The Prince of Lies

The insomnia was pretty fierce last night. So, that meant that I was squinting into my iphone at 3:00 in the morning reading articles about politics. David Remnick’s piece in the New Yorker is long, but excellent.

Hobbled by lack of sleep, I have to prepare for a pasta dinner for the cross country team tonight (should I make homemade meatballs?), wait around for my editor to look at the article that I wrote yesterday, and make a quick run to Old Navy for new pants for Ian who keeps growing and growing.

As I’ve been doing the usual juggling between work and mom responsibilities this week, I’ve had CNN on the background all day. I still feel like we’re in crisis-mode. Like I’m watching the country unravel. I have some hopes that Trump is going to pick some establishment Republicans for his cabinet that will keep the lid on the insanity and keep our basic democratic institutions in place for four years.

But then there’s the Steve Bannon character in the background whispering his ear. He scares the crap out of me.

The proliferation of lies by the alt-right press is disturbing. I saw it a bit of that on my Facebook feed last month. Someone posted a link to some article that claimed that Hillary was running a child prostitute ring that serviced Anthony Weiner and her husband. With Donald Trump as a mouthpiece for the alt-right, will there be any checks on this group?

When did Fox News become a voice of reason? When did Mitt Romney become the savior for normality?

The utter lack of checks on Brietbart, Drudge, and even more disreputable sources is a real problem. We, who work for the mainstream media, have become too cautious, fearful of lawsuits and hobbled by a devotion to truth, to properly counteract them. Sensational stories, like Hillary’s porn ring, have too much power, while Remnick’s TL;DR articles for the New Yorker are ignored.

The truth is important. Call me a cornball, but I do value facts. We need to do a better job of challenging our friends and family who are suckered in by sensational news stories and supporting news organizations that operate with integrity and ethics.  I feel so strongly about the need to buttress the fifth estate that I’m going to keep writing for little money for a news organization that I respect. I’m also going to keep blogging and tweeting, even if I sometimes feel like I’m spitting into the wind.

56 thoughts on “The Prince of Lies

  1. It’s not clear to me why racial equality and respect for women have to be coupled with increasing income inequality, contempt for patriotism and religion, and the elimination of free expression and due process on university campuses. If that’s the package, lots of people will not buy it.

    Also, I don’t know how this purported respect for facts squares with all the people chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

      1. I think outreach to the open racists might work better than to the “I’m only supporting racism/antisemitism/destabilizing constitutional protections because somebody got fired at Yale and black people decided to complain that lots of them were shot by police even when unarmed.”

      2. And the crack about contempt for patriotism and religion is literally just more of the “big lie” strategy that people like Bannon traffic in.

      3. by which ‘for fuck’s sake’ you seem to be suggesting that Y81’s remarks are beneath response? Because we just saw a LOT of people not buy the package, and we see a lot of disdain for Trump and Trumpists and patriotism and religion from coastals. And as a parent of collegians, I am myself not at all happy with the elimination of free expression and due process, pushed by the same people as backed Hillary.

      4. They aren’t beneath response. I agree with the main thrust of post, that these things will have to be responded to*. They’re just beneath contempt.

        * Note that the word “responded” was very careful chosen instead of “replied”. I’ve seen the whole discussion on this before. I don’t know how somebody can look at what Trump has been saying and pick him as a defender of due process without being either deliberately obtuse (“Treat every poisoned word as a promise”) or willing to abide evil.

    1. I think a very useful news aggregator site is Real Clear Politics. It’s their practice to alternate right and left takes on same issue in their listing of articles. They also have original articles, which are generally of a center-right bent. One today has:

      “But among the 18 percent of voters who viewed neither candidate favorably, Trump beat Clinton by a whopping 20 points—49 percent to 29 percent (with the remainder either voting for a third-party candidate or not answering).

      What’s more, among the 14 percent of voters who thought neither candidate was qualified, Trump won by 54 points (69 to 15 percent). Among the 5 percent who thought both were qualified, he won by 48 points (70 to 22 percent). Among the 14 percent who thought neither candidate had the right temperament, Trump won by 59 points (71 to 12 percent). Among the 6 percent who thought both did, he won by 58 points (77 to 19 percent).

