing consequentialist positions seems impossible.

    More importantly, I’m not seeing how believing in a single authority gets us anything better… unless your position is that at some point in time there was one single authority believed by all, and that authority was inerrant and understood without error by all. As far as I can tell, that never existed, even according to Biblical history.

    Despots are very quick to capitalize on the kind of argument you have made, in order to peddle their singular authority, by undercutting healthy scepticism and the acceptance of other views as (at least potentially) valid.

    I found your list especially odd (as I did Dan’s essay) when the problems we are facing (these days) come largely from authoritarian leaders or organizations that are definitely anti-relativist, -skeptic, and -individualistic (this includes on the left). And it is hard to see them being products of the enlightenment, much less some slippery slope from relativism to nihilistic ruin.

    Trump is certainly making the case you did, and giving his followers one authority they can get all the unbiased information they need from: Himself.

    At the very least, I hope you would agree that scepticism, including of claims made by those in positions of political authority, and especially claims made by Trump, are healthy and not problematic in the way you describe.

    As it happens, I agree that your points 4 and 5 exist and are problematic, but believe they are symptoms of other cultural issues. Given prior statements by you, we might find some agreement (as I would argue) they are manifestations of largely economic forces.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. dbholmes,
    i Knew that would be a controversial remark. The question of whether the media ought to have an agenda (raised in Mark’s off-hand remark) is in fact a highly complex one, and doesn’t offer itself up to brief or easy explication. It is true that we all idealize the hope of a completely objective press, but these has never been the case. The media has always had agendas, sometimes conflicting ones simultaneously.

    But the reason we understand the press as a de-facto ‘fourth branch of government’ is because we recognize that it has a responsibility, for instance, to expose corruption or poor judgment in the government and bring pressure to bear on those responsible.

    Such agendas can get misguided but hopefully can get corrected. At the beginning of America’s involvement in Vietnam, the press was trenchantly so anti-communist that it simply allowed the government to spin the narrative; by the end of the sixties, it became clear this wouldn’t do. But the press not only has a right to pursue politicians who have behaved transgressively, but perhaps they should do this. And no politician has behaved so outrageously transgressively than Donald Trump.

    The problem today is that there are many more news – and not so ‘news – outlets than there have been in the past, and people are trying determine sides, not just politically, but about which news they trust to be news.

    Actually, the press should never be trusted. One should read or watch as many different news sources as one can. (I rely heavily on press outside the US.) Eventually the truth of which press outlets to trust will surface through accumulation of accurate reportage and justified analysis and opinion.

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  25. Hi EJ,
    there is really no need to apologise. You naturally have strong feelings and we should respect that. I am sure you understand that from my background your problems seem quite mild. Zuma makes Trump look like a saint. But the seeming mildness of your problems(from my perspective) does not make them insignificant.

    Let me show you a different perspective as seen from a faraway country. The liberal world is aghast and discombobulated that a conservative won the election and it is something that they are utterly incapable of accepting. I mean, we are so smart and we are naturally right, so how could they possibly beat us? This would have been the case no matter which conservative it was. Fortunately however, it was a conservative with many targets pinned on his back. And liberals have gone into a feeding frenzy picking off the targets pinned on his back. In their eagerness to plunge and twist the knife they are picking on any device they can find to discredit and weaken their conservative adversary. Fortunately for them, Trump is cooperating to make the task easy.

    But for all the satisfaction of blood madness, there is trouble up ahead. Once you start the bloodletting there is a good chance your own blood will spill in the charnel house. But there is bigger trouble up ahead. You might just find that China owns the charnel house. You are the fatted cow, the outlet for all the factories they must keep running. They need a tame, docile country addicted to consuming en masse the output of Chinese factories. Slowly your country will be infiltrated, domesticated and converted into the tame, docile and willing market the Chinese so badly need. So by all means, spend your energy in fratricidal strife while the Chinese, in their ever so intelligent way, with cunning, ruthless cynicism, tie you up in silken ropes, as Putin gloats on the sidelines.

    If it is any comfort, Chinese is not all that hard to learn.

    —–
    Oh dear, I also have succumbed to rhetorical madness. Never drink wine made in China 🙂

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  26. Hi EJ,
    The question of whether the media ought to have an agenda (raised in Mark’s off-hand remark) is in fact a highly complex one, and doesn’t offer itself up to brief or easy explication. It is true that we all idealize the hope of a completely objective press, but these has never been the case. The media has always had agendas, sometimes conflicting ones simultaneously.