      In other words, when Americans didn’t view considerations of character or experience as decisive, they voted for Trump over Clinton by huge margins. They did so because four issues favored him—immigration, trade, the Supreme Court, and Obamacare—while no issues favored her.”

      Very interesting way to look at the race – and particularly interesting to note that five per cent – FIVE – thought that both candidates were qualified. This is a huge knock on both parties.

    2. Concern about income inequality has always been a progressive, democratic issue. I’m not sure what Donald Trump said to let people think that he was going to fix that problem from his penthouse at Trump Tower.

      Contempt for patriotism and religion? Really? I go to church.

      re: Free expression and due process on university campuses. Campuses should not be in the business of doling out due process. That’s for the courts. Unverisites, like places of business, can set what rules work for them. When someone sent an inappropriate e-mail at Steve’s office a few years ago, that guy was escorted to the elevator by security guards within the hour. Fired on the spot.

      And why are all these non-college educated Trump voters caring about what happens on a college campus?

      1. I actually love religion a lot, for an atheist. (I’m unlike my husband that way; he’s what I call a militant atheist. He likes Bill Maher a little too much, if you ask me. Full disclosure.) Part of this is because of my background in African American Studies. Part of it is because, if you do any kind of reading of history, you understand that religion is not inherently good or bad. People abuse the institution of religion and can do bad things (the Inquisition), but they can also do good things (abolition of slavery) (just a couple of well-known examples; there are of course others).

        What I resent the hell out of is when people try to make out their own personal religion as a justification for considering themselves more moral and more valuable than anyone else. I hate it in fundamentalist Christians, and fundamentalist Muslims, and fundamentalist Jews and any funda-other religion in the world.

        As an aside, my unfortunate fifth-great-grandparents were among those conned by this conman:
        http://leydenhistoricalcommission.weebly.com/the-dorrellites.html

        My favorite line from that page is this:
        “They, ashamed of having been the victims of such duplicity, quickly departed, and it is a remarkable fact that none of them were afterwards known to form any connection with any religious society.”

        Well, their great-grandson married a granddaughter of lapsed Quakers and eventually joined a church in Brooklyn where my great-great-grandfather played the organ and met my great-great-grandmother, so it wasn’t permanent.

      2. Do you read those internet-distributed news items? My facebook feed is full of them, right and left. At the moment, the factual content on my feed is too low to classify as true or false, as the left occupies itself with the possibility that electoral college members could switch their votes, and the right catalogues which celebrities promised to leave America if Trump was elected. But on either days. there is a mixture of true and false news.

        Anyway, it may seem strange that working class people are concerned about what the special snowflakes at Yale and Emory are doing, but it’s a simple fact that they are. You could just as well ask why wealthy suburbanites are concerned about shootings in Ferguson, Mo., but they are. An abstract taste for justice, maybe.

      3. “as the left occupies itself with the possibility that electoral college members could switch their votes, and the right catalogues which celebrities promised to leave America if Trump was elected.”

        It’s kind of hilarious that this is the distinction you draw, because if anything encapsulates the vast difference between left and right it’s this.

        *psst* The Founders *wanted* the Electoral College to make these decisions independent of the voters in case of situations just like these. That’s a bug, not a feature of the Constitution. But it is legal. And it is the system the Founders wanted.

        We have 3 groups of people who have allied in the Trump victory:
        1. White supremacists and their ilk. Disgusting people. No one wants to hang with them except Steve Bannon.
        2. The alleged “average” person, maybe that cafeteria worker you know form Minnesota, who can’t be bothered to know anything about history or civics but depends on emotional-laden rhetors who seem “authentic” to tell them what truth is, instead of using their own brains because their own brains have atrophied after years of reading history textbooks published in Texas.
        3. Upper class Republicans who want to make money and feel superior and are verbally articulate enough to manipulate group 2 and sometimes 1 into doing what they want in order to maintain their economic power. They will advocate Constitutional fundamentalism all day and all night if it gets them $$ and status and power, but will deny the Constitution the moment it endangers the chance they will continue to make their gobs of money. Like Luke 22:54-61, but with a bit more greed than cowardice.

      4. I’m not sure why that doesn’t count as government inference in a private institution, but I’m sure it doesn’t to the people who usually are complaining about that.

      5. As I understand (like Will Rogers, all I know is what I read in the papers), the Exeter lawsuit was framed as a sex discrimination claim, since the school expelled the boy but not the girl, without any serious attempt to demonstrate that the sex was non-consensual. I don’t know if Laura’s commitment to untrammeled university discretion would extend to her son’s being expelled from college for sexual activity based on an administrative determination that, although the sex was consensual, the girl was uncomfortable afterwards, but even if some people are good with that, it probably isn’t legal.

    3. This sentiment perplexes me, since it is not those of us who believe in racial equality and respect for women who believe in increasing income equality, contempt for patriotism, or religion (and, elite universities never had any more due process than they do now — not so long ago they were tying themselves into knots to keep out more qualified jews and governors were standing at doors blocking entry to qualified black students).

      I alternate between feeling that I must pay attention to the news, for fear that I will feel comfortable in my bubble while others are being thrown under the bus, and a sense of despair over what is happening right now.

      In my very liberal hometown, where only 1/10 people voted for Trump, two black university professors were assaulted and harassed in a local starbucks, by a white man who came into the store and spit on them and called the woman a “F* N* B*”. Another woman, of South Asian descent was harassed at the downtown Bartells, by a man who told her to go home (and not to her house in Bellevue).

      I personally, don’t understand why respect for the common humanity of all people, and the rights of all citizens (regardless of their color or national origin) is in any way coupled with concerns about economic inequality.

  2. I’m a little puzzled how people who can’t have a civil conversation with an Ivy League graduate who lives in Manhattan are going to establish fruitful communication with cafeteria cooks in Wisconsin.

    1. I’ll let you know if I have trouble being civil around a cook in Wisconsin as soon as one implies that I’m not patriotic or religious.

  3. “Someone posted a link to some article that claimed that Hillary was running a child prostitute ring that serviced Anthony Weiner and her husband. With Donald Trump as a mouthpiece for the alt-right, will there be any checks on this group?”

    No. today in my daughter’s AP US History class, the teacher brought up something he’d read about how Hillary Clinton was an alcoholic, oh, and also, he doesn’t think Steve Bannon is a white nationalist anti-Semitic piece of pond scum.

    He will not shut down students who question these comments, but my daughter shouldn’t be responsible for providing balance in the classroom, not to mention, shutting down a teacher’s repetition of fake news from a fake news website when he’s supposed to be modeling critical thinking in a college-level class.

    1. I’d be tempted to complain to the principal and the school board (if you want to wait until your daughter’s grade is posted, okay).

      It is amazing though, what people can convince themselves of. Our local newspaper made a big deal of endorsing Hillary, pointing out that they hadn’t endorsed a Democrat for president in 108 years.

      One of my husband’s co-workers insisted this wasn’t true, the paper endorsed Obama both times.

      Even when my husband googled the McCain and Romney endorsements, this fool still insisted the paper was lying about its past endorsements. I don’t know what you can do about that level of denial of simple reality.

      1. My current working theory is that mannerly attempts at pointing out errors are being taken as a sign of weakness by the people causing most of the problems. It’s a game of seeing how many times you can force somebody to rebut the same nonsense.

      2. I don’t care about my daughter’s grade. She’s a senior, she’s already applied to college, her SAT scores are pretty good, and she is pretty amazing.

        But after I blew a gasket when she told me about this, she forbade me to get involved. So I just get to complain online.

      1. Nobody who isn’t willfully deluding themselves would take the word of somebody who publishes antisemitic stories when they say they aren’t antisemitic.