    I agree with you. But I will go further. The idea of a ‘completely objective press‘ is not only unrealisable, it is also wrong. Every day, in law courts across the country, we see contending parties, each sincerely believing in their own truth, fighting for their own version of the truth. It is this contest of truths, with each side putting forward their best arguments and their best facts, with all the energy and the skill they can command, that will finally reveal our best approximation of the truth. It is the best and in fact the only way we know of arriving at the truth in complex human affairs.

    It is called the adversarial system and the same adversarial system is at play in the press, though the law court is a highly ritualised, formal dance while the press is an unruly scrum. But the same principle holds. It is the contest of opposing ideas that ultimately reveals the truth. It is a messy business where thugs with rhetorical clubs endeavour to beat up their opponents. But so long as there are opposing ideas to enter the fray we can be sure that the truth will emerge.

    What we should be afraid of is the hegemony of one point of view in the press. Truth will be beaten into miserable submission.

    Every philosopher should make a practice of reading law court judgements. In them you will find the finest practical reasoning to be found anywhere. Philosophy has much to learn from the practice of law.

    Somewhat off-topic, see this delightful article, a book note on The Aesthetics of Law, On Beauty and Being Just
    https://oup.silverchair-cdn.com/oup/backfile/Content_public/Journal/ajj/48/1/10.1093_ajj_48.1.325/3/ajj-48-325.pdf

    From the introduction:

    Elaine Scarry claims that law can be beautiful.’ Her claim seems somewhat startling because law—or at least the study of law—is, for some, the end of beauty. What can law and beauty have to do with one another? In what way(s) can law be beautiful? And even if it can, is beautiful law especially significant or interesting? Is beautiful law better?

    The title of this slight volume links two concepts—beauty and justice—which are ordinarily taken to be drawn from different categories: aesthetics and ethics; is and ought; or, taste and morality. To make this linkage, Scarry undertakes first to describe beauty and then to defend it as, in important ways, tied to the good, a part of which comprises justice.

    That beauty is out of favor makes Scarry’s whole project—let alone her connecting of law and beauty—eye-catching, even daring. The category and vocabulary of beauty have been banished from the humanities, if not from elsewhere as well. We may speak of poems, stories, or paintings as innovative, interesting or disturbing, perhaps, but we “speak about their beauty only in whispers.” 2 This seems true despite the fact that we desire beauty and regard its absence as deprivation. Only in mathematics and in the sciences do we seem comfortable speaking of beauty. 3 Surely, as Scarry argues, our rational selves placed behind Rawls’s “veil of ignorance” would wish for a beautiful sky. 4

    There are several reasons why beauty has been marginalized. For one thing, claims about what (or who) is beautiful seem so liable to error, contestable, and plural that we have come to mistrust them. 5 The modern sensibility seems embarrassed by the classical idea that beauty inheres in an object

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  27. Just to extend the debate into new territory. There is the concept of moral capital as contrasted with social capital where moral capital is defined as the set of beliefs and practises that reduce the transactional costs of human behaviour. Thus the crime wave in my country requires me to practice increased vigilance and measures for self protection. These are increased transactional costs resulting from the low moral capital in my country. A peaceful locality would have low transactional costs where I would not need elaborate alarm systems, high walls, fierce dogs, high voltage fences and armed guards.

    Conflict, real more so than virtual, increases transactional costs, and by this definition, is an indicator of low moral capital. Thus, when the nation becomes increasingly adversarial, it is an indication that moral capital is draining out of society.

    This might seem like a contradiction of my earlier comment praising the adversarial system. But this is not so because symbolic conflict in virtual arenas has lower transactional costs than than real, physical conflict.

    This is our dilemma. We need the adversarial system to expose the truth and reconcile competing interests, even when the nation has high moral capital. This imposes unavoidable transactional costs which we accept because any alternative will impose higher transactional costs. This is an unstable minima because it requires that the losers in the conflict accept the outcome. And losers are an inevitable part of the adversarial process. When moral capital drains out of the system, losers are less inclined to accept the outcome with the result that symbolic violence escalates. This is where we are today.