      2. Maitch, you seem to have a real problem with civil discourse. You are eager to diminish anyone who is not toeing your line. ‘Self-deluding’. Thanks for that. This notion you are peddling here that anyone who does not push hard is seen as weak is … interesting. Now, what Bannon said, in the piece I linked, and in response to a question about racism, is “I don’t believe I said UKIP in that. I was really talking about the parties on the continent, Front National and other European parties.
        I’m not an expert in this, but it seems that they have had some aspects that may be anti-Semitic or racial. By the way, even in the tea party, we have a broad movement like this, and we’ve been criticized, and they try to make the tea party as being racist, etc., which it’s not. But there’s always elements who turn up at these things, whether it’s militia guys or whatever. Some that are fringe organizations. My point is that over time it all gets kind of washed out, right? People understand what pulls them together, and the people on the margins I think get marginalized more and more.
        I believe that you’ll see this in the center-right populist movement in continental Europe. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with UKIP, and I can say to you that I’ve never seen anything at all with UKIP that even comes close to that. I think they’ve done a very good job of policing themselves to really make sure that people including the British National Front and others were not included in the party, and I think you’ve seen that also with tea party groups, where some people would show up and were kind of marginal members of the tea party, and the tea party did a great job of policing themselves early on. And I think that’s why when you hear charges of racism against the tea party, it doesn’t stick with the American people, because they really understand.
        I think when you look at any kind of revolution — and this is a revolution — you always have some groups that are disparate. I think that will all burn away over time and you’ll see more of a mainstream center-right populist movement.”

      3. Drop the nickname you’ve chosen for me. It reflects either condescension or a sort of familiarity that I very much want to make clear is not mutual.

      4. Bannon pretends to be friends with Israel. Israel serves a purpose for him: a tool in his war against Islam which really is nothing more than a tool to implement his white supremacist view of the world.

        Bannon is incredibly disgustingly slippery in this talk. He links, by mere juxtaposition right now so you don’t get to accuse him of direct statements, middle class revolt with what he sees as the problem of Islam. This is straight out of Hitler’s playbook.

        “I want to talk about wealth creation and what wealth creation really can achieve and maybe take it in a slightly different direction, because I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian west, is in a crisis.

        Principally in the west, but we’re expanding internationally to let people understand the depths of this crisis, and it is a crisis both of capitalism but really of the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian west in our beliefs.”

        Um, what does the problem of capitalism have to do with Judeo-Christian religion? (Or “Abrahamic” religion? Gee, nice way of trying to come across as pro-Judaism.)

        The problems of y81’s cafeteria worker in Minnesota have absolutely nothing to do with religious groups, but Bannon slimily suggests they are. He implies that the problems they are having getting jobs are because they are “Judeo-Christian.”

        Right out of Hitler’s playbook. It’s like he wants to turn the world into his own personal Hitler RPG.

      5. Wendy, I guess the opposite of an antisemite would be a philosemite. Dassme. So I watch worried as I see recrudescence of antisemitic views. And I see them far more in both the European National Front right and the European left than I have in US politics. I know those guys are out there, and I accept that some of what Breitbart has published has rung the chimes, but it certainly doesn’t seem to me to be their motivating force. The extent to which anti-Zionism has morphed into anti-Semitism seems worrisome to me, and the killings of Jews for being Jews in France are shocking. I hadn’t actually heard about Bannon nor knew anything about him before this fuss about the appointment – obviously I knew that somebody had stepped in at Breitbart after Breitbart died. When the Gray Lady says someone is of vile character I tend to think, ‘might be true’ and look for confirmation. And I didn’t find it in the transcript I linked.

      6. “When the Gray Lady says someone is of vile character I tend to think, ‘might be true’ and look for confirmation. And I didn’t find it in the transcript I linked.”

        The transcript might not have revealed explicit anti-Semitism (and it is only one transcript) but it did reveal a vile character who uses vile Hitlerian rhetoric.

  4. The last cafeteria cook I heard of was Philando Castile, who was killed during a routine traffic stop. And, ultimately, this is what disturbs me about the rhetoric — when skin color means more than anything else.

    A friend on my facebook feed posted about the plight of farmers, as part of an effort to start a dialog between “us” and “them”, pointing out the ease of our lives. But my parents grew up on farms. I’ve planted trees from the seeds of fruit I’ve eaten, “helped” (I was a child) redirect irrigation ditches, and ran to bring in the harvest before the rain. My father, who grew up on a hardscrabble farm, and eventually taught graduate students in Ohio, found more in common, often, with the boys from the mountain towns of Appalachia, the first to go to college in their families, and sometimes in their town (as he himself had been) than with the sons of doctors coming from the cosmopolitan big cities of his home country.

    If the white men farming in Ohio or the white men (though half of them are hispanic) building the house next door to mine think I’m looking down on them because I have esoteric knowledge about the brain, it’s all in their heads. I look down on them if they voted for a liar, who, as Amy has pointed out, will cheat them as he has cheated everyone else, because he was willing to throw the Hispanics who are working their farms and their construction sites under the bus.

  5. “Upper class Republicans who want to make money and feel superior and are verbally articulate enough to manipulate group 2 and sometimes 1 into doing what they want in order to maintain their economic power. ”

    And, this is my anguish. I thought that this election might be the one where Republicans realized that particular coalition wasn’t going to work, because they lost, again (and, of course, they did loose, in the popular vote, but they won the power, through the structural levers of our democracy). So, the lesson won’t be learned, they’ll continue to rely on racist divisions rather than finding common ground in values. After the 2012 election, the RNC report suggested that Republicans could become a viable party by finding common ground with constituencies they’d been ignoring (say, Hispanics, on religion). Instead, they doubled down on appealing to the basest instincts that America was founded on (race-based assignment of worth and value) and won the levers of power.

    1. And add to that, resorted to relying on false news + voter suppression to seal the deal. You don’t have much of a platform if that’s what you need to do to get elected.

      As you note, Hillary won the majority of the vote by at least 1 million voters. That’s 1 million voters who agreed with her policies DESPITE the egregious misinformation from the false media (porn ring???) and DESPITE the success of voter suppression.

      My anguish and my anger is with the mainstream Republicans who either plugged their noses and threw women, people of colour, other minority/disadvantaged groups under the bus in exchange for power OR were happy to have someone in power to put in place what they’ve believed all along. And it’s a moot point either way (quick Friends reference – a cow’s opinion).

      It’s not a zero sum end game. Everyone can be educated, have health care, live safely, etc. without the 1% losing everything. We still have wealthy people here in Canada and so do other more social democratic countries.

      Oh, and to the comment Y81 made above about religion? I too am religious and in fact my religion is big on social justice – tikkun olam – making the world a better place for everyone. I feel that I have a lot in common with others who are Muslim/Christian/etc.

  6. “A cow’s opinion” is my favorite Friends line as well.

    Sorry, sandrat212, your religion doesn’t count! When people talk about the Democrats’ attacks on “religion,” they are referring to right-wing evangelical Christians or – sometimes, if they consider Catholics Christian (you’d be surprised how often this is not the case) – right-wing Catholics. Jews, Muslims, left-wing evangelicals, mainline Protestants, Vatican II Catholics, Quakers, etc., don’t have “religion.” Coincidentally, the latter groups mostly vote for the Democrats. The Muslims used to go for the Republicans; not so much this time.

    I read a lot of religious periodicals and the comments-section folks were obsessed with proving that Hillary Clinton was not a Christian. It was not simply that she favors abortion rights, but that the whole lifelong Methodist thing was a big hoax.

    The National Enquirer, possibly Trump’s most effective propaganda organ, had a cover story consisting of three big lies about Clinton the week of the election. I saw it in the grocery store check-out line, and so did everyone else.

    1. I do wonder if they can’t be sued about that. You need to clear a very high bar as a public figure in that kind of suit, but Clinton wouldn’t even need to win to win. If case could get to trial so that people could see what was produced in discovery, that would be really interesting.

  7. Speaking of religion, I really like the title of this post.

    It also reminds me that we now, by order of the pastor or the bishop I don’t know, say the Prayer to Saint Michael after every Sunday mass. It started in September or October.