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  28. Hi EJ,

    “Actually, the press should never be trusted. One should read or watch as many different news sources as one can. (I rely heavily on press outside the US.) Eventually the truth of which press outlets to trust will surface through accumulation of accurate reportage and justified analysis and opinion.”

    Definite agreement on this point… and politicians trusted even less.

    …………

    Hi Labnut,

    “Let me show you a different perspective as seen from a faraway country. The liberal world is aghast and discombobulated that a conservative won the election and it is something that they are utterly incapable of accepting. I mean, we are so smart and we are naturally right, so how could they possibly beat us? This would have been the case no matter which conservative it was. ”

    This may very well be what it looks like to many outside the US, and I think there are reasons for this (which I will mention later), but it is unfortunately mistaken.

    The idea the reaction we are seeing would have been the same, no matter if it was John Kasich, Rand Paul, or Jeb Bush in the White House, and even that it is a reaction from “the left”, is to miss some important points, regarding both recent US history, and issues surrounding Trump himself.

    Clinton and Trump were two of the most disliked candidates ever, and whoever won there would have been a lot of upset people. That said, there would have been less upset people if Clinton had won, because she got the clear majority of the votes. The undercutting of the will of the majority, due to arcane rules of the US electoral system (which most people want removed), is itself a factor in the public reaction you are seeing. If Trump had had a clear majority the outrage would be less (though despair…).

    Trump himself had railed against that kind of victory, and suggested the possibility of *full riots from his side* if Hillary won that way, before that was his ticket inside. That the last time this happened led to one of the most ruinous administrations ever (by both lib and con estimates) is not a small matter.

    More importantly, the reaction against Trump is *bipartisan* and this is something that people overseas should really try to understand. He has very low approval ratings and some of his biggest critics are conservatives, though perhaps this gets drowned out by the number of liberals who are upset, and the desire of media to promote this simplistic left v right (indeed Dem v Rep) narrative.

    Here are just some recent clips which show how strong conservative reaction is to him, and how it existed from before his election:

    (Watch two liberals yell at each other about Trump, then around 3:24 David Frum… a definitive conservative… sides with one liberal about the dangers of Trump and so why he voted for Clinton)

    (A very interesting debate between a liberal and a conservative, which turned into a town hall meeting about Trump. They are *both* concerned about him, again the conservative having fought Trump, and continues to do so.)

    The simplistic narrative of liberal overreaction to a conservative in an ordinary election… particularly as if that is some feature of liberals… needs to be rejected as errant. That Reps in congress (and other areas of govt) continue to support him is a very different thing than his enjoying the strong support of conservatives.

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  29. Sorry for delayed replies, apparently wordpress ate my posts… twice!

    Hi EJ,

    “Actually, the press should never be trusted. One should read or watch as many different news sources as one can. (I rely heavily on press outside the US.) Eventually the truth of which press outlets to trust will surface through accumulation of accurate reportage and justified analysis and opinion.”

    Agreed, and politicians trusted even less. 🙂

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  30. Hi Labnut,

    “Let me show you a different perspective as seen from a faraway country. The liberal world is aghast and discombobulated that a conservative won the election and it is something that they are utterly incapable of accepting. I mean, we are so smart and we are naturally right, so how could they possibly beat us? This would have been the case no matter which conservative it was.”

    This may very well be how many outside the US view the issue, and is somewhat understandable (who has time to follow US politics?). However, it is not accurate, and the idea there would *not* be the same reaction if a John Kasich, Rand Paul, or Jeb Bush were in the White House is pretty easy to show… The Trump administration (and current US govt) is not business as usual.

    First, we just got through eight years of intense obstruction from conservatives in Congress, who among other things stole a Supreme Court seat. There is some valid anger because of this, which might or might not have happened with another conservative in the WH.

    Second, Trump won the election by an archaic, anti-democratic, flaw in the election system known as the electoral college. He did not win the popular vote… not even close… which again created a lot of legitimate anger in the population. He did not (and does not) represent the will of the public. With some great irony (for him, as well as any anti-lib narrative) Trump himself suggested there could be riots from *his* side if Hillary won due to the electoral college.

    Third, this accidental victory has given one party a lock on the entirety of the US gov’t, something which is legitimately not considered a good thing. And the fact that the last time we had a president that did not represent the will of the people, coupled with a strong control of the rest by the same party we had the most ruinous administration in US history, by lib and con estimates (which we just got done trying to patch). So it’s not like there’s no reason to be concerned about and proactive in fighting what may be coming.