  8. “I feel so strongly about the need to buttress the fifth estate that I’m going to keep writing for little money for a news organization that I respect. I’m also going to keep blogging and tweeting, even if I sometimes feel like I’m spitting into the wind”.

    We need to support the mainstream press. In addition to my NYT and Washington Post subscriptions, I’ve renewed my New Yorker subscription. I subscribe to the Globe & Mail (one of our national papers here in Canada) and I’ll also start subscribing to the Vancouver Sun.

    I’m going to begin periodically calling/writing to the editors of at least the Canadian papers noted above when I notice the same experts being used and/or a lack of diversity in voices/topics.

  9. Did others read the NYTimes article on the spread of the false news story about Trump protesters in Austin being “bussed in”? Fascinating, that a story could have originated with a random guy with only 40 Twitter followers and spread nationally. I wish there were more experimental/epidemiological treatments of the subject of viral information spread.

    1. It’s scary that any random asshole could do that, but it’s much more frightening that it seems to be less a spontaneous spread than the result of a coordinated effort backed by either people who spread the idea that America created AIDS or who admire them and have copied their tactics.

      1. “it’s much more frightening that it seems to be less a spontaneous spread than the result of a coordinated effort ”

        This is true. One day I got annoyed at my 70 year old cousin’s FB reposts and decided to dig a little, and I found that a bunch of the propaganda sites she reposts seem to be run by some conservative media group in Texas. I found Whois registrations and such and followed the bread crumbs.

    2. I think there’s purposeful organized misinformation out there. I tried to read Breitbart’s “fact-checking” after the last debate, and it was a collation of misinformation (already proven false) masquerading as fact checking.

      But, this Twitter user seems to have made a mistake that all of are capable of (letting our confirmation bias cloud our interpretation of information). I’ve always been a fan of internet information (for example, I found a fabulous answer to why my old clocks are running fast and stumbled on the story of Noor Inyat Khan, a British spy who is one of the only four women to have been awarded the George Cross) after a Google search typo). I do, however, rely heavily on my critical analysis in evaluating the information — though, I like everyone else, am not at all immune to bias. I am starting to see the danger of uncurated information, though, where sources are unreliable (naively unreliable, sometimes, or purposely manipulative).

      I subscribed to the Atlantic once Laura’s articles started appearing there, and have subscribed to the NY Times & Wash Post for a while, and recently added the Guardian & Crosscut (an online local news source) to my list of paid news sources. It’s something to do.

  10. What’s most depressing about this is the election has reminded me how much in contempt white Americans hold black people. Black Lives Matter, a slogan that is literally saying black people have the right to live, is treated like a cross between the Black Panthers and ISIS by the MSM. The candidate endorsed by the KKK and the Nazis won.

    1. Let’s remember that more Americans voted for Hillary. It gives me comfort and hope (even if I don’t support the anti-electoral college bandwagon).

      1. Well, here is my question: how would we know if a foreign country’s hackers had interfered with the vote? I am serious. How would we know? Who would believe anyone who reported it? It’s like a win-win situation if you want to hack the election.

      2. how would we know if a foreign country’s hackers had interfered with the vote?

        If they hacked and publicly released the internal communication of one political party and not the other.

      3. OK, point taken. But I meant the actual votes counted. How would we know? How would Trump supporters ever believe the # of votes was hacked?

      4. And that’s the challenge, eh? His supporters will never believe a recount nor will they believe any reporting in the media that’s less than supportive no matter what the source.

        Right now it feels so fragile. I hadn’t realized to what extent the US democracy depends upon compliance by the president with the laws/rules/regulations. He’s ignoring the letter and spirit of the law/office willy nilly without any apparent immediate consequences. Bad press? Ignored. Impeachment? He’s not been sworn in and even then, it’s a long process.

        I feel like we’re shaking our fingers saying “but the Constitution” while he and his henchmen run amuck. And destroy confidence in the media or government institutions. (the complicity of the 5th estate in his election is another story – they made their bed…).

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