    Fourth… and *most important* to the narrative you described… the reaction against Trump is *bipartisan*. There was and remains bipartisan activity against Trump. That fact may be getting drowned out because of the sheer amount of libs against him… and a media that like to promote simplistic lib v con (and in the US, Dem v Rep) narratives. But it is there!

    Here are just two recent examples which clearly show this is not a normal “liberal” v “conservative” issue.

    (watch two libs argue about Trump & Clinton and at 3:32 a definite conservative (David Frum) jump in to argue against Trump and explain why he voted *for* Clinton, and a lib say he would support the conservative VP Pence as president)

    (This was a townhall debate between a lib and con which got turned into a discussion of Trump and basically they both *agree*. The con ran against him, John Kasich, and *refused* to support him (as many did) after he was nominated by the Reps, and during the election.)

    Heck, there are even conservative Fox news pundits openly complaining about him (I can get clips if you want). Fox news. You know how bad things have to be before you see that?

    Trump has historically low approval ratings, there is a reason for this, and it cannot be pinned to whining liberals, or simplistic lib v con narratives.

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  31. This comment is from DBholmes, who was unfortunately experiencing technical problems when trying to comment. If anyone else is having issues please let us know.

    ____________________________________________

    1) To EJ…

    Hi EJ,

    “Actually, the press should never be trusted. One should read or watch as many different news sources as one can. (I rely heavily on press outside the US.) Eventually the truth of which press outlets to trust will surface through accumulation of accurate reportage and justified analysis and opinion.”

    Agreed, and politicians trusted even less. 🙂

    2) To Labnut…

    Hi Labnut,

    “Let me show you a different perspective as seen from a faraway country. The liberal world is aghast and discombobulated that a conservative won the election and it is something that they are utterly incapable of accepting. I mean, we are so smart and we are naturally right, so how could they possibly beat us? This would have been the case no matter which conservative it was.”

    This may very well be how many outside the US view the issue, and is somewhat understandable (who has time to follow US politics?). However, it is not accurate, and the idea there would *not* be the same reactions if a John Kasich, Rand Paul, or Jeb Bush were in the White House is pretty easy to show.

    First, we just got through eight years of intense obstruction from conservatives in Congress, who among other things stole a Supreme Court seat. There is some valid anger because of this, which might or might not have happened with another conservative in the WH.

    Second, Trump won the election by an archaic, anti-democratic, flaw in the election system known as the electoral college. He did not win the popular vote… not even close… which again created a lot of legitimate anger in the population. He did not (and does not) represent the will of the public. With some great irony (for him, as well as an anti-lib narrative) Trump himself suggested there could be riots from *his* side if Hillary won due to the electoral college. So he was against it, until that’s how he got in.

    Third, this accidental victory has given one party a lock on the entirety of the US gov’t, something which is legitimately not considered a good thing. And the fact that the last time we had a president that did not represent the will of the people, coupled with a strong control of the rest by a single party we had the most ruinous administration in US history, by lib and con estimates (which we just got done trying to patch). So it’s not like there’s no reason to be concerned about and proactive in fighting what may be coming.

    Fourth… and *most important* to the narrative you described… the reaction against Trump is *bipartisan*. There was and remains bipartisan activity against Trump. That fact may be getting drowned out by the amount of libs against him… and a media that like to promote simplistic lib v con (and in the US, Dem v Rep) narratives.

    Here are just two recent examples which clearly show this is not a normal “liberal” v “conservative” issue.

    (watch two libs argue about Trump & Clinton and at 3:32 a definite conservative (David Frum) jump in to argue against Trump and explain why he voted *for* Clinton, and a lib say he would support the conservative VP Pence as president)

    (This was a townhall debate between a lib and con which got turned into a discussion of Trump and basically they both *agree*. The con (John Kasich) ran against him, and *refused* to support him (as many did) after he was nominated by the Reps, and during the election.)

    Heck, there are even conservative Fox news commentators openly criticizing Trump. Fox news! Things have to be very bad for something like that to happen.

    Trump has historically low approval ratings, there is a reason for this, and it cannot be pinned to whining liberals, or simplistic lib v con narratives. The Trump administration is not business as usual.

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